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

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

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

Friday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

 

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

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (13th)

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

Kris Meeke (16th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (8th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

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

 

Saturday

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

 

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (8th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (6th)

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

Kris Meeke (9th)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

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

Sunday

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

 

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

 

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

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (8th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tanak (6th)

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

Kris Meeke (9th)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

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

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

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

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

Tour de Corse 2019 Preview – Time for tarmac attack!

It’s the super twisty round on the island that is Corsica. Whether or not it actually has 10,000 corners anymore is a moot point. It still has more corners than most! Last season the top three positions were taken by Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville. Any of those three could win this weekend, and you can add Elfyn Evans, Kris Meeke and Seb Loeb to that list as well. As championship leader, Ott will open the road on Friday’s stages. This will potentially give him an advantage, as the road will be at it’s cleanest, with no gravel and mud pulled onto the road.

This year sees 14 stages totaling 347.51km, with 133.34km featuring in completely new stages.

Citroen states in its preview-

“With the opening leg taking the crews from Porto-Vecchio to Propriano, then heading north on day two towards Castagniccia, Cap Corse and the Désert des Agriates, before finishing next to Calvi, this year’s edition of the classic island rally remains faithful to the recently-restored tradition of touring the whole of Corsica.

In addition to the various regions covered, the 2019 Tour de Corse has plenty of other ingredients to make it a serious test. The total competitive distance is now close to 350km (compared with 333.48km in 2018), Friday’s leg only has a tyre-fitting zone at the midway point, Saturday features some 174.50km with two runs on the 47.18km-long and especially demanding Castagniccia stage, all rounded off with a longer Power Stage (19.34km) than usual, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Fango valley.

The other major difficulty stems from the fact that more than 62% of the itinerary has been revamped. Of the fourteen stages, only three – Valinco (SS2/SS5, 25.94km), last contested in 2015 , Cap Corse (SS7/SS10, 25.62km) and Désert des Agriates (SS8/SS11,14.45km), both contested last year – are familiar to the current crop of world championship crews. This makes it all the more important for them to get to grips with and take good paces notes on the 133.34 new kilometres in just two passes during recce at a limited maximum speed (80kph). Recce looks set to be every more crucial than usual and will call for unremitting concentration throughout.”

Here we have the full run down of the stages-

THURSDAY 28 MARCH

9.00am: Shakedown (Sorbo Ocagnano)

 

FRIDAY 29 MARCH

7.00am: Start Day 1 (Porto-Vecchio)

7.05am: Tyre fitting zone (Porto-Vecchio – 15 mins)

8.29am: SS 1 – Bavella 1 (17,60 km)

9.24am: SS 2 – Valinco 1 (25,94 km)

10.32am: SS 3 – Alta-Rocca 1 (17,37 km)

12.41pm: Tyre fitting zone (Porto-Vecchio – 15 mins)

2.05pm: SS 4 – Bavella 2 (17,60 km)

3.00pm: SS 5 – Valinco 2 (25,94 km)

4.08pm: SS 6 – Alta-Rocca 2 (17,37 km)

7.38pm: Flexi service A (Bastia airport– 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 30 MARCH

6.05am: Start Day 2 & service B (Bastia airport – 15 mins)

7.38am: SS 7 – Cap Corse 1 (25,62 km)

9.08am: SS 8 – Désert des Agriates 1 (14,45 km)

10.14am: SS 9 – Castagniccia 1 (47,18 km)

12.32pm: Service C (Bastia airport – 40 mins)

2.38pm: SS 10 – Cap Corse 2 (25,62 km)

4.08pm: SS 11 – Désert des Agriates 2 (14,45 km)

5.14pm: SS 12 – Castagniccia 2 (47,18 km)

6.34pm: Flexi service D (Bastia airport – 45 mins)

8.24pm: Parc ferme (Place Saint Nicolas – Bastia)

 

SUNDAY 31 MARCH

7.30am: Parc ferme out (Place Saint Nicolas – Bastia)

8.10am: Service E (Bastia airport – 15 mins)

9.45am: SS 13 – Eaux de Zilia (31,85 km)

12.18pm: SS 14 – Calvi Power Stage (19,34 km)

1.18pm: Finish (Citadelle de Calvi)

3.00pm: Podium (Citadelle de Calvi)

 

Here’s the thoughts of the crews.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“I am looking forward to Corsica. Being first on the road there as championship leader should be a good thing, as this is the best place to be on asphalt where the road is cleanest. In the past, Corsica was probably the rally on which I struggled the most, but we had good pace last year on our first time there in the Toyota Yaris WRC. We know that we have a really strong package now on asphalt, so I believe that we can have a good performance. I’m sure that some of our rivals will be very fast too, but the aim is to continue our positive start to the season and keep scoring as many points as possible.”

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

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Corsica is a rally I always look forward to. The asphalt is abrasive so provides good grip, and the road is usually pretty clean. The island itself is very beautiful too. I like the changes to the route this year. A couple of the stages were used when I won the rally in 2015, so I have good memories of those. I had a good test earlier this week: We did 200 kilometres and tried a lot of things, not only for this rally but also development for the future. On Rallye Monte Carlo I struggled with understeer, so we worked on that and improved the turning, as well as the braking, and I’m feeling more confident with the car. Now I’ve got a couple of days of relaxing at home, and feeling ready for the recce to start on Monday”

Kris Meeke

“I’ve had good times in Corsica in recent years: My speed’s always been there. It’s always a huge challenge, and especially so this year with about 75 per cent of the route being completely new. For that reason, I think making good pace-notes on the recce is going to be an equally important part of the challenge. I had a good feeling with the Yaris WRC in asphalt trim in Monte Carlo, but it was a very different rally to Corsica – except perhaps for the Power Stage where we went pretty well! I enjoyed my pre-event test last Sunday, even though it was a lot to learn in just one day on just one road. But I think we’re quite clear on our direction for the setup, and I’m looking forward to the rally.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“The route has been changed quite a lot again this year, but that has already happened before here, which has meant that I have often had to get to grips with new stages and that tends to suit me. It adds a bit of stress and adrenaline to the race, and it can lead to there being bigger gaps than usual. When the stages are new for everyone, obviously the difference comes from who does a very good job during recce and then has sufficient confidence in their pace notes to push right from the word go. We also know about the qualities of the C3 WRC on tarmac. Our pre-event testing was really productive and the feeling was good in the car. Clearly, I’m also very keen to do well at our home round of the WRC and keep our good run of form going.”

Citroen have taken six victories on the roads of Corsica, the first in 1999 with the incredible Xsara Kit Car. They will hope they can add to that tally this weekend. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Esapekka Lappi

“I have always really enjoyed this rally and I can’t wait to get started. I love driving on clean tarmac like here or in Catalonia. The challenge will be to take good pace notes from the word go. I think pace notes are even more important on asphalt than on gravel in order to get the line right and to know what speed you can carry through corners. With the revised itinerary, we’ll all be in the same boat as regards familiarity with the stages. Although it won’t be easy, it’s an opportunity for us, since we generally have a bit less knowledge of the roads on the other rallies. In any case, our tests went well and I feel confident. I hope I can be at least as competitive as last year.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Corsica is a very nice event and I have great memories from previous years. I have won there twice, once in IRC and then again with Hyundai Motorsport in WRC two years ago. It’s a challenging event, with lots of corners, but a rally that I enjoy and relish. The recce is very long and demanding, but once you are in the car and can find a good flow it is a rewarding rally, one from which you can find a good sensation. As our first event of the season on tarmac, and following the less-than-straightforward weekend in Mexico, I hope we can get things back on track.”

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

Dani Sordo

“The first tarmac rally of the season, Corsica is a rally where I really feel comfortable and competitive. The stages are really nice, set against a postcard backdrop, but incredibly demanding too. Long stages and loops can make tyre selection and management quite tricky. The stages themselves put pressure on the car and crew with tight, twisty corners that require maximum attention and focus. Carlos and I won Tour de Corse in IRC back in 2012, while I also finished on the podium a few years ago with Hyundai Motorsport. I hope our past success and experience, together with the performance of our i20 Coupe WRC, can help us fight for a good result this year.”

Seb Loeb

“Corsica is a beautiful event, with stunning landscape close to the sea, and magnificent island setting. It’s a wonderful place for rallying and as the French round of the championship it is a very special atmosphere for me. An extremely technical rally, there are many different types of road with some bumpy places and some fast sections. In fact, it seems to get faster each year. It is tricky to find the right rhythm throughout each stage, and the weather can also play an influential factor – sometimes raining in the mountains but drier close to the coast. Not an easy one, but fun!”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I’m looking forward to the first proper Tarmac event of the season, and this year’s Tour de Corse will be a real challenge with about two-thirds of the route made up of completely new stages. The recce is going to be really important and there’s going to be a lot of work needed on the pacenotes.

“This is a demanding rally but the stages themselves are really nice to drive. It was great to get a podium last time out in Mexico, and that really propelled us up the championship standings. It gives us a top-five starting position next week, and we need to capitalise on that and aim for another strong result.

“We spent two days testing together with Teemu and the car feels really good. Everything went to plan and I feel as though we should have some good pace. We’re all looking for another podium and will work as hard as we can to achieve it.”

Last year Phil Mills joined Elfyn in the Fiesta WRC. Photo credit M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really looking forward to the first pure asphalt event of the year. I started my career on this surface – but driving a go-kart is quite different to mastering a world rally car!

“In preparation, Elfyn and I split a couple of days testing and the car felt really good. On a rally like the Tour de Corse it’s really important to find a good balance with the car and I think we managed that.

“I didn’t compete here last year and the route is said to be quite different this year. From what I understand, the stages are slightly faster and a bit closer to the type we see in Catalunya.

“It will be interesting to see, but for us the most important thing is to finish the rally with a clean bill of health. If we can do that it will make the next part of the season mentally so much easier.”

Summary

I held a poll on twitter to get a feel for who you’d think would be likely to win. Here’s the result.

We are set then for a very interesting event. Pop back next week for a full report!

Rally Mexico 2019 Review – Seb, Julien and Citroën Win!

This event didn’t start in the normal way you’d expect. The Thursday night stage was cancelled, after a jump that had been added was causing cars to fly far too dangerously. It was a surprise then when it later emerged that Michelle Mouton had not actually checked the stage. What we don’t know is whether or not she was involved in that decision.

 

Friday

Anyway, with that out of the equation, the first real action was starting on Friday morning. 114km of stages lay in front of the crews, including a double run of El Chocolate which made up over sixty kilometres of the days action. The start list looked like this- Tänak, Neuville, Ogier, Meeke, Lappi, Evans, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Suninen, Sordo. It was the first time that Ott was opening the road, courtesy of the being championship leader.

 

Well, the first stage, SS 2 – El Chocolate 1 (31,57 km) saw under pressure Andreas Mikkelsen take a good stage victory and therefore assume the rally lead, using his good start position to effect, with Ogier and Sordo going well in second and third. British hopes Kris and Elfyn were also near the front of the field, holding fourth and fifth, only eight seconds or so from the Norwegian. This stage also saw the demise of Teemu Suninen who stopped 13km’s into the stage. He’d gone off the road, damaging the front end.

 

The shorter SS 3 – Ortega 1 (17,28 km) stage saw Ogier top the times, after finding more grip, and closed to just seven tenths of a second of overall leader Andreas. There was a swap further back as Elfyn moved ahead of Kris, with the pair of them battling over fourth place which Elfyn now held. Further back, Thierry was not having a very good day, already almost fifty seconds from the lead. He just could not get on the pace.

 

The short SS 4 – Street Stage Leon 1 (1,11 km) didn’t see any changes in the leaderboard, with Andreas, Seb and Dani still the top three.

 

After lunchtime service SS 5 – El Chocolate 2 (31,57 km) we saw a change in the lead after Seb won the stage from Dani and Elfyn. Sadly, Andreas good run in the lead came to an end. He’d stopped in the stage but got going again, only to stop again with 6km’s left in to go. Everyone moved up a single position apart from Jari-Matti who still held sixth as Lappi jumped ahead from seventh into fifth!

 

SS 6 – Ortega 2 (17,28 km), the penultimate stage of the day, and Ogier took it from Dani and Kris. Elfyn was holding the Toyota driver though, with their battle over third place. Esapekka made a mistake though turning in too early to a corner and hitting a tree the result being that he would lose 10 seconds and fall behind Jari-Matti.

 

SS 7 – Las Minas (10,72 km) saw Dani drop out of the leading positions sadly after a very consistent run throughout the day. He didn’t even start this stage after his i20 suffered some kind of electrical failure. A big shame indeed for Hyundai who were now down to just a single car, but way off the pace with Thierry a minute from the lead. Evans and Meeke were now in second and third!

 

SS 8 – V-Power Shell Stage 1 (2,33 km) was run twice to end the day’s action. Nothing of note really happened in these, other than Ott Tanak moving into fourth place. Latvala retired before the stage, after his car refused to start.

 

CLASSIFICATION DAY 1 (Friday)

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroen C3 WRC) 1h18’33”8
  2. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 14”8
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 21”1
  4. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 37”1
  5. Lappi / Ferm (Citroen C3 WRC) + 39”1
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1’00”7

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s clearly a very good day for us, in very difficult conditions. The level of grip was low, especially in the morning, but I enjoyed having traces. It was important to place well today, to tackle the longest day of racing tomorrow with a good starting order. However, it will now be well exploited and also be careful because I expect some particularly tricky portions, narrow and even brittle. ”

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“I am learning little by little to drive C3 WRC on this low grip terrain where I still lack experience and the times have gradually gone in the right direction. I am now expecting a lot of sweeping for the future, but my direct rivals will benefit from a better position on the track, but we will continue to fight to bring back the best possible result. ”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It’s been a good day out there – with the car and everything inside the car all working really well. It’s not been the sort of day to be on the limit. It’s been about staying clean, staying in the line, and trying to find the grip. It’s been very slippery out there today, but it should be a bit faster with a bit more grip tomorrow.

“There are some really nice stages to come, but also some really demanding ones. It’s a bit of a mix and you have to get it all right so I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’ve got to keep pushing because anything can happen and there is still a long way to go. We’ll keep giving it our all and see what happens.”

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“We were driving cleanly, until we hit a big stone. We lost the front-right and spun into the side of the mountain. There was quite a lot of damage which means that we can’t continue, but the main thing is that both me and Marko are okay.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“I’m quite happy tonight to be in third place at the end of my first day on gravel in this car. We were missing a bit to match the speed of the leader, but we had no dramas and the car has been perfect for me technically. We had a lot of dust get inside at times which made it hard to see, but the car has been performing well. Tomorrow is a long day with tricky stages and demanding roads again. We are not far away from second place and we’ll have a better road position than we did today, so let’s see what we can do.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“I think we had a good day today. I did everything I could, I couldn’t have done much more. I had a good feeling in the car all day, so it was quite enjoyable and I had the confidence to push hard. During the afternoon I had a few moments, so we were driving on the limit. Our road position for tomorrow could have been better, because it was set before we gained a place in the super special, but at least the conditions will be more equal with the drivers we are fighting. The gap to second place is not so big and I believe we will have a chance to get it.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 03 / Rally Mexico / March 7th-10th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (DNF/Rally2)

“I started too cautiously in the first stage this morning but then I started to get the rhythm and the car was working really well. It was getting better during the afternoon and we were up to fourth place. Unfortunately, the alternator stopped charging. We managed to do two more stages and the road section but we couldn’t do the last two super specials. It is frustrating for this to happen, but this is how things go in motorsport sometimes. We just need to look forward and keep fighting for the rest of the weekend.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“The puncture this morning ended any real hopes we had of a positive weekend here in México. We could not hide our disappointment from the situation but still did all we could to catch up some places as the day progressed. About 5 or 6km into the stage we nearly went off trying to avoid some big stones and we hit one, which caused the puncture. There was nothing we could do. On these gravel stages, road position plays an important role and unfortunately, we aren’t going to benefit much as this weekend progresses. Of course, despite the huge frustration, we will never give up.”

Dani Sordo (DNF/Rally2)

“It has been a welcome return to the WRC for myself and Carlos. We hoped to fight near the front from the start, and we were able to do that for much of the day. I felt immediately comfortable in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC and we set some very strong stage times. Running in second overall, just four seconds from the lead, we picked up an electrical issue after the Ortega stage. We had to stop on the road section to try and fix the problem but there was no chance. We had the genuine opportunity for a strong podium result here – and who knows what else – but that’s no longer possible, which is a really a shame for the whole team.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (DNF/Rally2)

“We had a positive morning, but the afternoon could not have been a starker turnaround in fortunes. We wanted to get a good start, and we did just that. We knew that the El Chocolate stage would play an important role; the longest stage of the day and one that everyone knows well. Still, it changes a bit each year but we put a lot of effort into getting it right – and we were rewarded with a stage win in the morning loop. We were in the rally lead, and fighting hard, but in the repeat of El Chocolate I hit a stone. We got a puncture so we changed the tyre but we could only continue for 10km before the suspension broke due to the impact with the rock, and in the end, we were forced to stop.”

