Rally Italia Sardegna Preview 2017

WRC

June 6, 2017

|

Warren Nel, WRC editor

Incredibly, it’s the halfway point of this year’s championship! Twelve months ago, Thierry won this event, on his way to finishing the 2016 championship in second place. He had a very strong second half to last season, so what can we expect from this year?

Now, both Kris and Hayden will want to get a solid result from this rally, to kick start their seasons. Kris hasn’t scored any points since his win in Mexico. Hayden certainly can point to a lot of problems, not always of his doing.

This year’s event will feature 19 stages, totalling 312.66 km’s. Here are the details of the stages.

RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA SCHEDULE (GMT+1)

THURSDAY 8 JUNE

8.00am: Shakedown (Olmedo – Monte Baranta)

5.00pm: Start (Alghero)

6.00pm: SS1 – Ittiri Arena Show (2.00km)

8.31pm: Parc ferme (Olbia)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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

Now, there are a couple of changes to announce in terms of co-driver changes and also Citroen changing their crew for in the number nine C3 WRC.

Sadly, Hayden’s co-driver has decided to bring forward his retirement. If you recall, he sat out Portugal because of an existing hip problem. Well, with no improvement, he’s decided to call it a day.

In the Citroen camp, we have Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger stepping into the C3 normally driven by Stephane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau. It’s not a permanent move, as they will be back in the car for the following round in Poland.

Let’s hear from the drivers then!

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier said:

“We found a good feeling with the Fiesta in Portugal and we’ll be hoping to continue that in Sardinia. We’re approaching the mid-point in the season, and that’s where the championship will really start to heat up… quite literally!

“The temperatures that we’ll experience next week are probably the highest of the year and we’ll need to be prepared for that. We had a good test last week where we confirmed our cooling options as well as set-up configurations for the event – so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be confident of challenging for another strong result.

“We’ll face an element of cleaning on the opening day, but we’ve got a good track record in Sardinia and I’ve learned to enjoy these demanding stages. It’s not the easiest of events. You need to keep a margin and be focused from start to finish. Tyre preservation can also prove really important and that could be particularly significant on Saturday with two 70 kilometre loops.

“The aim is always to increase our lead at the head of the championship, and we hope to do that with another strong performance.”

Ott Tänak said:

“I feel as though we’re getting better all the time and learning more about the car every time we get behind the wheel. We had a great set-up in Portugal – the best we’ve had all year – and another test last week means that we go to Sardinia in a positive mood.

“The island holds a lot of special memories for me as it’s where I secured my first podium back in 2012 and we’ll be aiming to at least equal that next week.

“We’ll need to be fully focussed from the start as there are so many things to consider on an event as tricky as this one. The stages are very narrow, but also quite fast in places. There is always something to catch you out, so you need to keep that margin.

“If that weren’t enough, we’ll also be experiencing the highest temperatures of the year which could mean more tyre wear and a need to manage the situation. We got an idea of what to expect at the test, and we hope to be in a position to challenge for another strong result.

“The plan will be to go out there and enjoy it – which isn’t difficult with these new cars!”

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville commented:

“Rally Italia Sardegna is a special event for me, particularly after our win last year. I still have very fond memories of our entire team jumping into the harbour in celebration. We already have a couple of wins this season, but this is a technical event that we cannot take for granted. The roads are very hard and dry which can be tough on the cars, especially the tyres. Therefore, tyre choice can be crucial depending on road position and will be something we watch closely. Overall, we are happy, we are confident, and we are hopeful that we can achieve a positive result.”

Dani Sordo commented:

“I was pleased to get back onto the podium in Portugal, and to show we can fight on gravel. Sardinia is not one of my preferred events, but the second passes of the stages are nice as they are a bit cleaner and smoother. The stages themselves are very narrow so it is always difficult to build up confidence. Getting a podium in Portugal shows what we are capable of and the consistency that we have had since the beginning of the season has been encouraging. I just hope we can use this positive momentum to tackle this next challenge to the best of our ability.”