 

Saturday

A much longer day awaited the crews, with 138.37km of action! The start list looked like this – Mikkelsen

Sordo, Neuville, Tänak, Lappi, Latvala, Meeke, Evans, Ogier.

Now there was a controversial start to the day with SS 10 – Guanajuatito 1 (25,90 km) getting a red flagged. Esapekka Lappi went off the road. He was setting some fast splits earlier, but slid off the road. Meeke and Evans both finished the stage, with Kris setting a time 19 seconds faster than anyone else! Ogier was next in to the stage and just as Elfyn finished, that is when the stage was red flagged, as it was considered that Esapekka was stopped in a dangerous position. Also, Seb completed the stage having gained a puncture, after hitting some rocks on the stage. Now, all the times from this stage were deleted. I’ll cover the details about this later, but it’s fair to say if these things had not been changed, Kris Meeke would have been the new rally leader, with Elfyn in second place. Ogier at that point would have been fourth, 51 seconds from the lead.

 

The next stage SS 11 – Otates 1 (32,27 km), and there was a decision made to increase the time gap between the cars to four minutes. Jari-Matti took his first stage victory of the weekend. Sadly, Kris had a problem and dropped a minute and thirty-three seconds, after getting a puncture. He was now in fifth place. Meantime, Seb had got very lucky with the red flag in stage 10, as he was given a notional time for the stage and that did two things. First of all, the notional time was faster than Elfyn’s and also meant that kept him in the lead. It was odd that they’d done this, as Elfyn had been faster earlier in the stage.

 

The shorter SS 12 – El Brinco 1 (8,13 km) stage saw Seb and Jari-Matti share the fastest time, with Thierry just three and a half seconds slower with the third best time. There was now a fight between Elfyn and Ott developing over second place, and the Welshman was holding the Estonian at bay, the gap at 20 seconds.

 

Another stage victory for Seb followed in SS 13 – Guanajuatito 2 (25,90 km), with Elfyn increasing the gap to Ott by a little in their battle for runner up. Thierry was kind of in no-mans land with a two-minute gap over Kris, and 45 seconds behind Ott.

 

SS 14 – Otates 2 (32,27 km) saw the gap between Ott and Elfyn reduce to just six seconds after the Toyota driver took sixteen seconds out of the Welshman’s lead. Seb now had a half minute lead over Elfyn.

 

The repeat of SS 15 – El Brinco 2 (8,13 km) saw Seb increase his lead further, and with Ott winning the stage, he would close a little more on Elfyn, the gap between them reducing a further two seconds!

 

To finish the day, SS 16 – V-Power Shell Stage 3 (2,33 km) and SS 16 – V-Power Shell Stage 4 (2,33 km) saw Ott and Elfyn set the same time on the first run through and then Elfyn would increase the gap by three seconds on the second run.

 

The SS 18 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km) saw Dani come to the fore, winning the stage, with teammates Thierry and Andreas, but it was the gap between Ott and Elfyn that held our interest, with just 2.2 seconds between them!

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 (Saturday)

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:18:33.8
  2. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +27.0
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.2
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:15.7
  5. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:37.1
  6. Guerra / Zapata (Skoda Fabia R5) +12:06.0
  7. Bulacia Wilkinson / Cretu (Skoda Fabia R5) +15:39.6
  8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +16:32.4

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It was a long and difficult leg, which started with a puncture and finished with a minor technical issue at the very end, but overall, we drove well. I’m delighted to finish today’s leg with an increased lead, and I trust my team to make sure the C3 WRC is back in perfect working order for tomorrow. Because we need to finish the job and score maximum points.”

Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Esapekka Lappi (DNF/Rally2)

“I came into a tight, downhill left-hand corner and it was more slippery than I had anticipated. I ran wide and the car was left balanced at the edge of the road, in the ditch. There was no damage to the car, but we were stuck and had no chance of getting going again. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but the main thing is that I have learned a lot at this event, a lot more than last year. I’m starting to understand how you need to drive here and I’m going to try and keep adding to my experience tomorrow.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It was a pretty good morning for us and a good start to the afternoon, but I was disappointed to have given so much away to Ott [Tänak] on the second pass of Otates [SS14]. I was pushing quite hard, but I just couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t have the feeling to go much faster.

“The gap isn’t particularly big right now and there’ll be a big fight tomorrow, but if we have a good run, I’m confident that we can get the job done. You still have to drive quite smart to be fast here, but at the end of the day we want that second place and we’re going to fight for it.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“We’ve had a good day today. In the morning there was still quite a lot of loose gravel on the stages, but we managed to have a clean loop. This afternoon was our opportunity to fight and we managed to take some time back. The surface was constantly changing and the grip was unpredictable, so it wasn’t easy. It looks like it will be interesting tomorrow: We have something to fight for and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Kris Meeke (5th)

“I really enjoyed the first stage this morning, we had really good speed and we took the lead of the rally. Unfortunately, in the second one I picked up a puncture. I decided to continue, which was probably the correct decision in terms of time, but it damaged something in the rear suspension which I had to carry into the next stage. To drop to fifth and have nothing much to fight for was disappointing, but it’s important to hold on to these points and score a strong result for the team.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“Overall, I’m happy with today. Compared to yesterday, the performance was much better. We made some small changes to the car and this helped, particularly coming out of the slow corners. Our total stage times have been close to the leaders so I can be satisfied with that. We are now up to eighth place and I think there is a good chance to get seventh tomorrow if we keep going with the same speed that we had today. I would like to get some Power Stage points too – that will be important for the championship.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“Our road position today has been slightly more advantageous with two cars running ahead of us rather than one, but it has still been far from an ideal situation. We knew we couldn’t do more in terms of our own performance, so we just drove and tried to enjoy the stages while taking care to avoid punctures. Yesterday we felt like we had no force to fight with the others, but today we were able to drive fast. After the morning loop we knew we were unlikely to catch any more positions, so we just watched to see what happened ahead of us. The afternoon was an improvement. Our car tends to respond well and perform better when the roads are more rutted. When the surface is harder, it is more slippery. We have three more stages to survive and see what we can salvage from this weekend.”

Dani Sordo (10th)

“We have done all we could have in some very tricky conditions. At times this morning there was a lot of dust hanging in places during the stage, which made driving that bit more difficult. We made some set-up changes during lunchtime service and I was happier with the car in the afternoon. Still, we struggled for traction with the hard tyre in the repeat of Otates, so it wasn’t easy. Seeing the performance of our colleagues has given us motivation to push, along with the fantastic support of the fans, so we will see what we can achieve on the final morning.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)

“If there’s a time and place when you don’t want to be first on the road it is Saturday in Mexico – there has definitely been lots of cleaning today. Even considering that handicap, there are positives to take away. Our times have not been too bad and I have been quite happy with our performance overall. The result is gone but we’ve tried to enjoy the driving and to keep our motivation high. We’ve been able to explore some different things on the car for use in the future. The most unusual moment of the day came at the start of the afternoon loop when we arrived at a closed gate mid-stage. Thankfully we had ‘Anders the Gate Opener’ on hand to open the road in the most literal sense. It was one of those bizarre situations that perfectly illustrates the frustration of our Rally México.”

 

Sunday

Well, with three stages still to run on Sunday, totaling 60.17km, we had the battle between Elfyn and Ott to watch and enjoy! The start list looked like this – Lappi, Mikkelsen, Sordo, Latvala, Meeke, Neuville, Tänak, Evans, Ogier.

 

SS 19 – Alfaro (21,01 km) got the action underway! Top three was Ott, Seb and Thierry. Kris Meeke was taking it easy, losing time but looking to the final stage and some power stage points. In the battle between Ott and Elfyn with the M-Sport driver setting the fourth fastest time, he’d fall behind Ott, but the gap was still very small at just two seconds between the former teammates.

 

SS 20 – Mesa Cuata (25,07 km) and Ott flew through the stage, increasing the gap a further five seconds over Elfyn. However, this was no capitulation from the Welshman, who was holding his own and driving brilliantly. Seb was second quickest. Kris Meeke was still taking it easy. He had other ideas. His plan was to win the power stage.

 

The final one, SS 21 – Las Minas Power Stage (10,72 km)… Early pace setter Esapekka saw his time eclipsed by Dani, but it was Kris who really set the stage on fire with a time that was five seconds faster, but it was Seb Ogier in the end that took the stage victory, narrowly beating Kris’ time by one tenth of a second. Incredible. Those taking extra points were Ogier, Meeke, Neuville, Sordo and Lappi.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:37:08.0
  2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +30.2
  3. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +49.9
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:27.0
  5. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6:06.2
  6. Guerra / Zapata (Skoda Fabia R5) +15:35.5
  7. Bulacia Wilkinson / Cretu (Skoda Fabia R5) +18:51.5
  8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +18:55.9
  9. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 22:44.1

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“Mexico is definitely a special place for me and I’m especially pleased to secure this fifth win here and take maximum points for the championship! That was what we came for, and although it wasn’t a trouble-free weekend, we managed it well from start to finish. The potential I saw in the C3 WRC continues to be borne out. It enabled us to be top performers this weekend. It’s now up to us to keep working hard because the championship looks set to be even closer than ever before. In the meantime, I would like to thank the team for the great job done this weekend! We’ll now head for Corsica looking for a similar outcome.”

Esapekka Lappi (14th)

“I’m pleased to have learned how to drive on this specific surface with my C3 WRC and to have equally made progress in understanding the tyre strategy for these stages. We’re now going to concentrate on the Tour de Corse, with the intention of getting back among the frontrunners.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It has been a good weekend. This has been a very demanding event: tough for the car, tough for the tyres and tough for the drivers inside the car. I believe we managed it well and I’m really happy to make it through without mistakes or problems. It really shows how strong we are. I had a puncture on the Power Stage, so there was nothing I could do there, but the first two stages were good and we managed to get the second place. It’s been a good start to the championship with three podiums from three rallies, and it would be great if we can carry on like this.”

Kris Meeke (5th)

“We were in a secure fifth place in the overall standings, so we had to balance protecting that with a push in the Power Stage. I saved my tyres through the first two stages, which I think was the right strategy. I then gave it everything in the Power Stage, while still making sure to bring home the fifth place. It’s been a tough rally for me after the puncture while we were leading, but to come away with 14 points is still positive. For the team and for the manufacturers’ championship it’s been a really strong rally.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“I don’t think I’ve ever fought so hard to get four points! At the end of the second stage of the day, we hit some bedrock with the sump guard. We thought we had no chance to continue but I said we can’t give up at this point. The sump guard was only half-fixed so I couldn’t drive fast in the Power Stage, and we were late into the time control so we lost seventh place by four seconds. But at least we made it to the end. There have been a lot of things happening this weekend, hopefully the next rally will be a bit calmer!”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s a good result, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed because second place should have been on the cards this weekend. Unfortunately, there were just a couple of things that cost us quite a lot. That second pass of Otates cost us pretty dearly, and then we made the wrong call on the tyres this morning.

“That said, it was still a good weekend and there are a lot of positives to take away. We didn’t make a single mistake and we’ve collected some good points that will give us a better road position in Corsica. Most importantly, we can see that we’ve made some good changes to the car and we’ll work hard to build on that throughout the year.”

Elfyn and Scott push on! Photo credit, M-Sport

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“That was not the weekend we wanted. From the puncture early on Friday morning, and with our road position, it has been a really challenging event from start to finish. We have been missing some speed at times and generally struggling. I felt I was driving on a good rhythm but we weren’t on our usual pace. Today, I tried to keep a good rhythm in case something happened to the guys in front but that meant we didn’t have enough tyre performance left for the Power Stage, unlike some of our rivals. We have to put this rally to one side and re-group ready for Corsica.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
07-10 March 2019
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (9th)

“Our aim for today was to drive within our limits and to pick up some manufacturers’ points, which are so important for the team. At the start of the Power Stage, I was enjoying the car so we gave it a bit of a push but nothing too crazy. I have had fun driving the stages this weekend, and the support from the crowds has been amazing, even if the end result was not what we could have achieved. We were fighting at the front on Friday until our problems so the potential is definitely there. We’ll be back stronger at the next rally in Corsica.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)

“It’s easy to dwell on the missed opportunities this weekend, but it is important that we look at the many positives. The i20 Coupe WRC performed much more to my liking on these gravel stages, and that was reflected in our competitive stage times on Friday. Obviously, we weren’t able to fight for the sort of result we were capable of scoring but that’s rallying sometimes. The final day was clean and we had a decent run through the Power Stage. It was my first attempt at Las Minas as I missed out on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t perfect but another useful lesson.”

Summary
Now, there you have it! A second victory for Citroen this year and their eighth in Mexico! Ott’s drive to second place was incredible and has kept him in the championship lead. Finally, Elfyn and Scott’s first podium together, coming at an event that neither of them had stood on the podium before. A very consistent drive had rewarded them with a great result which has lifted them into fifth place in the championship. Both Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke could have also stood on the podium, but they both suffered misfortunes that were not of their doing. Early leader, Andreas had a good event until disaster struck, not least the closed gate that Anders had to open! Another driver that went well was Jari-Matti, who did have a good event, but was hampered again with reliability from his Yaris.

Next up is Tour de Corse. Held over the weekend of the 28th to 31st of March. The first fully tarmac event of the year, meaning the closer you are to the leader, the better the road conditions for you.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 03 / Rally Mexico / March 7th-10th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 65 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 61 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 55 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 35 points
  5. Elfyn Evans – 28 points
  6. Esapekka Lappi – 20 points
  7. Sébastien Loeb – 18 points
  8. Jari-Matti Latvala – 14 points
  9. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 86 points
  2. Citroën Total WRT – 78 points
  3. Hyundai WRT – 77 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 45 points

 

Rally Sweden Preview 2019

It’s time already for round two of this year’s championship! Rally Sweden is super spectacular, with snow and ice covering the stages, and the Michelin tyres being super skinny and fitted with studs to cut through and find the grip! The forests of Varmland will see the crews battle for the victory, and keeping out of trouble will be key!

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, WRC, Sweden
06-12 February 2017
Atmosphere
Day 1
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Opening the road on Friday morning, Seb Ogier will be at a disadvantage, and last year we saw him and Julien finish in eleventh place. This year will see him in the same position, and we’ll have to wait and see how he fares in the Citroen.

 

Thierry Neuville won last season and with that, took the championship lead. Also, for Hyundai, there is Seb Loeb in the car, competing for the first time since 2013, at which point he and Daniel had taken five podiums including one win, plus Andreas Mikkelsen, who took his only podium in last year’s campaign in Sweden.

 

The team run by Tommi Makinen is very strong, and they won most of the stages in Monte-Carlo. Ott Tanak has to be favourite, but you can’t discount Jari-Matti who won in 2017, and Kris Meeke, who will almost certainly on the pace, as he becomes more familiar with the Yaris and Seb Marshall next to him.

 

The M-Sport team will have Elfyn, Teemu and Pontus in three cars. Elfyn will be looking to get a good result there, having picked up two sixth places in 2015 and 2017. It’s also worth mentioning that Scott guided Craig Breen to the second step of the podium last year, giving an extra dimension to the hopes within the team. Finally, there is Marko who guided last year’s WRC2 winner Takamoto Katsuta. What could he and Teemu do this year?

 

The stages that they face are very fast. Here is what awaits them. Nineteen stages totalling 316km, with just a minor change from 2018 with Rammen replacing Torntop on Saturday.

 

THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY

9.00am: Shakedown (Skalla)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Super Special Stage Karlstad 1 (1,90 km)

9.58pm: Parc ferme (Torsby)

 

FRIDAY 15 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 1 and service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS 2 – Hof-Finnskog 1 (21,26 km)

9.08am: SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km)

9.59am: SS 4 – Röjden 1 (18,10 km)

11.34am: Service B (Torsby – 40 mins)

1.54pm: SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21,26 km)

3.17pm: SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km)

4.08pm: SS 7 – Röjden 1 (18,10 km)

5.14pm: SS 8 – Torsby 1 (8,93 km)

5.50pm: Flexi service C (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 16 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 2 and service D (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.44am: SS 9 – Rämmen 1 (23,13 km)

8.35am: SS 10 – Hagfors 1 (23,40 km)

9.37am: SS 11 –  Vargasen 1 (14,21 km)

10.53am: Service E (Torsby – 40 mins)

1.02pm: SS 12 – Rämmen 2 (23,13 km)

1.53pm: SS 13 – Hagfors 2 (23,40 km)

3.08pm: SS 14 – Vargasen 2 (14,21 km)

5.45pm: SS 15 – Super Special Stage Karlstad 2 (1,90 km)

7.30pm: SS 16 – Torsby Sprint (2,80 km)

8.00pm: Flexi service F (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 17 FEBRUARY

6.30am: Start day 3 and service G (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.50am: SS 17 – Likenäs 1 (21,19 km)

9.51am: SS 18 – Likenäs 2 (21,19 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Torsby 2 Power Stage (8,93 km)

12.38pm: Finish – Torsby, service park

1.00pm: Podium – Torsby, service park

 

Here’s the thoughts from the drivers.

Citroen Total Racing

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s a rally that I have always really enjoyed. You get a really nice feeling driving the WRCs here. I hope that we have good conditions so we can enjoy ourselves, although I’m aware that running first is very often a significant disadvantage, due to the layer of snow covering the ice. We’ll have to see how the roads evolve for the second passes, but I fear that with the layer of ice currently on the roads, the gravel will start to appear quite quickly. In testing, the feeling gradually improved as we covered more kilometres and as always, we are going to try and do our best.”

Seb and Julien come to Rally Sweden as championship leaders.

Esapekka Lappi

“If the conditions stay the same as those, we had in testing this week, then the layer of ice is so thin that it is likely to leave the gravel exposed pretty quickly, which means we’ll have to manage the studs on the second runs. Whatever happens, we have a good road position. The stages are fast, which I like and I feel that we worked well in testing. I just hope we’ll have a bit of luck on our side this time and our hard work will pay off.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Monte-Carlo was a good sign of potential for us and we can’t wait to get in the car again in Sweden. It has been a nice event for us in the past. We’ve had some pretty competitive performances in previous years, including our victory last season. It is a rally we enjoy as a crew. Our car has always worked well, allowing us to set fast times on the frozen roads and use the snow banks to push to the limit. We know our rivals will be strong, as they will be at all rallies, so we have to focus on ourselves and do the best job we can.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Seb Loeb

“Rallye Monte-Carlo was a solid start in our new relationship with Hyundai Motorsport, particularly with our limited pre-event testing. We were in the fight for the podium all weekend, and we are ready to build from that. Rally Sweden is a very different challenge. It can be the most exciting rally of the season if it’s full ice with good conditions and sun, yet it can be very difficult if the snow is melting with rain – so naturally, we’re hoping to have good conditions.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Sweden is a highlight in our calendar as we spend one day in Norway, so it is kind of a home rally for us. It’s the only event that is fully snow on ice. Driving with studded tyres on the stages gives you an incredible feeling, like you are floating. We were disappointed to retire from Monte but we had found a good rhythm with the car and we are confident we can be fighting at the front throughout the season.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Ott Tänak

“We are feeling well prepared for Sweden, but it’s always difficult to know exactly what conditions we are going to face during the event. Last year we had a lot of snow and big snow banks, which is usually what you want on a winter rally. It was hard for us to compete with our road position though, because there wasn’t a lot of grip available in the fresh snow. I’m hoping that we’ll have a better chance this year to fight at the front. When the conditions are in your favour, it can be a really fun event with such fast and flowing stages, and we know that our car can be really good there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala  

“This year’s Rally Sweden is going to be very special for me. It’s where I became the youngest ever winner of a WRC round, and now I am set to become the most experienced WRC driver, on the same event, just 11 years later. At the moment we have a good amount of snow here in Finland and I am expecting the conditions to be similar in Sweden, so we should have a really nice winter rally. Hopefully we can be fighting for another great result like we had in Sweden in 2017 with the first win for the Yaris WRC. I just need to get the feeling for the driving that I was missing in Monte Carlo.”

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla took victory in 2017.

Kris Meeke

“Monte Carlo was a positive beginning for me but it doesn’t change my immediate focus, which is on learning the car and enjoying my driving on the three very different events we have to start the season. I had a great three days of testing in Finland last week to prepare for Rally Sweden. It was really nice to experience the car for the first time with a snow setup. I came away with a really good feeling, but I’m keeping in mind that the conditions on the rally could be very different, depending on the temperatures. Hopefully we’ll have nice, consistent conditions and a rally everyone can enjoy.”

 

M-Sport

Elfyn Evans

“As the only winter rally on the calendar, Rally Sweden is pretty special. We had a good test last week and it was important to get the sensation of driving on snow again. We reach incredible speeds and it’s an amazing feeling – making this one of the most enjoyable events of the year when the conditions are good.

“We’ll certainly be hoping that the conditions work in our favour next week and it will be important to make the most of the advantage if that is the case. We’ll have to wait and see what it’s like when we get there, but we have our fingers crossed for a classic Rally Sweden with plenty of snow.

“Monte didn’t end the way we wanted it to, and we need to remain focused and make good on our potential next week. We know that we have the package to achieve a strong result and both myself and Scott have had strong results at this event in the past.

“If everything works in our favour, there’s no reason why we can’t challenge for the top results and that’s what we’re all working towards delivering.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen

“Last week we drove a good test day with more than 200 kilometres in Finland. We actually had a lot more set-up changes to work through this year, and I could feel we’d taken a step forward.

“Our competitiveness in Rally Sweden will of course depend a bit on the weather. There is always a chance to minimise the time loss when someone else is cleaning the road for the drivers behind. The key is to stay on the clean line for as long as possible.

“The speed in Sweden is close to the figures we reach in Rally Finland. Sometimes we may lean on the snowbanks as well, but it is not always intentional.

“We start this rally with the notes I made last year, and I expect the competition to be just as tough as it was in Monte. Everyone wants the top positions, and we will have to work hard to ensure we are also in the hunt.”

Pontus Tidemand

“Rally Sweden is the highlight of my year – the big one that I always look forward to and I feel one hundred percent ready to take on the challenge of my home event. And what makes it even better is that I’m behind the wheel of the most amazing car I’ve ever driven.

“To speed through the snowy forests and see all the fans, the bonfires and the Swedish flags waving is an amazing feeling that beats everything. And to know that I have family, friends and supporters out there really gives me a boost.

“I’m starting to feel very comfortable with the car and I already feel at home in the team. When we came to Monte-Carlo last month, more or less everything was new and it was all about learning. It was an extremely important experience for both me and Ola and it gave us a chance to get used to it all.

“I’ve said all along that Rally Sweden is where I want to be competitive and on top performance. This is my home event, I know it very well and I have a great feeling about it this year. It will still be very demanding and challenging, and we will have to step up our game and quickly find a good rhythm that we can hopefully keep throughout the weekend.”

Also competing for M-Sport are Gus Greensmith and Lukasz Pieniazek in WRC2 Pro.

Gus Greensmith

“It took a while for my first win to sink in and I’ll admit to having to pinch myself a few times after being called a Monte winner! But this sport doesn’t wait for you to savour the moment and my mind quickly turned to Rally Sweden where I hope to go for another strong result.

“I have very little experience of this event and the driving style needed for winter rallying, so our pre-event test will be particularly important for our preparation. We’ve only got one day so we will have to be really focused and productive to try and get everything done.

“The route is pretty similar to last year so I have also spent countless hours studying the onboard videos to make sure that I am as prepared as I can be. I still don’t have a lot of experience on snow, but hopefully that will go some way to making up for it and I am definitely going to give it my all.

“It will be tough against the guys who have grown up on snow, but I have a great team around me and I feel at the top of my game – so we have every chance of continuing to challenge at the top.”

Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson took WRC2 Pro victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Photo credit, M-Sport

Łukasz Pieniążek

“This will be my second start in Sweden and only my third with a four-wheel-drive car on snow. I don’t have a lot of experience in these conditions, but I really enjoy them.

“To prepare, we had a good three-day test in Estonia where we completed around 450 kilometres and got a good feeling with the Fiesta and a good understanding of how it handles in these snowy conditions. We’ll have another test with the team on Monday and I’m really looking forward to the rally.

“I really like driving on snow. The studded tyres give great grip but it does take some getting used to which is pretty challenging. Then there are the snowbanks. You don’t want to get stuck in one of them so it’s important to be really precise – especially in the narrow sections.

“My number one goal is to give my best and go as fast as we can. It will be our first rally with the new team and with a new car so let’s see what we can do.

“The recce will be very important to understand the conditions and choose the right setup. If we do that, then I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun on some of the most beautiful stages on the calendar.”

 

Don’t forget, there’s lots of coverage on WRC+ and BT Sport showing every stage live. Who will win? It’s going to be fun finding out! Enjoy!

Featured image courtesy of M-Sport.

Seb and Julien make it Six – Rallye Monte-Carlo 2019 Review

Not only did they take their sixth victory, it was Citroen’s 100th WRC victory. Poignant given the manufacturer is celebrating it’s 100th year since their first car was released.

Here’s the story of how it all came together.

Thursday evening after shakedown, saw two-night stages and they totalled just over 40km’s. There were some really tricky ice-covered parts, which meant that studded tyres were the way to go.

 

SS 1 – La Breole – Selonnet (20,76 km) was first up and we saw the world champion take care, setting the third fastest time, with Ott and Kris ahead in their Yaris WRC cars. Ten seconds covered the top three, with Loeb a further thirteen seconds back in fourth, making his first start in the i20. Elfyn also was going well, with Scott Martin alongside him sitting in sixth, it’s great to see two drivers from the UK going so well near the head of the field. Sadly, Teemu and Marko slid out on the first stage, after around three kilometres, but with overnight service, they would be able to return to the action on Friday.

 

SS 2 – Avançon – Notre Dame du Laus (20,59 km), saw some changes, with Thierry setting the fastest time and jumping up to third overall. Just behind him were the usual suspects of Ogier and Tanak, his rivals from last season. Sadly, Kris lost a minute in the stage, falling to seventh overall after he got a puncture. Elfyn maintained his sixth place, despite Lappi and Latvala passing him and moving into fourth and fifth.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1 (Thursday)

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 26:33.0
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +9.1
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.3
  4. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +45.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.4
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.2
  7. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.8
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 55.2
  9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.6
  10. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:41.1

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It was a tough start to the rally tonight, as we were expecting. There were some extremely tricky and changeable conditions on the first stage, but I had a really good feeling in the car. It was still quite easy to feel the grip changes and this gave me good confidence. The second one was mostly dry asphalt which was a challenge with a mix of tyres, but we had a good run. Overall, I still think our tyre choice was the right one. Tomorrow will be a long day and we will be expecting more of the usual Monte challenges.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“It was very challenging conditions this evening, in the darkness with a mix of ice and damp patches. When the conditions are difficult like this the time differences can be quite big. In the first stage I lost a lot of time as I wasn’t that confident. I didn’t have those type of conditions in my test, so I was missing the feeling. But we got through and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow is another day and things can change very quickly in this event, so we need to be patient.”

Kris Meeke (7th)

“It was a tricky start to the rally with changing conditions, but I felt really confident with the car, I had a good feeling. On the second stage it was drier but it still felt nice to drive. Then for some reason we got a puncture. I don’t believe we hit anything. But we can’t let that get us down so early on a Rallye Monte-Carlo. I’m enjoying it and I’m confident in the car, so let’s see what the rest of the weekend brings.”

Citroen Total Racing

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“For my first two stages in the C3 WRC, clearly I’m pleased with the outcome, especially in these conditions. Perhaps I was bit too cautious on the first stage, but it’s difficult to really go for it when you are driving a new car competitively for the first time. But I certainly produced a decent time with the studded tyres on the second stage. I think that I made an intelligent start to the rally.”

Image courtesy of Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It was easy to make a mistake on tonight’s opening two stages, especially on SS1. I probably thought about that prospect a little too much and ended up being too cautious. We played it safe on the set-up as well. It was perhaps a little too soft. However, the confidence gradually came on SS2 and although there are already big gaps between the crews, I’m right in the mix, especially as there’s still a long way to go and plenty of things can happen yet!”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“We have started our season with the right mentality, trying to find our own direction and going with our feelings. The tyre choice this evening was a compromise. With the information we had, we felt we made a good choice, and at the end it was OK. I was perhaps expecting to gain more time on the second stage in the dry conditions but we didn’t, which was a shame. But it’s not too bad considering it’s so early in the rally. We will see what the weather does tomorrow and aim to stay in the fight for the win.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“It has been good to make our debut as a Hyundai Motorsport crew, even if it was a tricky start. The opening has not been too bad, even if it is not easy to start in the night and in icy conditions. The first stage went OK but we didn’t select the best tyres for the second one and we suffered as a result of that. We perhaps underestimated the performance gap between the slick tyres and four snow tyres. We made it to the end and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow, our aim is to get into a good rhythm on the slicks and take it from there.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)

“A typically tricky start to Rallye Monte-Carlo! In the opening stage, about 1km from the finish, I thought the stage had ended and I started to back off. It was a silly mistake that cost us time. Other than that we just took things cautiously. The second stage was completely dry and we were on four winter tyres: we were sliding everywhere. We could have opted for crossed tyres but I don’t have much experience with this car in such conditions. We did the best we could.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“It’s been a typical start to Rallye Monte-Carlo with some really challenging conditions. We could have gone harder for sure, and I was kicking myself in a few places, but we delivered a clean run and are in a reasonably good position going into tomorrow – which is always the most important thing.”

Pontus Tidemand (10th)

“This car is amazing to drive, so I have to be clever and stop myself from pushing too hard! I really want to take the maximum, but I have to be careful as I need the experience from this rally and want to learn as much as I can.”

Also going well was Gus Greensmith.

Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro)

“That was a proper start to Rallye Monte-Carlo and I now understand why Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport Managing Director] kept telling me to come and do this rally! The conditions were extremely tricky and even though we weren’t fully committed, we made it through. We’ll step it up tomorrow and aim to get back on the good pace we showed in shakedown.”

 

Friday would see the longest day, but unfortunately the problem with spectators in the wrong places on stage, meant that stage three – Valdrome – Sigottier 1 (20,04 km), the first on Friday morning, would be cancelled. These individuals should really think about what they are doing, as they are really spoiling the event for those who are doing the right thing.

 

The action therefore would start on SS 4 – Roussieux – Laborel 1 (24,05 km), and Seb Loeb took his first stage victory for Hyundai, with Thierry and Seb Ogier in second and third, rueing the fact he was on studded tyres. The Belgian was now leading and its fair to say that Hyundai had made the best tyre choice, with Loeb and Mikkelsen moving up the leaderboard as well.

 

Seb Ogier hit back in SS 5 – Curbans – Piegut 1 (18,47 km), winning the stage and passing Ott and moving into second place again, whilst further back Andreas and Jari-Matti jumped up to fifth and sixth, passing Lappi, Evans and Meeke, who were now in seventh, eighth and ninth overall.

 

Ogier also won SS 6 – Valdrome – Sigottier 2 (20,04 km), despite his tyre choice meaning he’d struggle with the car. In fact, Latvala set exactly the same time, so they shared the stage victory. By contrast, Esapekka hit trouble unfortunately breaking his suspension on a rock. This would result in the Finn having to retire from the rest of the day’s action. Thierry’s lead over the Frenchman was now just 1.4 seconds. Loeb, dropped a lot of time, with the result he’d fall from fourth to seventh, with Andreas, Jari-Matti and Kris all benefitting, moving ahead of the nine-time world champion.

 

Loeb won SS 7 – Roussieux – Laborel 2 (24,05 km), from Evans and Ogier and with Thierry a further 14 seconds behind, and Ogier took the overall lead. Loeb’s fastest time moved him up to third place as well, whilst Evans’ great time, meant he moved up into sixth place. Both Tanak and Meeke suffered drama’s losing huge time to the leaders and now Toyota’s best placed driver was Jari-Matti in fifth place, just seven seconds behind Mikkelsen.