Hayden Paddon said:

“The decision for John to step down early was not an easy one, but we all felt it was best in the difficult circumstances. He will continue to play an important role in our WRC programme. Seb did a great job in Portugal, so we are looking forward to continuing the partnership in Sardinia, with John’s support and backing. I think Sardinia is one of the toughest European rallies that we do. It’s rough, it’s hot and you have to pay really special attention to the car as well. But those challenges aside, we have some good memories from there and, of course, we would like to try and repeat some of those. Most of all, we are hoping to just have a nice clean rally. We saw some signs of genuine encouragement on the final day in Portugal, so I’d like to pick up from there!”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna // June 09-12, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

“I’m looking forward to the rally, but it’s going to be much hotter and more slippery than Portugal, with a bigger cleaning effect. Punctures are going to be the big thing: because the surface is quite hard, the roads don’t get so rough or degrade on the second passage but any loose rocks don’t get pushed back into the surface either. Instead they just stay on the road and this is what can puncture your tyre or even damage the damper. There are some things that you can do to change your driving style to try and avoid this: you have to be very careful of the rocks on the insides of corners.”

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

Juho Hänninen said:

“We did a two-day test in Sardinia before we went to Argentina. That was quite a long time ago and of course conditions were much cooler but it still gave us a good idea of what the roads were like. The advantage of the heat is that it actually makes the tyre choice a little more straightforward, so that is one less thing to worry about. Portugal was a good event for us and we learned plenty of things there, so if we can have another clean run then we have a great chance of scoring more points. I think our road position on the first day could help and then we have to make the most of the conditions to the end.”

Esapekka Lappi said:

“Sardinia has always been one of those rallies that is more about survival than raw speed: I just want to have a problem-free rally and get to the finish. I think I’m going to be trying some new parts on the car, so my job is to collect data for the team and gain more experience. We had a good result in Portugal, but that only alters the expectations from other people: it doesn’t make any difference to me personally. Before Sardinia I had a one-day test in Finland to get more of a feel about how I can set up the car. Obviously, Finland isn’t the same as Sardinia, but I did around 150 kilometres, which was useful just to try some different suspension settings.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke said:

“Obviously, we’ve had a couple of disappointing rounds in Argentina and Portugal. We are fully focused on getting back onto the positive trend that helped us to win in Mexico, and lead the Tour de Corse before having a technical problem. As we didn’t compete in Sardinia last year, we’re going to have to refamiliarise ourselves with the rally. The stages are technically difficult and slippery, so your driving needs to be incredibly precise, especially when the road is narrow. From a pure racing point of view, it isn’t necessarily that enjoyable to drive on this type of surface, but we’ll try hard to have a solid race. I think it’s a good thing to have Andreas in the team. He brings valuable experience and he has the potential to win rallies. We’ll work together to ensure Citroën wins.”

Craig Breen said:

“Like Argentina and Portugal, pretty much all of this rally is going to be new to us. I did recce in 2016 and we did some testing in Sardinia a few weeks ago, but that’s still not very much compared with the guys who have been competing at this event for several years. To try and compensate, I have prepared meticulously for this rally. For example, viewing on-board footage has helped us to spot the largest pitfalls and trickiest sections. After a series of fifth places, I’d be delighted to get the same result in Sardinia, before tackling more familiar events such as Poland or Finland. I’d like to say welcome to Andreas; we don’t know each other very well at the moment, but I’m looking forward to working with him!”

Andreas Mikkelsen said:

“The last few days have been exciting, seeing the Citroën Racing factory for the first time, meeting the members of the team and, of course, getting to grips with the car in the south of France. The roads used during the test were very different to those we’ll see in Sardinia, but it gave me a good idea of the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC. With the downforce and the power of the engine, the feeling in the car was good – it’s an impressive piece of machinery. We started to work on the set-up in order to adapt it to my driving style. Next weekend, I have no idea where we’ll be in relation to the other crews. We’ll have a favourable starting position for the opening leg, but the standard is so high in the WRC at the moment that we won’t be taking anything for granted. We’ll do our best on this tough event.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans said:

“I’ve got a lot of good memories from Sardinia. It’s where I first got behind the wheel of a world rally car and I didn’t want to give it back! It’s not the easiest of rallies by a long shot, but I think it’s the challenge that I enjoy.