 

The final stage of the day, SS 8 – Curbans – Piegut 2 (18,47 km), saw Thierry throw caution to the wind, winning from Tanak and Latvala, and with Ogier taking it carefully, after having no studs left in his tyres, and a super slippery stage, the Belgian reduced Ogier’s lead by twelve seconds! Also going well were Andreas and Jari-Matti who both moved up ahead again of Loeb, with Andreas now in third overall.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 (Friday)

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:37:17.3
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.0
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:17.7
  4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:25.1
  5. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:25.9
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:47.5
  7. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:34.9
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:33.0

 

 

Citroen Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“Obviously, I’m pleased to end the day leading the rally after another really difficult day, where there were some really significant changes in the conditions and the rhythm from one stage to the next. We perhaps didn’t have the ideal tyre set-up for this afternoon, but we nonetheless managed to cope with that. I’m driving with confidence in the C3 WRC and our strategy of taking an intelligent approach to the rally has paid dividends thus far, since we haven’t made any mistakes at all. I’m going to try and keep it up, especially as tomorrow’s leg looks set to be very tricky again, particularly on Saint Léger Les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (Rally2)

“Like several other crews, our tyre strategy was seriously compromised this morning when the first stage was cancelled as it had more or less dictated our choice of going with four studded tyres. Then at the start of the afternoon, I hit something hard on a corner, probably a rock. It immediately broke the suspension wishbone and we were unable to repair it. It’s obviously a shame but we’ll now look to use the rest of the rally to continue to get used to the C3 WRC. We might even try out a few set-up options that we wouldn’t have dared to attempt under normal circumstances.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“What a day! We had a good morning loop. The first stage was cancelled but we made the right tyre choice, and could catch some time back. Everything worked well: I was happy with my driving the pace notes were really good and I was confident in the car. Tyre choice has been key all day, as is to be expected at this rally. The start of the afternoon loop didn’t go as planned, as we approached a corner too fast and had to use the escape road. We lost around 19 seconds of time, which was frustrating because that mistake cost us the chance to hold the lead. We kept pushing hard and finished the day with a stage win to reduce the gap to Ogier. It certainly makes for an exciting rally! Thanks to our gravel crew for a great job today, which has allowed us to attack with full confidence. There’s still room for improvement.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)

“I am pleased to be in the provisional podium positions after another tough day. It is easy to make mistakes in these conditions so I am pleased to have had a clean and relatively competitive day. Tyre choice has been tough for everyone. We were helped with the cancelled stage first thing this morning but in the end, things turned out well. In the afternoon, it was hard to tell where we would compare with so many tyre variations being deployed. It’s a bit of cat and mouse in this rally, where you have to work out where you can find the advantage, or minimise the disadvantage. I think we’ve done that well today. We’re only halfway through the stages, so there’s a lot of hard work still ahead of us.”

Seb Loeb (5th)

“It has been good to secure my first stage wins in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. It’s not so easy to win stages in the World Rally Championship so this is a nice feeling. We’ve had a pretty good day overall. We are at least still in the game, even if it’s not for the victory. In the opening loop, we opted for slick tyres, so we were helped by the first stage being cancelled. In the afternoon, it was a similar situation where we knew we would lose time on the first stage but then gained back in the others. The feeling in the car has been encouraging so we aim to continue with this rhythm on Saturday.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
24-27 Janvier 2019
Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)

“Overall, I must say it was quite a positive day. I think we had a good strategy for this morning, but when they cancelled the first stage it affected us quite significantly. Still, I started to get a good feeling with the driving. This afternoon we played it safe and ran with four snow tyres on two of the stages. On SS7 we had a mix of tyres and I was maybe a bit too careful, but SS6 and SS8 on the snow tyres both went well and in general I’m happy. It’s good to be in the fight for the third place on the podium.”

Ott Tänak (7th)

“It has generally been quite a challenging day. This morning our strategy was based mainly on the first stage, so the cancellation meant that we no longer had a good tyre choice for the loop. This afternoon, the first stage was quite tricky with a mix of snow, slush, and dry road. Then on the next one we had a puncture, so we had to stop and change the tyre. The last stage was more of a consistent run for us. There is still a long way to go and we will do everything we can.”

Kris Meeke (8th)

“Our road position today was not ideal the drivers ahead were pulling lots of mud out onto the road, which was making it very slippery for me but we could still set some good times and gain some positions. Unfortunately, we then had the damaged wheel rim and we had to stop and change it. Nonetheless, I am really enjoying the driving after nine months away, and with a bit more luck we could be sitting in a podium place. Now we’re relying on others having problems, but we’re looking forward to what’s to come.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We had a pretty good day behind the wheel, but were maybe just a little bit too brave on the tyre choice this afternoon. It’s all part of the game and it was certainly nice to get a feeling for the car on pure Tarmac with full Tarmac tyres again [on SS7]. The rest of the day has been pretty tricky and we lost a bit too much time on the icy sections, but that’s what this rally is all about. We’re still here, and we’ll keep at it tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin. Photo credit M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (22nd / Rally 2)

“Of course, I always want to be faster, but I think we have had a good day getting through all of the kilometres and learning a lot about this rally. We took four slick and two studded tyres this afternoon which might have been a bit of a risk. On the first stage there was a long snow section – about seven or eight kilometres – and we lost a lot of time there; but on the other hand we were fourth fastest on the next stage where I would say we had the best possible tyre choice.”

Pontus Tidemand (40th / Rally 2)

“On the inside of a corner I was just following the line, but there was something there and it broke the wishbone. I don’t know what it was, but it was the same corner where Esapekka [Lappi] also had some damage. Before that the pace was getting better and better. It will take some time to get there, but I felt like everything was going in the right direction. For sure we are just here to learn, and we plan to continue that tomorrow.”

Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro and 1st RC2)

“We had a bit of a tricky morning with some overheating issues which meant that we couldn’t always run in full stage mode. We lost a bit of time there, but we were still able to reduce the gap to class-leader Bonato. “This afternoon we decided to take quite a risky tyre choice with four slick and two snow tyres. We knew we would lose time on the first stage [SS6] and we lost 22 seconds to Bonato in there. But on the next one [SS7] we were able to take back 36 seconds, and on the last one [SS8] we pulled back 29 which means that we now have a six second class lead going into tomorrow. “The car feels really good, I feel really good, and we just need to keep doing the same thing tomorrow.”

 

Saturday

 

Saturday started much better, with no cancelled stages. SS 9 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 1 (29,82 km) was won by Ott with Kris setting a great time, just four tenths slower and confirming he was feeling comfortable in the Yaris and with Seb Marshall doing a great job alongside him. Ogier increased his lead over Thierry to 5.6 seconds. Loeb moved back into third as Andreas was thirty seconds off the pace and Elfyn dropped one place to seventh, after getting a puncture, now behind Ott. Unfortunately, Esapekka retired with a mechanical problem. There was a huge accident for Andreas though after he lost control of his car, powering out of a corner and ripping the entire wheel and suspension from the left-rear. He was out.

 

Ott Tanak set a great time, taking his second stage win in a row in SS 10 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87 km), but it was the retirement of Elfyn which was such a shame. He lost control of the car on black ice, that pulled the car to the edge of the road and after that he and Scott were just passengers. He tried to power the car back onto the road, but ended up hitting a tree, which had the effect of spinning the car round and taking a wheel off as well. Jari-Matti passed Loeb, moving up into third place overall.

 

SS 11 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 2 (29,82 km) saw Ott take his third stage victory in a row, whilst the battle between Loeb and Latvala, saw the Frenchman move back into third overall, but there was only two seconds between them – This was certainly not over. Also, the gap between Neuville and Ogier remained very close at just around four seconds separating them.

 

Ott confirmed that the combination of him and the Toyota was now the best out there, winning SS 12 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87 km). He’d won every stage on Saturday, and Kris was second fastest again, just half a second from his teammate. Not only that, he’d reduced the gap to the front by sixteen seconds and was just a further sixteen seconds from third place.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 3 (Saturday)

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:38:30.0
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4.3
  3. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:58.7
  4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:01.0
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:16.0
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:26.8
  7. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta R5) +10:12.0
  8. Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +11:43.4

 

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“I’m pleased with my day, because once again today we had to find the right balance between pushing when it was dry and being cautious where it was icy and more slippery. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m expecting the final leg to be really close, but perhaps the conditions won’t be so tricky, although the top of the Col du Turini always throws up a few surprises. The C3 WRC has proven it is a competitive car on these roads, so I have high hopes that it will work well on tomorrow’s stages. Obviously, I’m going to try to win this rally, which means so much to me.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“Obviously, it’s a shame that we had this terminal issue with the engine, but it’s just part and parcel of racing. I hope to have a bit more luck in Sweden. In any case, I’m going to try and make the most of my two days of testing, so that I’m fully prepared and ready to fight on the fast stages of this event. It’s a rally that I really like.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“Overall it has been a good day and the game is still very much on. We have lost 2.3s compared to Ogier over four stages, which is not too bad. It was difficult to know what rhythm was best on these stages. I know I could have gone faster in some places, especially this morning, but if you push too much it’s easy to make a mistake. I didn’t want to take any risks but at the same time we had to keep the pressure on Ogier. It is his home rally so he knows the area very well. We will, of course, try to win tomorrow but we also have to be clever and think about the bigger picture.”

 

Seb Loeb (3rd)

“We have been in a great battle with Jari-Matti today, one time he was ahead and then it was me, things were constantly changing over the four stages. I’ve enjoyed it. This morning I wasn’t completely comfortable with the set-up of the car, so we made some adjustments at lunchtime service, which gave me a better feeling. The Toyotas have shown good pace today so the battle for third place will be tough. I will do whatever I can to push for the podium on Sunday, but we’ll have to see if that’s enough. I hope we will have less ice and more dry tarmac so we can get the slicks on the car for the final stages!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (DNF)

“I am really disappointed but there are positives to take away. It had been such a good start to the rally, and the feeling with the car has been fantastic. Unfortunately, at the end of the opening stage I lost the rear in a right-hand corner and the impact damaged the left-rear wheel. Game over for us and not the result we were going for. I’m really sorry for that on behalf of the team. Now we have to look ahead. We have been on the pace, fighting for the podium and that’s what we will bring with us to Rally Sweden.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)

“It’s been a great fight with Sebastien Loeb over third place today. At first, he was ahead, then I was ahead, and now he’s ahead again, but the gap is very small. I was hoping that I could have kept him behind, but when the conditions were mixed, I was maybe not so strong. It looks as though tomorrow’s stages could be drier: I’ve been doing a lot of testing on dry roads so I’m quite comfortable with the car in those conditions. Hopefully that works in our favour and we can be on the podium in Monte Carlo tomorrow.”

 

Ott Tänak (5th)

“It’s been a good day today: a normal day in the office. This afternoon we did something a bit different with the tyres compared to the others to try and gain some more time. In the end we gained a little bit, not much, but every bit helps. Thanks to my gravel crew who pushed me to do something different, because it paid off. The car has been nice to drive and it’s giving me confidence. We didn’t need to change the setup at lunchtime, and everything’s been working as it should. We’ve gained almost a minute back compared to the two guys in front, and I will keep pushing tomorrow.”

 

Kris Meeke (6th)

“Even though the conditions were tricky, I really enjoyed it today. The Yaris just seems natural to drive, it does what you want. I’m gradually building in confidence. We were really close to Ott’s times on a couple of the stages: Over 30 kilometres of snow, ice, greasy, slippery conditions there were only a few tenths of a second in it, so I’m happy to be there or there about already. I’ve still got a bit to learn about the car, but when it comes so naturally, it bodes well for the future. When we get to the powerstage we’ll give it a go and see what we can do.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

“The first stage this morning [SS9] started off okay, but we picked up a puncture which was pretty unlucky. It was on the rear in a cut that everyone else had been in. It was just one of those things, and we made the decision to continue which I think was right in terms of time. “Then on the next stage [SS10] there was a pretty straight forward left-hander that’s been around for a number of years. I didn’t approach it any differently to how I usually would, but it seems as though the grip levels were particularly low. “Maybe there was some black ice as a few cars got caught out, but they were a lot luckier than us. There was quite a steep bank with some trees on the outside, the car got dragged down, and that’s where our Rallye Monte-Carlo came to the end. “Everyone comes to a rally with the best intentions, and it definitely wasn’t part of the plan to start the year on the bad note. All of our attentions are now fully focused on the next event and we’re looking forward to getting back on it in Sweden.”

Teemu Suninen (14th)

“Today was a pretty good day for us and we didn’t make any mistakes. We showed good pace this morning, but in the afternoon, I was too careful. I was concentrated on looking after the studs, but actually the ice layer had become so thin that the studs didn’t give any extra grip. But I think I can be happy with my day and how my pace has improved throughout the weekend.”

 

Pontus Tidemand (24th)

“We have seen some very tricky conditions today so I’m glad to be here. We had a slow puncture after six kilometres in the first stage this morning [SS9] and, as we only had one spare, we took it really carefully after that. “It’s so easy to make a mistake in these conditions so I tried to be on the safe side this afternoon as well. We need time in the car to learn, and it was important to make sure that we continue to get more experience tomorrow.”

 

Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro and RC2) said:

“Three out of four stage wins, so I would call that a good day. I’ve had this calm, quiet confidence with the car today I’ve never had before; and I’ve felt as though I can control the pace exactly as I want to. “I took the first two stages quite easy as I knew that they were tricky, but I was still able to open the lead from six to twenty seconds. We had a bit of a blip in the first stage of the afternoon [SS11] where I lost five seconds, but we were back on it for the last one [SS12]. “After Bonato made a mistake the lead went up to over a minute and a half so we’ve given ourselves a nice buffer for tomorrow. We don’t need to do anything silly. We can be conservative with the tyre choices and bring it home for the win.”

Gus Greensmith and co-driver Elliott Edmondson had a good lead by the end of Saturday. Photo credit M-Sport

Sunday

The first stage, SS 13 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 1 (18,41 km) saw Ott continue to fly, winning the stage from Thierry who was starting to apply some pressure to Ogier as the gap between them at the top was now 3.3 seconds. Were we about to witness a similar result to last years Rally de Italia…? Loeb was losing time as well, as the gap to Ott was now just five seconds after the Frenchman lost eleven and a half seconds.

 

Ott conquered SS 14 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 (13,58 km) as well, winning again and moving ahead of Loeb into third place from fifth! He’d jumped both Jari-Matti and Loeb in one stage! Ogier was driving with a problem with his throttle, and pretty much held off Thierry in this one, but how would he fare in the longer stage that followed?

 

Thierry won SS 15 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 2 (18,41 km), bringing Ott’s run to an end and cutting Ogier’s lead to just four tenths of a second. The gaps behind were pretty static now, with Ott over two minutes behind Thierry, Loeb a further seven seconds behind and Jari-Matti three seconds behind Loeb. Despite having to restart under Rally2 regs, Suninen and Tidemand were in the points as well.

 

The final stage then, SS 16 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 – Power Stage (13,58 km), and Kris set the best time from Ogier and Neuville. Seb and Julien had done it, with the gap between them and Thierry and Nicolas just 2.2 seconds!

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 01 / Monte Carlo Rally / January 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

  

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:21.15.9
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.2
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:15.2
  4. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:28.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:29.9
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:36.2
  7. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta R5) +13:04.6
  8. Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +13:56.5

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“We certainly weren’t taking anything for granted. The final leg, in particular, was really stressful and difficult with our minor throttle issue, which meant the car kept on accelerating, even under braking. We got some good advice from the team and were able to perform some makeshift repairs on the road section. We then pushed really hard and, in the end, it worked out! It was an incredibly intense weekend. It was a non-stop battle, but we managed to come away with the win. Obviously, we’re very proud of this result in our first race with the C3 WRC, especially because, as I’ve often said, this rally is the one that is the most special for me. And it also means we can celebrate Citroën’s centenary in style. In other words, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start on our first race back with the team!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“What an incredibly close fight! We can be pleased with this result, which gets our 2019 campaign off to a very positive start. Of course, when you are in with a chance of fighting for Monte-Carlo victory, you want to push for it but it wasn’t to be on this occasion. We gave it everything we had but a small mistake on Friday cost us the lead and we weren’t quite able to catch it back. That’s part of the game. We enjoyed the weekend a lot even if it wasn’t easy. We can now look ahead to Sweden, where we will be second on the road, ready for another nice battle. Thanks to the whole team for a great weekend in tricky conditions at times.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“It has been an exciting weekend for WRC with an incredible battle for the victory and the podium. Fourth place is not so bad. I struggled with the set-up of the car on occasions, which is to be expected with such little time to test before the event. We made adjustments in between each loop in an effort to find our way, and we made good progress. We have to continue like this and see what we can achieve in Sweden. To be fighting for the podium in my first event for Hyundai Motorsport gives us all the motivation we need for the next rally. It’s a pleasure to be part of this team, and a positive way to start a new relationship.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“I am very pleased with this podium. After Friday I didn’t have such high hopes. I’m surprised we could catch all this time back on asphalt in relatively dry conditions. We had a good run this morning and then we just had to maintain our position to the finish. I’m really happy with the team, with my gravel crew and with the car. We did a perfect job on Saturday and Sunday and we should all feel proud of ourselves.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“It was a close fight for the whole weekend, but I wasn’t at my best, I must say. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t take fourth place today. But I realise now that I made a mistake in our test and I developed the wrong sort of setup for the rally. Because of that, my car was understeering too much for my driving style, and the confidence wasn’t there to go faster. But we had a clean weekend with no errors and we have scored some good points, which is important to start the season. We know that the car is capable of winning.”

Kris Meeke (6th)

“To win the Power Stage was an incredible way to finish our first rally with Toyota. We only set one fastest time this weekend but we did it when it counted. Other drivers were still fighting for their positions until the end, so to put it on the line and come away with the five points is great. We had technical issues this weekend that affected our result – fourth might have been possible – but to show our speed is really nice. The feeling with the car is really good. Finally, everything seems to be coming together for me, but we’re only one rally in, so we have to stay concentrated now and look forward to Sweden.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (11th)

“It’s a shame that we went off on the first stage because the rest of the rally has been really good. But we got a lot of good experience and I had some pace on the snow sections. The more we learnt, the more we were able to build our pace and I was happy to get a Power Stage point today – beating Latvala and Loeb who were both fighting for position.”

Pontus Tidemand (20th)

“This car is amazing to drive and I have had a lot of fun this weekend. I’ve learnt a lot and need to thank the team and my route note crew for a really good job. We’ll analyse where we were good and where we weren’t quite so good. On the slippery sections we set some really fast splits, but on the dry Tarmac we weren’t on the pace and I need more time behind the wheel to use the full potential of the car.  But it was good to get the kilometres and the experience. And we’ll have a good test before Rally Sweden where I hope to show another improvement.”

 

WRC 2 Pro Winner

Gus Greensmith

“I’m pretty sure this is the best day of my life so far! It took us a while to get here, but it’s an amazing feeling and there are so many people I need to thank. It was almost a perfect rally from beginning to end and we did everything we needed to do. When we needed to push and build a gap, we did. And when we needed to control it, we did. It’s definitely been my best ever performance behind the wheel, and now I’m just looking forward to a beer and letting it all sink in!”

Elliott Edmondson

“It’s been a brilliant rally back with Gus and we couldn’t have asked for any more. Monte is always a challenge so I can’t say it was easy, but we managed the whole weekend really well. We showed speed when we had to, and were more cautious when we could afford to be. We couldn’t have asked for a better start and here’s hoping for more good results as the season continues!”

Just incredible. Clearly, 2019 has picked off from where 2018 ended. The three fastest crews are the same. Also, we can see how that group could grow, with Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall and Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin looking comfortable in their cars.

Next up is Rally Sweden, from the 14th to 17th of February.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 29 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 21 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 17 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 13 points
  5. Sébastien Loeb – 12 points
  6. Jari-Matti Latvala – 10 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 30 points
  2. Citroën Total WRT – 25 points
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 25 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 14 points

Interview with Tom Ingram

I got the chance to speak to Tom, driver for Speedworks Motorsport in the British Touring Car Championship at this years Autosport International Show at the NEC.

Tom Ingram, Speedworks Motorsport driver. Photo credit James Matthews

I asked him to sum up his 2018 season.

Well, kind of a really positive one, we can’t really look back at it with a lot of regrets, we’d have liked to have come away with the championship obviously, but given the situations that kind of happened throughout the year, I don’t think we really stood a chance with the failures that we had, so you know it was an incredible year, the best year we’ve had in the championship. Getting the independents championship back again was brilliant, the team title was superb again but it was a bit of a kick in the teeth to miss out on the overall title, of course it was, but off the back of such a strong year it’s great to now go into 2019 with the new project.

 

Thinking of the new project, can you tell us how that came about?

We’ve kind of working with Toyota for a number of years, and this is the first time that we’ve been really able to get to the point to get a deal together and get it over the line. We  knew we’d be running the new Corolla, back Silverstone time – It was quite early on we kind of knew really, and really the timing was correct, with the new Corolla coming out, it’s got such a good heritage in not only motorsport, rally and various other formula’s as well. But really, it’s right sort of time, with the road version being launched in the UK and the right time to bring it back into the motorsport scene and try and revive the Team Toyota GB name at the same time. It’s a really exciting time and the car is in build at present, we’ve finished the fabrication on her, so she’s up in build at the moment and we should have a finished car kind of by the start of February time and we’ll start testing by the middle to end of February and we’ve got a good testing schedule in the winter, so that we can hit the ground running and aim for some wins at Brands Indy by the time we get there.

 

Now, thinking of that, what is your schedule with testing?

Well, we’ve got three days in testing in Spain and then the majority of the testing will be done in the UK. Really for us, we just need mileage, we just need to keep going and going and find out what big areas we need to work on, because we know we’re going from a long wheelbase to a short wheelbase car and that comes with its own challenges. We’ve got to understand what that is going to do to the balance of the car, but that should only make it better. Now when you start to look at the numbers and the stats on the Corolla it will be a fantastic car, we’ve just got to understand it first, because with the difference in wheelbase, the lower centre of gravity and all the other parameters that we’ve got in it looks like a bit of learning, it will be a stunning car.

Tom won his second consecutive BTCC Independents Championship last season. Photo credit Warren Nel

Thinking of Brands Hatch, you’ve going with the goal in the new car to win there?

Yes, of course. The plan is very much to hit the ground running at Brands Hatch Indy, kind of start where we left the 2018 season and be in a position to look to win the championship, of course we’d like to, but realistically we’ve got to look more at the following season as our go to year, but of course whenever you enter a season, you enter to win, not finish second. Our goal is very much to win it, but we’ve got a bit of a mountain to climb to get there.

 

What do you think makes you such a good overtaker, as you won the forever forward award last year? What is it about your style of driving that lends itself to that?

I’ve never been what I’d class as a dirty driver, I’d never cause a collision to make a move, I’m not hard driver, but of course if there is half a chance slipping your nose down, I’ll run you wide. I’m not going to be running into the back of people and running them wide and then two corners later get it given back to you, so you gain a bit of respect when you’re a clean driver. Now the car was superb last year, one of the genuine reasons was that the car was fantastic, when we took weight out of the car the thing would come alive, so that is part of it, when you’ve got a very good car under you, its very easy to get past people, a little bit tactfulness, we’ve always done it very smart, you don’t have to be dirty driver, its always been done cleanly, which lends you respect if people understand that you’re going to getting past at some point rather than sitting behind them all race.

 

Finally, just thinking back to the testing, which UK tracks will you be at?

We’re going to be all over the place, a real mix of circuits from slow to fast, high to low grip, but ultimately, we’re at the mercy of the great British weather. We’re also at the mercy of the Spanish weather, as we’re off to Spain which also wasn’t great last year. Really, we’re mindful of trying to get as much mileage in, because we need time in the seat, we need the wheels turning everyday of the week if we can, but we’ll see if we can.

 

The track in Spain, which one is that you’re going to?

We’re going out to Calafat, there’s a number of us going there, Motorbase are going there I believe that Ciceley are going there, a fair few going out there so at least we’ll have a bit of a benchmark to look at.

 

Well, a big thank you for Tom’s time. We’ll be watching with interest when the car hits the track.

 

Header photo credit, Warren Nel

A Day with Emil Frey Racing – Blancpain GT Round 4, Silverstone

It was an early start on Sunday the 20th of May, heading up at 6.30am on Sunday for the two-hour trip to the Northampton track. The weather was fantastic, with sunshine and blue skies. Ed Hocknull and I had been invited by Lexus UK to attend the second UK round of this championship that is held in the UK, although this would be the longer endurance three-hour race, rather than the two separate one-hour sprint races held at Brands Hatch.

There were perfect track conditions for the three hour race. – Photo credit, Warren

The team run two Lexus RC-F GT3 cars, numbered 14 and 114. The drivers of car 14 are, Albert Costa, Christian Klein and Marco Seefried, whilst Stephane Ortelli, Norbert Siedler and Marcus Palttala team up in 114. We were given a warm welcome by the team, with VIP passes allowing access to the garage at all times and grid access too.

Emil Frey Racing hospitality – Photo credit, Warren Nel

The first track action of the day was qualifying, which is an hour long. Each driver has to drive the car in qualifying, getting 15 minutes each, with a seven-minute break between each run. This makes for a busy hour when there are 50 cars on track! When all was said and done, the number 14 car was third on the grid, whilst the sister 114 car had qualified seventh. The team were very happy with this result, particularly after topping the timesheets in the second part of the session with car 14, showing that they were starting to find the sweet-spot in the set-up and unlocking the potential pace.

Everyone was watching how qualifying would turn out! Photo credit – Warren Nel

At the start of the afternoon, we were given a garage tour. The BOP or, Balance of Performance was explained. The are so many different cars that run in this championship, that SRO mandate certain things to keep the performance of the cars very close. For example, every team get the same tyres and fuel and then there are also restrictors placed on the inlets for the engines, controlling the power the engine can produce. There are freedoms though and the teams use trick single seater suspension systems.

Garage tour – Photo credit – Warren Nel
The poor guy giving us the tour kept getting interrupted by engines revving and wheel gun noise! Photo credit – Warren
The garage tour continued with a look at the engineers area. – Photo credit, Warren

A pit walk followed the tour, allowing the fans to meet the drivers and teams. The championship definitely welcome fans with open arms, and it’s great to see! After this, we had a delicious lunch at the teams’ hospitality. It was getting close to race time though, and before that was the grid walk. It was super busy on the grid, with the cars coming around from the pitlane, before being pushed to their spots on the grid.

The drivers meet the fans! Photo credit, Warren Nel
A very fan friendly championship – Photo credit, Warren Nel
What a great looking race car! – Photo credit, Warren Nel
On the grid with the team – Photo credit, Warren Nel
The number 14 Lexus chases down the 62 Aston Martin. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Race Recap

Christian Klein would be taking the wheel of the number 14 car, whilst Stephane Ortelli would start the 114.

Now after half an hour of racing, the two Lexus were running very well, with Klein in 4th place and Ortelli two places further back in 6th. As the pitstops approached after nearly 50 minutes of racing, the RC-F GT3’s were 6.3 and 9.4 seconds from the leader.

The team had done a very good job indeed. The number 14 Lexus, with Klein behind the wheel pitted, but suffered a slow pitstop. The reason? Well, the team had a failure with a wheel gun slowing down the changing of the tyres.

Ortelli pitted a couple of laps later, and the pitstop was completed without any hitches. All of this meant that the 114, driven by Marcus was now in 5th place, whilst number 14, piloted by Marco was now in 7th.

Lexus 114 approaches the left-right-left before Hangar Straight. Photo credit Warren Nel

Twenty minutes after the pitstops Marcus passed the number 4 Mercedes, and then quickly closed on the number 62 Aston Martin which had Alex Brundle behind the wheel. On lap 51, Alex made a mistake and slid wide in the left-right-left and this allowed Marcus to get alongside the Aston and then make the pass into third place down Hangar straight!

With an hour and five minutes to go, Marcus pitted and handed 114 over to Norbert. It would be down to him to bring the car to the chequered flag. A lap later and Marco pitted and Alberto Costa took the wheel of the number 14 and re-joined in 8th place. He started setting some very fast sector times, looking to move up some places.

Lexus RC-F GT3 – Photo credit, Warren Nel

On lap 69, Albert Costa passed the Strakka Racing number 43 Mercedes for 7th place. He was just two seconds behind the 62 Aston Martin now. Just thirty minutes remained in the race.

With just twenty minutes left, Costa was dropping back a little, with the 43 Mercedes getting closer and behind that, the 72 SNP Ferrari closing on the Merc.

Meantime, the 114 was holding its own, 22 seconds from 1st place, but the number 1 Audi was within 1 second of the Lexus. Drama though for the number 14 car which ran wide at Aintree on lap 75, giving the 72 Ferrari 7th place. Just six minutes remained now, and the battle was on for the final spot on the podium between 114 and 1! With less than 4 minutes remaining the 114 Lexus was still in 3rd place! The team were looking at their first podium finish!

The number 114 Emil Frey Racing Lexus RC-F GT3 chases the number 4 Mercedes – Photo credit, Warren Nel

Coming into the loop near Silverstone six stand, the number 1 Audi got a run and was starting to get alongside the Lexus, but he ran wide, giving Norbert a breather! It was enough! They’d done it! Further back number 14 had lost another place unfortunately, crossing the line in 9th place. The team had definitely done a very good job to improve the car, allowing them to fight at the front.

Nerves were high in the garage as the final minutes of the race counted down. Photo credit, Warren Nel

We all headed down to the end of the pitlane to watch the podium, which was their first ever in the Blancpain championship. The trophies were handed out and then it was the time-honoured tradition to spray the champagne!

The top three celebrate on the podium – Photo credit, Warren Nel
Stéphane Ortelli, Norbert Siedler, Markus Palttala, hold their trophies aloft! Photo credit, Warren Nel

It was now time to go home, but first we visited the team garage and watched as the team all celebrated their great result!

 

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to Matt at Lexus/Toyota and Emil Frey Racing for the invite. Ed and I had a fantastic time, with a really friendly team.

Rally de Portugal 2017 Preview. Back to Europe

Twenty-seventeen sees this event celebrate the fifteenth ever Rallye de Portugal. There are a few changes to the stages this year, but on the whole the event will be very similar to last years.

During their part season last year, Kris and Paul won this rally, and he’ll be looking to come here and get a solid result, having retired from the last two rounds. Tour de Corse was a big let-down, after a win slipped away with a mechanical problem. In Argentina, it was two rolls that saw him not finish. Meantime, Seb and Thierry have been racking up the points, but its Thierry who is on a roll, having won twice now in a row. Seb will want to be on the podium and will have to work closely with M-Sport to understand what caused him so many problems in Argentina.

At this event, Citroen will be running four C3 WRC cars. They will be piloted by, Kris, Craig, Stephane and Khalid. Also, Toyota will be running a third car for the first time. Driving this car will be the young Finn Esapekka Lappi who is a promising talent.

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers ahead of this true classic.

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“Argentina was wild – nothing went as planned. It happens sometimes, you just have to put it behind you. I feel okay ahead of Portugal, although I can’t say I’m overflowing with confidence. I think that the work done in our recent test sessions will help us move in the right direction. I’m pleased to be competing at this rally. Obviously, I have some fond memories of winning here in 2016. And the enthusiasm of the fans here for our sport makes for a very special atmosphere. Quite a lot of changes have been made to the course, so in a lot of cases we’ll have to start from scratch with the pace notes. Concentration will therefore be key in recce, as well as in the rally.”

Craig Breen

“Just like in Argentina, I’m venturing into something of the unknown here. I did recce here in 2016, but that’s no substitute for actual racing experience. I know that I have to improve on this kind of surface, where I’m a little be less at home than on the fast gravel roads you get in Poland or Finland. The testing done this week in Sardinia was positive. We kept working on certain points, taking into account the things we learned in Argentina. The Citroën C3 WRC will be even better in Portugal!”

Stephane Lefebvre

“Unlike the previous few rounds, I feel I know this rally pretty well. Having competed once here in an R5 and once in a WRC, I have good experience on these roads. When they are wide and fast, the stages are magnificent. I really like Amarante, the longest stage of the rally. I’m also almost certain to have a good position in the running order on day one and I’m hoping to make the most of it!”

Khalid Al Qassimi

“After more than six months away from the WRC, I have to prepare very carefully for Rally de Portugal. It will be my first outing in the new Citroën C3 WRC and I know that it is a real step up compared with the cars used in previous seasons. My aim will be to build my confidence gradually, without taking any big risks. I’m delighted to be taking part in what is one of my favourite rallies. The atmosphere is always very special. The Portuguese fans are very loud and enthusiastic, especially next to the Fafe jump!”

M-Sport WRT

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Argentina (ARG) – WRC 26/04/2017 to 30/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Sébastien Ogier said:

“Rally de Portugal is an event that I look forward to every year. Julien and I have had a lot of success there and it was where we took our first victory so it holds a lot of special memories.

“It’s a country with a real passion and enthusiasm for motorsport, and the atmosphere that the fans generate is something quite unique. As a driver, you always want to do well in those conditions, and we will push the limits to challenge for the win.

“The competition is even closer this year and every team has a chance of victory. Opening the road on the first day will probably make it harder for us, but we come to Portugal with high objectives and a focus on increasing our championship lead once again.

“We’ve done a lot of testing in Portugal over the past couple of months and done some further development work on the car – that’s definitely a confidence booster ahead of this rally.”