“There are so many factors that you need to keep in mind at an event like this. The stages are very rough and abrasive, and then there are the high temperatures. Air temperatures can be as high as 30C and those in the cockpit can get up to 50C plus!

“This will be the first time that we’re experiencing this sort of environment with our 2017 package so we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. We’ll certainly be giving it our all though, and as history has shown, anything can happen at an event like Rally Italia Sardegna.”

Onebet Jipocar WRT

Mads has become something of a jump king this year! After leaping 44 metres at Colin’s Crest in Sweden and then during Rally de Portugal he jumped 36 metres in the Fafe stage! Coming to Rally Italia Sardegna there is Micky’s Jump in the Monte Lerno stage and this will present another opportunity to get a big jump in!

Mads Østberg said:

“Really, I`m not driving rallies to jump the farthest! It`s not intentional that we have been flying so far this season, but it has been fun and has resulted in a lot of positive publicity. My co-driver Ola has been into it just as much, he is just laughing when we are touching the ground again. We have fun in the car and that is actually very positive.”

“We are aiming to put together a whole event without punctures or other technical problems. We won two stages in Portugal and generally the speed was satisfying, but several minutes time loss with a wheel change on one stage just destroyed our chances.”

Talking about his team, Mads explains the great spirit that has brought them together.

“We are developing together and that gives me strong motivation. It may be a small team, but there are some very creative and smart minds among us. The idea with the shiny and reflective gold roof on the car, that we ran in Portugal, is just an example of this. It really lowered the temperature inside the car, and will certainly be essential also in Sardinia with very high temperatures and lots of sun expected during the event.”

“Argentine, Portugal and Sardinia comes one after the other and has lots of similarities. They are all technical demanding gravel rallies, and that’s a type of rally I like a lot. All three rallies have rough and narrow gravel roads, but there are some differences. In Sardinia starting positions are more important as there normally is a fine layer of sand and loose gravel on top when we drive the stages first time through. There are also more loose stones and rocks. Our starting position when the rally proper begins on Friday should be an advantage, but we are not alone in having that advantage.”

With the recce starting today for all the teams, drivers and co-drivers, creating those pace notes, making sure that the cars are fully prepared for the event, we are set for another very exciting rally.

Can Thierry win a third rally, or will we see Kris get to the top step again? What about Andreas in his first drive for Citroen? Could Ott Tanak finally get his first victory?

Warren Nel

@Warren_S_Nel

Rallye de Portugal Review 2017

The World Rally Championship arrived in Portugal, the first European gravel that these new cars would be unleashed on in competition.

There would be nineteen stages over the four days.

Just a reminder of the schedule for you.

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

The shakedown was very close.

1. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:06.9

2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:07.0

3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:07.1

4. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:07.2

5. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:07.5

12. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:09.4

13. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:09.5

16. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:16.3

The first stage was just a blast around. Thierry and Mads set the same time incredibly!

SS1 – Lousada (SSS) (3.36km)

1 Neuville & Ostberg 2:36.6 (90kph)

3 Paddon +0.1

After the short stage on Thursday evening, the top ten looked like this.

1 Ostberg 2m36.6s

2 Neuville +0.0s

3 Paddon +0.1s

4 Evans +0.4s

5 Sordo +0.5s

6 Ogier +0.7s

7 Latvala +1.5s

8 Lefebvre +1.5s

9 Hänninen +1.8s

10 Meeke +2.0s

Friday dawned bright and warm. Hayden powered through the stage, clearly glad to be back on gravel and took the lead of the event. His teammate, Thierry had a nightmare, losing nearly 13 seconds and dropping to 12th overall.

SS2 – Viana do Castelo 1 (26.70km)

1 Paddon 15:44.3 (104kph)

2 Latvala +1.0

3️ Meeke +1.2

Stage three and there was another change in the lead, with Jari-Matti moving to the front after Hayden lost time. There was big drama for Lefebvre who rolled in the stage and had two punctures now on his car and still one more stage before midday service. Ogier lost time through here and was now down to eighth position. Running at the front clearly was doing him no favours.