Ott Tänak said:

“Rally de Portugal starts a series of gravel events that I’m really looking forward to. I’ve always enjoyed the Portuguese roads and we’ve shown good speed there in the past.

“I feel as though we’ve developed a lot recently and should be looking towards the podium at every gravel event to come. That has to be our goal in Portugal and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.

“The stages are generally quite technical and twisty with a lot of blind corners and crests, but then there are stages like Fafe – a really enjoyable and fast stage where you can really feel the passion of the fans.

“With the competition, so close at the moment, we’ll need to be fully focused and at the top of our game if we want to deliver another strong result. That’s certainly our aim and we’ll be giving it our all as always.”

D-Mack WRT

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Argentina (ARG) – WRC 26/04/2017 to 30/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans said:

“We’ve always had pretty good pace in Portugal, but for various reasons we’ve not been able to translate that into a strong result. After coming so close to victory in Argentina, our confidence is high and I think we’re in a good position to deliver a strong result next week.

“The whole package worked really well in Argentina and the hope will be to continue that in Portugal. A lot will depend on the weather, but the surface isn’t too dissimilar and the soft roads have the potential to become quite rough and rutted over the second pass.

“If we’re to challenge for another strong result we’re going to have to be at the top of our game. We’ll need to get into a good rhythm early on and find our confidence through the stages. If we can do that, anything is possible.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05 / Rally Portugal / May 19-22, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon commented:

“It’s not been the season that we expected or wanted to have so far. Argentina was a bit of a low, especially when contrasted with our win there last season, so I hope Portugal will be the place where fortunes change. Unfortunately, John will not be co-driving at this event after aggravating an existing hip condition but it’s good he will still be present in Portugal with the team. Thanks to Seb for stepping in at an event he knows from last season. It’s a rally with a special atmosphere. There are a lot of passionate people there who love rallying. For us to be able to go out there and compete in front of those crowds is an incredible sensation. We’ll work hard to get a good result and kick-start my season.”

Thierry Neuville said:

“We are still on a high after the results of Corsica and Argentina. At the same time, we know we have to stay focused and concentrated on our job because the Championship is incredibly close. We saw with the margin to Elfyn in Argentina, one of the smallest in WRC history, that we can take nothing for granted. Rally Portugal in its current format is still a bit of a new one for us, having only been in the north of the country for the last two seasons. It is quite a tricky event, but I am looking forward to it. I am sure that with this new car and with the confidence we have, we can be fast.”

Dani Sordo said:

“Portugal is always a really special event for me because it takes place so close to Spain. There is a lot of support from the crowds, which gives us a real boost. There are a lot of Portuguese people on the team as well, so it’s a really great rally for us all. We really can feel that crowd cheering us on, especially through famous sections like the Fafe jump. Hopefully we will be able to give them something extra special to cheer about by Sunday. After the disappointment of Argentina, I am determined to get back onto podium-challenging pace and to get the full potential out of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on these fun stages.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“What I learned in Argentina is that the first day is very important; you really want to try and be in the top five so that you can have a good road position for the following day. So that will be my objective in Portugal, and if the weather is bad on the first day, my position of second on the road could actually help me – as the road conditions behind might deteriorate. Before the rally, we tested a few things, trying out some dampers and also experimenting with the ride height, so that we can perform to the maximum of our potential in rough conditions as well.”

Juho Hänninen

“I tested when the weather was still OK: it was quite warm, and we were able to try a few new things with suspension and differentials. Although I’ve done Rally Portugal before, this is actually my first time on the stages in the north. I like these stages, but from what I can see there could be a lot of road cleaning, so hopefully my road position might help me. Portugal is a bit like Argentina, only not as rough, so I think we can use many of the lessons that we learned there to make more progress. The second run through the stages might be a bit tricky, so we will need to be careful.”

Esapekka Lappi

“I’ve been able to test before the rally in Portugal, which has given me a good taste of some future development directions, but these may not be the conditions we experience when it comes to the actual competition. It’s obviously very exciting for me to be starting my first rally in the Yaris WRC: the opportunity I’ve been waiting for all of my life. But this is team effort, and my role is to collect as much data as possible for the team to develop the car further. The most important thing is to finish: never easy on such a challenging event like Portugal. For my own experience too, I need to make sure that I do all the stages, so we’re going to take a very calm and focussed approach to the rally.”

ToyotaGazooRacingWRC Official Presentation 13December 2017 – Helsinki

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg says:

I think there were quite a few among the factory guys taken by a bit of surprise by our speed especially the first day in Argentina. We had found a good setup for the car, despite limited testing, and I felt confident and motivated. I have the same feeling before Portugal and aim to fight for top positions. I am really looking forward to the rally here in Portugal. It’s a classical and very demanding rally and the atmosphere with all the spectators is brilliant.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Argentina (ARG) – WRC 26/04/2017 to 30/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

This year there are nineteen stages, with the road having a soft sand covering and then after the first pass through a bit rocky afterwards.

THURSDAY 18 MAY

7.30am: Shakedown (Paredes)

6.10pm: Start (Guimaraes)

7.03pm: SS1 – Lousada (3.36km)

8.00pm: Parc ferme (Exponor)

FRIDAY 19 MAY

8.40am: Service A (Exponor – 19 min)

10.09am: SS2 – Viana do Castelo 1 (26.70km)

11.06am: SS3 – Caminha 1 (18.10km)

11.46am: SS4 – Ponte de Lima 1 (27.46km)

2.25pm: Service B (Exponor – 34 mins)

4.09pm: SS5 – Viana do Castelo 2 (26.70km)

5.06pm: SS6 – Caminha 2 (18.10km)

5.46pm: SS7 – Ponte de Lima 2 (27.46km)

7.03pm: SS8 – Braga Street Stage 1 (1.90km)

7.28pm: SS9 – Braga Street Stage 2 (1.90km)

8.40pm: Service C (Exponor – 49 mins)

SATURDAY 20 MAY

7.15am: Service D (Exponor – 19 mins)

9.08am: SS10 – Vieira do Minho 1 (17.43km)

9.46am: SS11 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22.30km)

11.04am: SS12 – Amarante 1 (37.55km)

1.00pm: Service E (Exponor – 34 mins)

3.08pm: SS13 – Vieira do Minho 2 (17.43km)

3.46pm: SS14 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22.30km)

5.04pm: SS15 – Amarante 2 (37.55km)

6.55pm: Service F (Exponor – 49 mins)

SUNDAY 21 MAY

7.35am: Service G (Exponor – 19 mins)

9.08am: SS16 – Fafe 1 (11.18km)

9.30am: SS17 – Luilhas (11.91km)

10.20am: SS18 – Montim (8.66km)

12.18pm: SS19 – Power Stage Fafe 2 (11.18km)

1.50pm: Service H (Exponor – 14 mins)

2.20pm: Finish

Well, can Kris get his season back on track and score some decent points this weekend? Will Thierry win again, or maybe one of the other Hyundai drivers? Hayden will have Seb Marshall along him for the first time, as John Kennard sits out this one because of a problem caused by the rough stages in Argentina.

Some very interesting news to let you know about. Mads Østberg will be running on D-Mack tyres this weekend after switching from Michelins.

How will Esapekka Lappi’s debut go? So many questions to be answered. Let’s enjoy it!

Warren Nel, WRC editor

@Warren_S_Nel

Rally Poland 2017 Preview

It’s time for one of the fastest rallies on the planet!! The 74th Rally Poland starts on Thursday evening with a super special around the Mikolajki Arena.

This year there are 23 stages covering 326.64 km. There are three new stages, Baranowo, Pozezdrze and Kruklanki this year to provide a new challenge for the drivers and the co-drivers. Also with the faster cars of this season, many changes will need to be made to last year’s pace notes.

RALLY POLAND SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

THURSDAY 29 JUNE

8.00am: Shakedown – Sady (4.90km)

4.00pm: Start (Mikolajki)

7.08pm: SS1 – Mikolajki Arena (2.50km)

7.28pm: Parc ferme (Mikolajki)

FRIDAY 30 JUNE

6.25am: Service A (Mikolajki – 18 mins)

7.15am: SS2 – Chmielewo 1 (6.52km)

9.00am: SS3 – Wieliczki 1 (15.96km)

9.55am: SS4 – Swietajno 1 (19.60km)

10.40am: SS5 – Stare Juchy 1 (13.50km)

12.40pm: Service B (Mikolajki – 33 mins)

1.45pm: SS6 – Chmielewo 2 (6.52km)

3.30pm: SS7 – Wieliczki 2 (15.96km)

4.25pm: SS8 – Swietajno 2 (19.60km)

5.10pm: SS9 – Stare Juchy 2 (13.50km)

7.08pm: SS10 – Mikolajki Arena 2 (2.50km)

7.38pm: Service C (Mikolajki – 48 mins)

SATURDAY 1 JULY

7.45am: Service D (Mikolajki – 18 mins)

8.08am: SS11 – Baranowo 1 (15.55km)

9.20am: SS12 – Pozezdrze 1 (24.28km)

10.45am: SS13 – Goldap 1 (14.75km)

11.35am: SS14 – Kruklanki 1 (19.58km)

1.12pm: Service E (Mikolajki – 33 mins)

2.08pm: SS15 – Baranowo 2 (15.55km)

3.20pm: SS16 – Pozezdrze 2 (24.28km)

4.45pm: SS17 – Goldap 2 (14.75km)

5.35pm: SS18 – Kruklanki 2 (19.58km)

7.30pm: SS19 – Mikolajki Arena 3 (2.50km)

8.00pm: Service F (Mikolajki – 48 mins)

SUNDAY 2 JULY

6.40am: Service G (Mikolajki – 18 mins)

8.10am: SS20 – Orzysz 1 (11.15km)

9.08am: SS21 – Paprotki 1 (18.68km)

10.45am: SS22 – Orzysz 2 (11.15km)

12.18pm: SS23 – Paprotki 2 – Power Stage (18.68km)

1.40pm: Service H (Mikolajki – 13 mins)

2.30pm: Podium (Mikolajki)

Stage maps courtesy of Rally Poland

Day one
Day Two
Day Three

Now, last year, Ott Tanak came within one stage of victory, but a puncture cost him his lead and Andreas Mikkelsen picked up the win. Of course, Ott won last time out, becoming our fifth different winner this year!

Now, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle are not driving in this event, after having a troubled last few events. Andreas will be driving, with Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre in the C3 WRC cars. The Citroen team are bringing some updates to their car as well after testing them last week. They are a new rear differential rail and a change to the torque split between the front and rear four-wheel drive system.

Let’s hear then from the drivers ahead of this classic event.

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier said:

“Rally Poland is an event that every driver looks forward to. The pace is incredible and the fast roads give an amazing sense of adrenaline that will only be magnified by the new cars this year.

“I have good memories from Poland having won there twice before, but last year it was probably the worst event for me in terms of road cleaning.

“Leading the championship is exactly where we wanted to be at this point in the season, but if it’s dry that will provide something of a disadvantage on Friday and we’ll need to work hard to limit the time loss.

“It’s so hard to claw back time here, but let’s see what we can do. We had a good test in Estonia where we found a good feeling with the car – that bodes well and we’re ready to push and give it our all.

“Maintaining our lead in the championship is the top priority, and extending it would be a good weekend.”

Ott Tänak said:

“Everyone knows that Rally Poland is one of my favourite events. The stages are so fast and flowing, and that’s something that I really enjoy. I grew up on roads like this in Estonia, and this year will be even more of an adrenaline rush with the new cars – I can’t wait!

“This is a real drivers’ rally. The speeds are incredible and you have to be full of confidence. The pacenotes have to be perfect and the smallest of hesitations can cost you speed and time – something which is very hard to get back on these fast roads.

“I’m sure a lot of people will be looking at us as we’ve done very well here in the past, but let’s see what happens. We won’t have the best road position as the third car on the road, but we had a good test in Estonia and we’re feeling fairly positive.

“We’ve got a good feeling with the car and I’m sure that we’ll enjoy every second of this rally whatever the outcome. The podium always has to be our minimum goal, so bring it on!”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Portugal (POR) – WRC 18/05/2017 to 21/05/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen said:

“I’ll be taking the next step in my career next week, and it’s a big step – my world rally car debut! The challenge from WRC 2 has been multiplied and I can’t wait to get started. Rally Poland has always been kind to me, so it is great to start this part of my career there.

“Good preparation is really important. I don’t ever expect a debut in a world rally car to be easy, but we have completed a two-day test with M-Sport to get used to the car and find our feet.

“I’ve not had chance to test in Poland so I’ll need to take all of my high-speed kilometres from the rally itself.

“Shakedown will give us our first experience of these fast stages, and then the plan will be to drive smoothly to the finish – gaining maximum experience before my next outing on home soil.”

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

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans said:

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Poland. It’s fair to say that Sardinia didn’t quite go to plan, but we’ve regrouped and can hopefully secure another good result next week.

“The stages in Poland are incredibly fast and confidence is everything. We tested in Estonia last week where we found a good set-up and that has been a big positive boost for the rally.

“The test road was really representative and we got a lot of kilometres under our belt in a lot of different conditions, so we’re feeling pretty well prepared.

“I’m looking forward to this one, as I’m sure a lot of drivers will be! It’s such an adrenaline rush and a real highlight on the calendar.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said:

“Our performance in Sardinia showed exactly what we are capable of achieving. It was a shame to lose the lead in the way that we did, but we have to bounce back. I am determined to focus on the positives, of which there were many in the recent rallies. I have spent some time back in New Zealand in between the events, which was good to help refocus. Poland is definitely one of my favourite rallies. It’s one of the fastest of the year, and of course I love going as quick as I can! I think the car will suit the roads quite well. We’re looking forward to it and as always we’ll be giving it 100%.”

Thierry Neuville said:

“I really enjoy Rally Poland as I like the flow of the stages. There are not as many dangerous corners and the stages are quite open. You can be a bit braver at this one and take a few more risks. It is a lot of fun because the speed is just amazing, but at the same time, we know that we have a job to do and we want to continue to press as hard as we can to stay in the Championship hunt. We are now into the latter stages of the season, so this is where every moment and every decision matters.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07 / Rally Poland // June 30 – July 03, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo said:

“Given the speeds that can be reached in Poland, it is vitally important that our pace notes are accurate. This is particularly the case through some of the corners, where you can lose a lot of time if you make even the smallest mistake. There is no margin for error because it is a really, really fast rally. In general, the atmosphere is nice, with huge crowd’s present, so it is an enjoyable event. We finished very strongly in Sardinia, and will look to build on that in Poland!”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

“We had a really good test for Poland, which featured some rain as well, and I think this will be very useful as there was also some rain on the final day in Poland last year, which often happens after you have many days of hot conditions as we expect next week. We made some steps forward with the dampers and I was particularly impressed by the stability of the car. With a lot of the car’s development having taken place on the rapid roads of Finland, I think the Yaris WRC should be well suited to the very fast roads in Poland too.”

Juho Hänninen said:

“I was happy with our progress in Sardinia and our preparations were able to build on that. I actually think that our car is better on the fast rallies compared to the slow rallies so this gives me a lot of confidence, as you do not have to worry so much about the set-up and you can just concentrate on the driving. On the test, I made some changes to the suspension and since then there has been even more development, so this is really positive. Road cleaning will not be as big a factor as it was in Sardinia but Friday could still be important.

Esapekka Lappi said:

“The test before Poland was a good step up for me: from the slow roads of Sardinia to the really fast and flat-out roads that we experienced in testing. I would say that the test was representative, although maybe in Poland we can expect roads that are slightly softer and sandier. Although I had a good result in Sardinia I have no particular expectations for Poland. Because it’s a really fast rally you need a lot of confidence and I’m not sure if I have that yet. I just want to have a clean run and reach the finish with no problems in order to learn as much as possible.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Andreas Mikkelsen said:

“We had a very good test session last week. After spending two days in the car, on the kind of roads we’ll encounter in the rally, I defined a set-up that matches my driving style. Obviously, there is still work to do, but I think Craig and Stéphane were also pleased with the changes. Poland is my favourite rally: I was runner-up in 2014 and 2015, and then won here in 2016. I feel confident on these roads where, as a driver, you really need to commit. After learning about the car at Rally Sardegna, I hope I can fight among the frontrunners this time out. Many factors – such as the weather, the dust and the running order – can affect the outcome of the race, but I’m hoping to go for a podium spot if everything goes well.”

Craig Breen said:

“After the rough, winding roads of Sardinia, pre-event testing gave me the chance to readjust to the fast, flowing roads in Poland. Andreas explored some new ideas during testing, which seem to be a move in the right direction. I’m pleased to be competing at a rally where I don’t have to learn about everything. Last year, this event marked something of a turning point in my season. This is where I laid the foundations for my podium in Finland. I feel more confident coming into this event than I did before the last three rallies and I think I can up my pace here. Following a series of fifth places, I’d love to get a bit closer to the podium.”

Stephane Lefebvre said:

“Like Andreas and Craig, I think we made progress during testing. I really like Rally Poland. I have been quick here in the last three years, regardless of the category. Last year, I also had the pleasure of claiming my first proper stage win in the WRC, as the leaders were fighting for first place. I know how to drive on these roads and my confidence was boosted by the test sessions. The stages are quite similar to those in Finland, with narrower roads and looser surfaces. There are also long sections through the fields, which are very fast but with few landmarks. My goal is to make it to the finish and put an end to the poor run of results I’ve had recently.”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg is eager for this event!

He said:

“I am looking forward to proving that I can master the specialities of this rally. We have run three very technical and rough gravel events in a row, but in Poland it all changes. It`s a gravel rally ok, but more like Finland with superfast stages. Actually, in some parts it is faster than Finland. The last two years I have struggled a bit in this rally, but I have a positive feeling now after our test last Sunday.”

During the test, he had a small off the road moment.

“Normally it`s not my habit to go off the road, but this time we found the limit. It was nothing to dramatical, but created some extra work for my team. Anyway, I felt the test gave us a good base setup for these fast roads and I will use shakedown on the Thursday to finetune a bit.”

So far, this year, Mads and his small team have shown good pace, but have suffered mechanical problems, so for this event, he’s looking to have a consistent rally and hopefully this will lead to a decent result.

“We have to put together a whole rally. The speed is definitely there and the team is working in a very dedicated style. My goal now is to show that I can be on the top throughout an event, and it can certainly happen in Poland, he says.”

Still he is not really interested in revealing his result wise ambitions in an event he has felt a bit unsure about the last two years.

“It a special event with very high speeds and extremely deep ruts the second time through the stages. I need to be confident all the way through, and if I can manage that I will be able to collect some very good WRC points. That’s all I`m willing to tell before the rally starts.”

WRC2 News

M-Sport will also be running some Fiesta R5 cars, with Éric Camilli, Gus Greensmith, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Osian Pryce at the wheel of them.

Here’s what they had to say about this special rally and their hopes.

Éric Camilli said:

“We had a great rally in Sardinia and now I’m looking forward to the next challenge in Poland, but these two rallies could not be more different!

“The stages in Sardinia were really narrow and rough and you had to be really clever. In Poland, it’s all about being confident and brave. The stages are so fast and flowing and they really are a pleasure to drive flat-out.

“Hopefully, we can continue our good form on these fast stages. We won’t be competing for WRC 2 points, but a lot of the main players will be there and it will be a great opportunity for us to show our speed against them.”

Gus Greensmith said:

“Rally Poland is fast – really fast – and that is a unique challenge in itself. It’s an event I enjoy because of the speed, and because of the high level of commitment that you need to apply in every corner.

“The biggest challenge is in knowing not to push the entry to every corner as you can lose a lot of time on that – especially if it’s followed by a long straight. To be on the pace in Poland, you definitely need to find the right balance between patience and commitment.

“Portugal was a good rally for us, and when we had a clean stage we were fighting right at the sharp end which was great.

“I’d like to make another step forward in Poland. I don’t have a particular position in mind, but I do have a good idea of where I want to be and I’m looking forwarded to realising that goal.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet said:

“Rally Poland is an event that I will always remember – it’s where I had a big crash during shakedown when I was competing in in the Junior World Rally Championship.

“Last year however, I had a lot of fun there and I hope to have just as much this year too. The speeds are incredible and to succeed you need to keep a fast pace whilst staying on the road.

“I’m not scoring WRC 2 points this weekend, so the goal is to take maximum experience ready for a big push in Finland.”

Osian Pryce said:

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Poland. Doing the British Rally Championship with the Fiesta R5, I’ve built up some confidence over the first half of the year and we’ll have a good team around us so I’m looking forward to what will hopefully be an enjoyable and rewarding weekend.

“This will be my third time at Rally Poland and the roads there are definitely unique. It’s a great event with a real buzz about it. The speeds on the stages are incredible, but so are the people – the Polish fans really get involved and have a clear passion for their motorsport.

“Like Finland, the speed in Poland really is on another level. The level of commitment needed is pretty high and you need to find the right balance – between finding that commitment and not overdoing it and making mistakes.

“Of course, I want to set some good times and secure a positive result, but at the end of the day I just want to go out there and enjoy it and make the most of the opportunity.”

This event promises to be very exciting indeed! We have a real battle for the championship between the top four drivers, just 34 points between fourth placed Jari-Matti and leader Seb.

Friday’s action sees 116.16km of action, then on Saturday, 150.82 and finally on Sunday 59.66km’s.

Enjoy the event!

Warren Nel, WRC editor

Rally Italia Sardegna Review 2017- Ott takes his first WRC Victory!

WRC

June 23, 2017

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He came close a couple of times last year and now Ott is a winner at the top level of the WRC! Here’s the story of how it all happened in Italia, the place when the young Estonian picked up his first podium a few years ago.

The usual evening short stage gave us a leaderboard of sorts, but the action started properly Friday morning with an early start for the teams. The main challenge in this event being held on very narrow roads, making it a technical challenge!

End of SS1:

1 Neuville 2m01.8s

2 Tanak +0.2s

3 Sordo +0.4s

FRIDAY 9 JUNE

6.30am: Tyre fitting zone (Olbia – 10 mins)

7.18am: SS2 – Terranova (14.54km)

7.41am: SS3 – Monte Olia 1 (19.05km)

9.12am: SS4 – Tula 1 (15.00km)

10.17am: SS5 – Tergu-Osilo 1 (14.14km)

SS2 – TERRANOVA 1 (14.54km)

1️ Meeke 10:14.1 (84kph)

2 Hanninen +0.5

3 Paddon +0.8

When Thierry finished the first stage of the day, he explained that he’d had to slow down in the stage because of the dust hanging in the air. Hayden set a very good time indeed, going through third fastest, but it was Kris in his Citroen who was fastest! He explained about a lot of loose stones, but that it was a pretty good stage for him. Juho in the Toyota did a great time, showing that experience from this event helps a lot! He said at the end that he was surprised at the time. Andreas in his first outing in the C3 said that he was being very careful, just to get the feeling in the car, and that it would get better.

SS3 – MONTE OLIA 1 (19.05km)

1 Hanninen 13:25.8 (87.7kph)

2️ Meeke +3.2

3 Ostberg +4.6

The first casualty of this event would be Craig in his Citroen. The car would land heavily from a jump and damage to the gearbox leading to a big oil leak would mean that his day was done. Juho would win this stage and also take the overall lead by just two tenths of a second. He’d just moved from third to first in one stage!

SS4 – TULA 1 (15.00km)

1 Sordo 11:51.2 (81.8kph)

2 Neuville +2.0

3 Tanak +3.3

We would have our second car exit day one when Elfyn would leave the road, hitting some trees on the right-hand side and breaking the suspension on the front. He was out for the day as well. Dani would win stage four. Juho would fall behind Hayden and Kris again at the end of the stage, with the Citroen driver moving into the lead once more. Privateer Mads was maintaining fourth overall, whilst Seb was now 28 seconds off the lead in ninth place overall.

SS5 – TERGU-OSILO 1 (14.14km)

1 Lappi 9:06.3 (93.3kph)

2 Ostberg +3.3

3 Paddon +3.7

Esapekka Lappi would take his first stage victory in stage five, but it would be Kris and Dani who would have drama in this stage. Dani would lose power in the i20. There was smoke coming from the exhaust, thus meaning that clearly there was an engine problem. Kris sadly would roll his car again after the rear slid wide on a right-hander! They got the car back on it wheels and completed the stage, the bonnet lifting up against the windscreen near the end! Kris was now also out. What a shame.

Hayden was now in the lead, 4.3 seconds ahead of Juho, with the service break following stage five.

11.56am: Service A (Alghero – 30 mins)

3.25pm: SS6 – Terranova (14.54km)

3.48pm: SS7 – Monte Olia 2 (19.05km)

5.25pm: SS8 – Tula 2 (15.00km)

6.30pm: SS9 – Tergu-Osilo 2 (14.14km)

8.10pm: Flexi Service B (Alghero – 48 mins)

SS6 – TERRANOVA 2 (14.54km)

1 Lappi 9:59.5 (93.3kph)

2 Paddon +1.2

3 Tanak +1.7

After service, Esapekka would win stage six and stage seven as well, a great performance indeed, lifting him into ninth overall. He was a happy man, after changes to the car setup meant that he could drive to more of his potential!

SS7 – MONTE OLIA 2 (19.05km)

1 Lappi 13:04.9 (87.7kph)

2 Latvala +1.3

3 Neuville +1.3

After his drama’s earlier, Dani would win the last stages of day one and with that pace move into tenth overall at the end of the day.

SS8 – TULA 2 (15.00km)

1 Sordo 11:38.5 (81.8kph)

2 Latvala +8.2

3 Neuville +8.3

SS9 – TERGU-OSILO 2 (14.14km)

1 Sordo 8:53.2 (105kph)

2 Lappi +3.2

3 Tanak +3.6

So, let’s hear from the drivers starting with the top three.

Hayden Paddon (1st) said:

“We approached today with a specific plan, and we didn’t deviate from that. We know you can’t win this rally on the first day, so we just wanted to feel comfortable. The car felt good and we wanted to continue our positive morning into the afternoon. Unfortunately, we picked up front-left damper damage in SS7, which changed the balance of the car; things didn’t feel as good. Our focus today was on securing a good road position for tomorrow, so it’s mission accomplished from that point of view. I enjoy tomorrow’s stages a lot but we know it’s a tough, unforgiving rally. It’s nice to be leading this evening but we’re not getting carried away.”

Thierry Neuville (2nd) commented:

“It was nice to take the stage win on Thursday evening but today was the real start of the rally. We had a good day, although we lost around five seconds when we went straight at a junction in SS3 (Monte Olia), and had to reverse. Our road position meant we were cleaning quite a bit but I thought we might still be able to battle for a podium. We gave it a push in the afternoon, and actually didn’t have much performance left in our tyres by the end of the loop. Still, we set some pretty decent times and we have a great position in second, which will be important on Saturday.”

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“The gaps are so small at the moment that anything is possible. I tried to do my best but it didn’t feel like the best day at the office so it’s good to see that we are so close to the lead at the end of the day.

“The first loop was very slippery with some tricky conditions in the dust. I enjoyed it a lot more in the afternoon, but to be honest I didn’t have the perfect feeling. Sometimes it was okay and at other times it was a bit so and so.

“We have some ideas of what we can do to improve and it looks like everyone is looking forward to tomorrow’s stages so I think it will be good craic.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)

“In the morning, I found the stages quite slippery and there was a lot of dust. Then on the third stage of the day we had an impact on the sump guard and this broke the starter motor, so I had to be careful not to stall the car, as there would be no way to start again. We fixed that at service and then in the afternoon we had no problems apart from one very strange thing: the rally plate on the bonnet came off and it was flapping around in front of me, so that was very distracting. But I’m happy with our performance in the afternoon after we were a bit up and down in the morning: it’s going to be a big fight tomorrow and I feel confident that we’re going to be right in the middle of it.”

Juho Hänninen (6th)

“Close to the finish of the final stage there was a slippery braking area near a bridge: I lost the rear of the car and it span and then I hit the front against a fence. That broke some radiator pipes but we were able to fix it and come to service. It’s a pity as before that it was a good day with no severe problems. Even though conditions were slippery, I felt that I had a lot of traction, so this shows that the work we have done with the dampers has been very effective. In the afternoon I backed off a bit on the particularly rough and rutted sections to try and be safe.”

Esapekka Lappi (9th)

“I’m surprised how today went: I really didn’t expect us to be able to do the times that we were setting. Especially in the morning, as we had no second gear: so maybe we only need five gears to win stages! I changed the set-up completely at service in the middle of the day and I had a much better feeling in the afternoon; the car felt perfect and that’s why I was able to set those times, even though we had a problem with a front-left damper during the second loop of stages.”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

We actually still have a realistic chance of fighting for the victory, because this is a very tough rally and the margins are so tiny. Tomorrow will be a very hard day with more than 140 km’s of stages, and I just have to push on, but still be patient”

“Everything worked well this morning with good balance in the car, without having to push over the limit. But I made a mistake with my tyre choice for the second loop when I thought I could go a bit softer than my opponents. The soft tyres didn`t function that well in the high temperatures, and I lost the balance with more oversteering. It became a struggle to stay in touch with the leaders.”

He continued, ”14-15 seconds behind really is nothing in a tough rally like this. You can lead a rally with that margin and loose it all in one corner with a half-spin. I just have to push on and on the same time be a bit patient. It will for sure be exciting”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (7th) said:

“It’s not been a fantastic day for us. We tried as much as we could with the grip that we had but that is just the way it is when you’re the first car on the road.

“I was happy with the car and we made some changes in service that I was pleased with, but every time I tried to push there was so little grip and the risks became too high.

“It’s frustrating as I had no chance to go faster today, but sometimes you just have to keep the bigger picture in mind and wait for the next day.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (Rally 2 / 41st) said:

“On a tightening corner after a crest, there was a bad dip that I hadn’t noted on the recce. The car bottomed out and we were passengers after that. Unable to turn, we went straight into the trees and that was the end of our day.

“We weren’t going flat-out and I felt that we could have taken more risks through the first two stages so it’s just one of those things. There’s a fine line in this game and sometimes you get caught out – that was the case for us today.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)

“It wasn’t an easy day. My aim was to keep learning about the Citroën C3 WRC. I have to take it gradually, step by step, before I can get back to playing with the leading guys! The car is different to drive compared to the ones I was used to driving and obviously, it takes a bit of time to adjust. We worked with the team to alter the set-up and adapt it to my driving style. The main thing is to have completed all the stages on this leg.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (10th) commented:

“To start with the positives, we have enjoyed these stages today and set some really competitive times when we could. Unfortunately, the turbo issue has overshadowed the day a bit. The team did all they could to resolve the problem fully at lunchtime service, but we then had troubles at the start of the afternoon loop related to the boost pressure. Thankfully, we were able to fix it in time for the final two stages, so we decided to go flat out and see what we could do. To take three stage wins today is obviously nice. Without the turbo issues, we might have been in the hunt for a podium. We will continue tomorrow but we know it’s going to be tough.”

Overall at the end of the first day.

1 Paddon 1:31:02.6

2 Neuville +8.2

3 Tanak +9.5

4 Latvala +9.8

5 Ostberg +14.7

6 Hanninen +38.0

7 Ogier +41.0

8 Lappi +1:05.3

9️ Mikkelsen +1:57.9

10 Sordo +14:04.2

SATURDAY 10 JUNE

5.00am: Service C (Alghero – 18 mins)

7.45am: SS10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14.95km)

8.41am: SS11 – Monti da Ala’ 1 (28.52km)

9.20am: SS12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28.11km)

It was a very early start on Saturday morning! Could Hayden continue his fine run from yesterday? Well he started well with a stage victory. The young kiwi now had a 13.1 second lead over Thierry.

SS10 – COILUNA – LOELLE 1 (14.95km)

1 Paddon 8:00.8 (105kph)

2 Latvala +4.0

3 Tanak +4.2

Thierry won the next stage, and gained 4 second on Hayden, thus reducing the gap to just under 9 seconds. Ott was consolidating his third overall. Seb moved ahead of Juho into sixth position as well.

SS11 – MONTI DI ALA’ 1 (28.52km)

1 Neuville 17:02.8 (98.8kph)

2 Paddon +4.2

3 Tanak +5.1

This is the stage that features Micky’s Jump. Hayden still lead, but with Thierry getting a puncture, it was Ott who won the stage and the gap between them was reduced to 9.4 seconds. Andreas and Mads both also suffered punctures in this stage and the drivers who benefitted from this were Ott, Jari-Matti, Juho and Esappekka.

SS12 – MONTE LERNO 1 (28.11km)

1 Tanak 17:54.5 (98.8kph)

2 Paddon +5.2

3 Latvala +9.0

12.11pm: Service D (Alghero – 30 mins)

3.08pm: SS13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14.95km)

4.04pm: SS14 – Monti da Ala’ 2 (28.52km)

4.43pm: SS15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28.11km)

7.24pm: Flexi Service E (Alghero – 48 mins)

After the service break, Ott would win again, also taking the lead overall as Hayden would have contact in the stage with the scenery and limped through after suffering a broken wheel. This put Latvala into second overall. Hayden had dropped down to fourth place.