SS3 – Caminha 1 (18.10km)

1 Latvala 10:25.2 (108kph)
2 Evans +1.3
3 Tanak +1.9

The longest stage of the day and well, what an incredible situation with the top three setting the same time! Ogier would power through just 1.2 seconds slower than the top three, bringing his car back into the top five! Kris was just half a second behind Jari-Matti, now challenging for the lead!

SS4 – Ponte de Lima 1 (27.46km)

1️ Meeke, Breen & Tanak ‼️ 19:14.0 (85.3kph)

A quick midday service and then it was time to get back out there. Hayden repeated his stage win from the morning and moved back into the top five deposing Ogier down to sixth. Kris took the lead from Jari-Matti by just two tenths of a second

SS5 – Viana do Castelo 2 (26.70km)

1 Paddon 15:35.6 (104kph)

2 Sordo +4.2

3️ Meeke +5.1

Thierry won the next stage, thus closing the gap to his teammate Dani on the overall leaderboard. Hayden in his i20 also moved up to third overall. The big news was that Kris tumbled down from the lead to fifth place, now 6.2 seconds from the lead and Ott Tanak took over the lead.

SS6 – Caminha 2 (18.10km)

1 Neuville 10:25.0 (108kph)

2 Evans +0.4

3 Tanak +2.0

The next stage would be full of drama for Kris, who would run wide and hit the rear of his car thus damaging his suspension. Jari-Matti would also roll his Toyota, but was able to continue. It would go all wrong for Hayden, who suffered an electrical failure and drop from third to sixteenth! What a shocker for the young kiwi. With all this happening, both Dani, who won the stage and Ogier moved up into second and third respectively on the main leaderboard.

SS7 – Ponte de Lima 2 (27.46km)

1 Sordo 19:20.2 (85.3kph)

2 Ogier +2.6

3 Tanak +4.6

Just two small stages to end the first full day, which finished with these results.

SS8 – Braga Street Stage1 (1.90km)

1 Ogier 1:48.8 (60kph)

2 Neuville +0.2

3 Paddon +0.5

SS9 – Braga Street Stage2 (1.90km)

1 Ostberg 1:46.5 (60kph)

2 Paddon +0.4

3 Evans +0.6

Here the top ten after the first day.

1 O. Tanak 1:37:18.5

2 D. Sordo +4.6

3 S. Ogier +5.0

4 T. Neuville +11.1

5 C. Breen +12.9

6 E. Evans +18.3

7 J. Hänninen +52.0

8 E. Lappi +1:12.3

9 A. Mikkelsen +3:17.8

10 M. Østberg +3:50.0

Let’s here from the drivers then, starting with the top three.

Ott Tänak (1st) said:

“It’s great to be in the lead of the rally. The plan always was to get a good start position for tomorrow and it looks as though we’ve made a good job of that.

“We struggled a bit this afternoon with some damage to the wishbone on the middle stage [SS6]. We had to make some repairs, so I’m happy to see that it stayed together and we made it back to service still in the lead.

“As we saw today, the competition is really tight and everyone is going at pretty much the same pace. It’s really good to see that the competition is so strong and I’m sure that will continue into tomorrow. We just need to keep pushing and keep smart.”

Dani Sordo (2nd) said:

“It’s been a very promising and highly enjoyable day. We have shown some good pace in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, and set some competitive stage times. It is always a special feeling to perform so well in front of these passionate fans, so I was very happy to claim a stage win this afternoon. It’s been an incredibly close day and there are just five seconds separating the top three, with plenty more action behind us as well. I think it will continue to be an exciting rally with very tough stages to come on Saturday. I hope we can carry on in this way and try to score our second podium of the season.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:

“Overall, I think we can be really happy with our day. It was tough to open the road, but we pushed hard through all of the stages and I’m very pleased with our position tonight.

“It got quite rough for the second loop which is always a bit more risky, but for sure it’s faster to be further back – cleaning the road is never easy. If I could choose, I would always prefer to start from the back but it’s part of the game and I think we’ve done a really good job today.

“The competition is so tight at the moment and we came really close to catching Dani on the closing stages – just 0.4 seconds at the end of the day! It’s certainly going to be an interesting one tomorrow. The rally is still anyone’s for the taking and we’ll give it our all like always.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (5th) said:

“It’s been a fantastic day, I didn’t expect to be fighting so near the front on what is effectively my first time here. I feel that I have made progress in understanding the car and my only regret was on SS7, when I damaged the damper when I hit a stone. If it hadn’t been for that, I think we could have closed the gap to the leaders!”

Stéphane Lefebvre (19th) said:

“It’s a shame because I felt comfortable in the C3 WRC on these roads. On SS3, we were on a fast section and there was a misunderstanding on the pace note. I carried too much speed into the corner and the car drifted wide before hitting a low bank. We rolled, but the damage wasn’t too significant. The mechanics did a great job during service, but the handling of the car was nonetheless impaired throughout the second loop. The main thing is that we are still in the race, and we’ll be trying hard to do better tomorrow.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (20th) said:

“We spent the day learning about what is fundamentally a very different car to the one I have been driving recently. As we completed more stages, we tried to alter the set-up to suit my driving style. There are a lot of things to learn in order to establish all the right reflexes. I’m pleased to have avoided making any mistakes.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:

“I am pleased that we got back some of our lost time. I felt that we could have regained some tomorrow but we are now more firmly in the podium and victory fight, which is fair. It was nice to share the stage win in Thursday evening’s super special but we got down to real business on Friday morning and it was a different story. It might not have been the best opening stage this morning but the feeling was getting better and better. We ended the morning just ten seconds from the podium. We wanted to give it a push in the afternoon where tyre choice was really important. I think we made the right decision for the entire loop, and we won SS6 with a very nice time. We were just focused on not making mistakes and closing the time deficit to the leader. Now we can put the dramas from today behind us and look ahead to Saturday with optimism.”

Hayden Paddon (24th) commented:

“I honestly don’t know when we are going to catch a break. Things started well this morning with a stage win. We had a small electrical issue in SS3, which cost us some time, but it was really close at the top and we were firmly in the battle. We were expecting the second pass to suit us better. Tyre choice was an important consideration but we were managing that well. We benefitted from some positive changes to the diff and suspension at lunchtime service, so it was looking really promising. Then, in SS7, we were on a flyer but the electrical issue recurred suddenly and we stopped mid-stage. We lost 11 minutes before we could get restarted and we have to re-join under Rally 2 tomorrow. That’s effectively the rally over for us but our road position tomorrow means we can try to show our true pace. We can only use the remainder of the weekend as a test. I’m trying to stay positive but I hope there’s something really good when this run of bad luck ends.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:

“It’s been an okay day to be fair. We had a few little issues this morning and I didn’t get off to a great start. It was quite damp and it didn’t suit the tyres so well – we prefer it when it’s a bit dryer – but the middle stage was good. Unfortunately, we then picked up a puncture [on the last stage of the morning, SS4] and lost what I think was about 15 seconds to the leaders.

“The gap has stayed the same this afternoon and if you take the puncture out of the equation we would have been looking at quite a positive position. But it is what it is, and we’ll keep fighting tomorrow. It’s good that everyone is so close, and I think everyone will be going hard tomorrow so we need to do our best.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (13th) said:

“I was able to push hard today, even though the roads were even rougher than I expected. To be leading the rally was quite surprising. On the final gravel stage of the day, which was very rough, I had a strange feeling with the car, like it was skidding. I didn’t manage to get it stopped on time, so we hit the bank, went up onto two wheels and rolled, losing a lot of time. There was some damage to the car but we managed to get it to back to service, which is the most important thing and tomorrow is a new day. We will fight to get back in the points, as we have already shown today that with our Toyota Yaris WRC we can fight for victory.”

Juho Hänninen (7th)

“Compared to lots of other people I had quite a good day today, not so many big problems. In the morning, I felt I was quite careful, maybe a little bit too careful, but that’s always better than not being careful enough. We made some changes to the car for the afternoon to help it cope with the rougher terrain even better, but it was still very difficult. We picked up a bit of a damage, with the front wing coming off, but not enough to affect us too much. We’ve seen that the car is fast and strong, so there are lots of reasons to be happy as we go into tomorrow.”