SS13 – COILUNA – LOELLE 2 (14.95km)

1 Tanak 7:52.0 (120kph)

2️ Breen +1.0

3 Neuville +1.9

Ott would win again, but Thierry would come pretty close to beating the Fiesta ace. Sadly, Hayden would retire his car before this stage. Just too much damage to his car.

SS14 – MONTI DI ALA’ 2 (28.52km)

1 Tanak 16:48.1 (105kph)

2 Neuville +0.8

3 Latvala +3.5

It was time for the second run through the stage with Micky’s Jump. Lappi in his Yaris WRC won the stage, really showing his quality again and moving ahead of Juho into fourth overall. A brilliant run. The young Toyota crew had found a lot of time in the stage after the morning stage.

SS15 – MONTE LERNO 2 (28.11km)

1 Lappi 17:35.8 (98.8kph)

2 Neuville +0.1

3 Tanak +1.9

So, just like last year’s Rally Poland, Ott was leading with the just the Sunday stages to go. Could he do it this time, or would Jari-Matti come through to take the win?

Here’s the top ten at the end of Saturday.

Overall after SS15

1 Tanak 2:56:37.3

2 Latvala +24.3

3 Neuville +1:02.2

4 Lappi +2:10.8

5 Hanninen +2:42.1

6 Ogier +3:26.1

7 Ostberg +3:56.0

8️ Mikkelsen +7:47.6

9. Kopecky +9:52.9

10. Camilli +9:53.8

Let’s hear from all the drivers starting with the top three.

Ott Tänak (1st) said:

“It’s been a big fight all rally and I’ve really enjoyed it. Some guys have been dropping out, but we’ve been doing a good job and all we need to do now is keep going and continue exactly as we have been.

“I think we had a good strategy for this weekend. Sardinia is a very special event and it needs a very special approach. You always need to keep that margin and that is what we have done and what we plan to continue doing.

“A massive thanks to the team as the car has been perfect this afternoon. They’ve been working flat-out all hours of the day – literally – and we wouldn’t be sitting here in the first position if it weren’t for them.

“There’s still 40 kilometres of very demanding stages left to come, but there’s a good gap now and we just need to finish the job.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (2nd) said:

“On the final stage the tyres were finished and the brakes were also getting too hot. But apart from that, we’ve done some good work today and improved the car over the course of the rally. The main problem we had was during the first run through Monte Lerno this morning, when we were suddenly caught in the dust behind another competitor, who had a puncture. He didn’t know we were there as radio is not allowed, so we lost about 10 seconds. You can’t afford that in the fight for victory as it is so close, so the team has appealed to the stewards and I hope we get the time back.”

Thierry Neuville (3rd) commented:

“It was a frustrating morning but we are still in with a shout of the podium so we can’t be too disheartened. There have been issues for most crews so, on balance, we have to accept these things can happen at tough rallies like Sardinia. After our win in SS11, we had brake issues and we lost over a minute in SS12. We knew we were battling for the win and without this problem we would most likely have been leading at the end of Saturday. But this is rallying. The mechanics did a fantastic job to fix the car during lunchtime service. It was tight but they really allowed us to keep going into the afternoon loop, and to continue our fight for the podium. We will do all we can on the final day to consolidate this third place, and who knows what other twists this rally has to come!”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Italia Sardegna
05-11 June 2017
Day 1
Portrait
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“Today has been good but it’s been really about clean driving and not making any mistakes rather than pushing hard. On both loops of stages I felt my brakes going towards the end of Monte Lerno, so I tried just to be careful and bring the car home. In the afternoon, it was very important to look after the tyres in the hot and abrasive conditions, hopefully I judged it right. I started the day as third car on the road so there was lots of cleaning and not much of a clean line, so that was another new experience for me. It’s good because I’ve got a lot to learn.”

Juho Hänninen (5th)

“It’s going very well, the only problem was on the last stage of the day when we had a spin and a problem with the power steering, which cost us some time. Overall, I tried not to push too hard in the afternoon as I knew it would take a lot out of the tyres and I think we managed that well. At midday service, we made the car stiffer and raised the ride height a bit, to cope with the rougher conditions afterwards.”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (6th) said:

“It’s been a tough weekend for us. I feel as though we’ve been driving well and I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy with the balance of the car, but for some reason we’ve not been able to deliver the performance we wanted.

“There must be something wrong somewhere, but for the moment we’re not sure what. Of course every rally has its own characteristics, so hopefully we’ll be back up to our usual speed with a much better feeling in Poland.”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“This is a rally where luck actually can decide where you will end up. You cannot drive around every stone in the road, but you have to take some chances. On SS12 our luck ran out with a puncture and substantial timeloss”

“We did several changes to the car, but the main thing was the front diff, and that really did the trick. After service, I could play with the car again, instead of fighting with it. But then we had a new problem with the front suspension on the last stage, which nearly sent us off the road in 200 km/h”

“We just have to drive the four stages tomorrow to finish in a decent position and possibly set some good times and fight for power stage points. After the changes, we did to the car today I have a good feeling for that”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Andreas Mikkelsen (8th) said:

“It’s getting better and better! After the first day, which we spent mostly getting to grips with the C3 WRC, I had come to the conclusion that I needed to keep my driving style – which I know is effective – and work instead on the set-up. That’s what we did today, with a lot of changes from one stage to the next. It’s always difficult to work that like during a rally, because we only have the mid-leg service during which we can make the most significant changes. But the main thing is that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Craig Breen (Rally 2 / 27th)

“It would appear that we had a very good package for the first stage of the loop. That allowed me to put in a couple of good performances, unlike the other two stages, where I was really struggling. We don’t know why as yet, but I had quite a few moments in there. Whatever it was, we managed to make it to the end of the leg and collected a bit more experience. We’ll try to do the same thing tomorrow.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (Rally 2 / 26th) said:

“We’ve got some good mileage under our belts today. This is one of the most abrasive rallies that we encounter all year so it was important to go out there and collect as much data as we could. That’s what we’ve done, and we can put that to good use for future development.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo commented:

“We knew it would be a tough day from our starting position on the road, but we haven’t given up and just wanted to enjoy the stages. Frustratingly, we had a paddleshift problem in SS11 this morning. The upshift was working fine but we couldn’t downshift. The first run through Monte Lerno was better, though. In the afternoon, we picked up a puncture after about 1km into the first stage but again we just fought through as best we could.”

Hayden Paddon said:

“I am devastated. It was such a schoolboy error, which caused us to break the rear wheel. I turned in too early and clipped a bank. That was that. There is no one to blame but myself, and I am hugely sorry for the team and all of our supporters. It’s important that I learn from this and do all I can to put things right at the next event. Things were going so well and we were maintaining our lead, which makes it even more frustrating.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Italia Sardegna
08-11 June 2017
Hayden Paddon, Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Just four stages remained then to decide this event, and could Ott take a first victory?

SUNDAY 11 JUNE

7.30am: Service F (Alghero – 18 mins)

8.33am: SS16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14.06km)

9.08am: SS17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6.96km)

9.28am: Regroup (Palmadula – 60 mins)

10.54am: SS18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14.06km)

11.20am: Regroup (La Pedraia – 45 mins)

12.18pm: SS19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 – Power Stage (6.96km)

1.15pm: Service G (Alghero – 10 mins)

1.45pm: Podium

The return of Hayden under Rally 2 rules, saw him win the first stage of Sunday, with Ott losing six seconds to a charging Jari-Matti, his lead reduced to 18 .8 seconds. Craig showed that the C3 can be quick again, but that the team just need better consistency from their drivers.

SS16 – CALA FLUMINI 1 (14.06km)

1 Paddon 8:58.3 (105kph)

2 Latvala +0.9

3️ Breen +1.6

Dani took the next stage, with Ott taking a lot of time from Jari-Matti and increasing his lead to 25 seconds over the Finn.

SS17 – SASSARI – ARGENTIERA 1 (6.96km)

1 Sordo 5:10.0 (72kph)

2 Neuville +7.5

3 Tanak +8.7

Sadly, Hayden crashed out on the next stage, but once again Lappi came to the fore again, with another stage victory.

SS18 – CALA FLUMINI 2 (14.06km)

1 Lappi 8:46.9 (105kph)

2 Latvala +1.5

3 Ogier +2.0

Time then for the last stage and some points were up for grabs as well. Incredibly, Esapekka Lappi won this stage as well. He really is an exciting talent! Seb drove really well and passed Juho on the overall leaderboard and into fifth place. The big story was that Ott had taken his first WRC victory! A number of drivers had led this event, Kris, Hayden but it was the Estonian crew who came through the dust to seal the victory, the first for a driver since Marko Martin in 2004.

SS19 – SASSARI – ARGENTIERA 2 – PW STAGE (6.96km)

1 Lappi 5:10.5 (72kph)

2 Sordo +0.4

3 Ogier +1.3

4 Neuville +1.9

5 Latvala +2.3

Final Standings

1 Tanak 3:25:15.1

2 Latvala +12.3

3 Neuville +1:07.7

4 Lappi +2:12.9

5 Ogier +3:25.3

6 Hanninen +3:38.5

7 Ostberg +6:31.8

8️ Mikkelsen +8:07.8

9. Camilli +11:15.8

10. Kopecky +11:21.4

Let’s hear from the top three then.

Ott Tänak (1st) said:

“All everyone has been asking me is how it feels, and I can confirm, it feels good! It was a really difficult weekend but we had a clever strategy and we stuck to it – and now it’s happy days!

“The team have done the perfect job with the car and Martin has been mega. The whole first half of the season has been great. We have such a strong team – both inside the car and outside the car – and a strong team mate who is pushing me to do my best.

“Everything is coming together and we are improving all the time. We’re still a private team and you just have to look at the result from the year to see what an amazing job everyone is doing.

“This was an important step for us, and now that it’s job done, let’s see where we can go from here.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (2nd) said:

“In the end, we were quite close and so I’m happy about this result but I’m a bit disappointed with myself after two mistakes I made today: on the second stage this morning I stalled the car when I was in second gear in the high ruts, then when the same stage was run again as the Power Stage this afternoon I couldn’t get the car turning around the junction. Anyway, all in all I’m happy for the team: it was a good result and a good performance.”

Thierry Neuville (3rd) commented:

“Overall it has been a positive rally, even though we are disappointed at not being able to fight for the victory this weekend. We were just unlucky with a brake issue on Saturday that lost us over a minute, which we were not able to get back. To score a podium in this tough rally is still good and extends our run of positive results this season. I gave everything I could in the Power Stage but the road conditions didn’t really suit us and we weren’t able to raise the ride height enough. Still, we took a few more points and should be reasonably satisfied. We have closed the gap to Ogier ever so slightly but we know it will need a big push into this second half of the season to catch him.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th) said:

“I’m happy with this rally, we learned a lot. Today was good, especially the Power Stage, as that’s a stage where a lot of the drivers are pushing very hard. For the first two stages, today I was in full tyre saving mode: that’s why the times were not so good but in any case, we had nothing to lose or gain. Then on the stage before the Power Stage I pushed a little bit harder to get a feel for the speed again, then on the Power Stage it was full attack, but we had no problems: clean with no mistakes. On this rally, the most important thing I learned was the driving style of the car on these slow and twisty roads; now I need to find out a bit more about how to drive the car when we get to fast roads.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Juho Hänninen (6th) said:

“There are many positives we can take away: we tested a lot of things and we gathered lots of useful information for the future. Unfortunately, today we had an intermittent steering issue – the same thing as yesterday – and that cost us a bit of time. But still we score some good points and my best result so far in the Yaris WRC. After the rally, it’s easy to regret the mistake I made on the last stage of Friday: that certainly penalised us in the start order on Saturday, so maybe things could have been different. It’s all part of the sport though and the main thing is we have a good team result with all three cars.”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th) said:

“It wasn’t the best weekend for us but we’ve come away with 13 points and that is definitely a positive after such a tough few days.

“To lead the championship at the mid-point of the season is great – as long as you’re in the lead, you know that you are doing well.

“Congratulations to Ott on the win. He fully deserves it and it is another fantastic result for the team who have all worked so hard this weekend.”

Éric Camilli (1st RC2) (9th overall) said:

“I have always enjoyed Rally Italia Sardegna and I have especially enjoyed this weekend. The car has been perfect, the driving has been good and Benji has been word-perfect.

“It was a really good battle with Jan [Kopecky], but we pushed hard today and it’s great to come out on top with the victory.

“I’m taking a lot of pleasure away from this weekend and the team have been amazing. Everyone is working so hard and I think they should really enjoy the celebrations tonight!”

Jipocar WRT

Mads had a big problem in the last stage of the event. His right-rear suspension collapsed!

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“It happened without forewarning when I was braking for a sharp corner after a couple of minutes driving on the power stage. The right rear suspension just collapsed and the wheel was steering us sideways and nearly off the road all the way to the end of the stage. It was a real struggle to finish and there was a couple of corners where I thought we wouldn`t manage to come through. We did a Safari style repair with strips and a jacking troop to drive the last road section without losing the wheel.”

Anyway, he made it to the end despite this.

Speaking about the next rally in Poland,

“It’s not so rough with much smoother surface and above all much faster roads. We must work hard to sort out possible problems with the goal of finishing a rally and be fully competitive more than one day of the event. I have not forgotten how to drive fast”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo commented:

“A much better way for us to end the rally today compared to the frustrations of earlier in the event! I was happy to take a stage win this morning, our fourth of the weekend. We wanted to save our tyres for a good push in the Power Stage and we did just that. It wasn’t easy but I am happy to take some points away from this event. Without the turbo issues we had on Friday, we would have been more firmly in the hunt for a podium but we can do nothing about that now. We will just focus on the next rally in Poland and target a more representative result for us and the team.”

Hayden Paddon said:

“After Saturday’s misfortune, we wanted to use today to get back into a rhythm. Things started out well with a stage win, but that was the extent of our positives from today. In the penultimate stage, we had another very strange incident on a ‘nothing’ corner, where like yesterday I clipped the inside, which sent us wide. I don’t know why this is happening. I am incredibly disappointed in myself and for the team. I want to learn from this but at the same time put it behind us and look ahead to Poland.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Yves Matton said:

Looking at the fortunes of the team at this seventh round, clearly the results vary from one crew to the next. “Before the start, we asked our drivers to make it to the end of the rally. I don’t think we were wrong to think that if they managed to do that, we would end up with two cars in the top five,” explained Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Unfortunately, Kris was unable to adopt the pace required to have an error-free race. After the opening stages, he felt comfortable in the car and said that his pace was consistent with the targets set. Clearly, he has failed to maintain it.”

“As regards Craig, his race was rapidly brought to a halt after he was caught out when landing a jump,” continued Yves Matton. “His lack of knowledge of the stages proved very costly, because it’s a tricky spot that is well known to the more experienced drivers on this rally. Having said that, we have noted that his retirement was similar to the one he suffered in Argentina and we need to look at whether or not we can make the car more able to withstand this type of impact.”

“Andreas’ approach has been constructive and positive. Following the day of pre-event testing, we knew that the C3 WRC would need to be adapted to his driving style, which doesn’t involve left-foot braking at all. Clearly, that takes time and so this rally became something of a prolonged test session. More than the actual result – eighth overall – we think we did some good work together. He managed to identify the points we need to work on first and foremost, and to achieve some initial improvements.”

Let’s sum up this event then.

Kris and Hayden both continued having bad events this year, whereas Lappi, who will now drive the rest of the year for Toyota delivered a great result. What chance we’ll see him on the podium before the end of the year?

Seb continued to score good points to keep him in the lead of the championship, albeit with a slightly reduced lead to Thierry. To see Ott finally take that first victory though! Just brilliant! It moved him ahead of Jari-Matti into third in the drivers’ championship.

Next round is Rally Poland! Ott came very close to winning there last year, and what will happen this year? We shall see!

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Italia Sardegna
05-11 June 2017
Day 3
Atmosphere
Podium
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Warren Nel

@Warren_S_Nel

23rd June 2017

1. Sébastien Ogier – 141

2. Thierry Neuville – 123

3. Ott Tänak – 108

4. Jari-Matti Latvala – 107

5. Dani Sordo – 70

6. Elfyn Evans – 53

7. Craig Breen – 43

8. Hayden Paddon – 33

9. Juha Hänninen – 29

10. Kris Meeke – 27

1. M-Sport World Rally Team – 234

2. Hyundai Motorsport – 194

3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC – 143

4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 97

Warren Nel, WRC editor