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“It was a good day for me, even though we lost some time with a hole in the intercooler in the afternoon, which affected the amount of power. Apart from that I’m quite happy: I tried not to take any risks and play my way into it gradually. Today was all about building up confidence, especially as the roads were more slippery and softer than I expected. I think we are OK in the slow corners; in the fast corners, I feel we can go quicker, but for now I’m not quite brave enough!”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (10th) said:

“It was a shame to get two punctures over SS4 and SS5. I thought I could manage to finish the stage without too much loss, like I did on SS4 where I also had a puncture. But with eight km’s to go on SS5 I was driving on the rim and had to stop to change the wheel. It was a huge disappointment, as we felt we had the speed to fight for top positions in this rally.”

Mads dropped to 16th, but fought back in the afternoon.

“I must say I am a bit surprised and amused. Superspecials and spectator stages really hasn`t been my strength before, and I can`t actually remember the last time I won such a stage. I did a lousy run through SS8, the first time through the stage in Braga, and was really disappointed with myself. Then I thought before SS9 that I can`t let all this people think I am that bad. So, I was properly angry and drove a near perfect stage. It was also very satisfying to win a stage on tarmac. I felt I had reached an all-time low after SS5, but now I am looking forward to show that my speed is good enough to post stage times among the best. This is definitely a very demanding and tough rally, and there are possibilities to advance several places as long as we stay on the road.”

Saturday’s action started just after 8am UK time. Five stages, with the longest stage of the whole weekend, Amarante at 37.55km’s being run twice.

Seb was after that win and he was close enough to his teammate to do it. First blood would fall to him and he would move up into second place overall. With Elfyn going through the stage so fast, it would see him move ahead of Craig into fifth place. Mads would also move up ahead of Jari-Matti into ninth place.

SS10 – Vieira do Minho 1 (17.43km)

1 Ogier 10:46.4 (102kph)

2 Evans +0.2

3 Neuville +1.8

Ott fought back on the next stage to open up a six second lead over Seb, with Thierry moving ahead of Dani into third as well. Both Craig and Juho moved ahead of Elfyn who dropped down to seventh.

SS11 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22.30km)

1 Tanak 13:32.6 (101.5kph)

2 Ogier +5.2

3 Neuville +9.9

Ott would endure a nightmare following stage. He slid wide and the car hit a bank, causing damage that would slow him down, falling from the lead to fifth place. Seb assumed the lead, with Thierry, Dani, and Craig moving up a place. Ott had lost a minute and ten seconds. The gap between first and second was now 19.5 seconds.

SS12 – Amarante 1 (37.55km)

1 Ogier 24:41.5 (92.5kph)

2 Neuville +6.9

3 Sordo +8.6

Thierry would win this one, clearly car and driver now working in harmony. Seb was only a second slower though, so this wasn’t the watershed moment we were hoping for. Former leader Ott would lose another three seconds, but still maintained fifth overall. The good news was that Ott had managed to get his car to service, so the problem was able to be sorted before the afternoon stages.

I’ll let Ott explain what happened.

He says, “We were having a really good morning and the car felt really good. We were pushing for sure, but also fairly comfortable at the pace we were setting. Unfortunately, we just had some understeer under braking [on SS12] and hit the bank on the outside.

“We damaged the suspension and lost the brakes which made it pretty difficult through the closing kilometres and cost us a lot of time. But what can you do? We just have to pick ourselves up and focus on the next loop.

“We need to do the same job as we did this morning. Get everything fixed, make a good tyre choice, get back into the same rhythm, and see what we can do.”

With Ott’s car fixed, he was back in the groove, setting a quick time and looking to catch Craig who was ahead of him in fourth place and the gap came down by three seconds.

SS13 – Vieira do Minho 2 (17.43km)

1 Neuville 10:43.4 (102kph)

2 Ogier +1.0

3 Tanak +3.5

While Ogier and Neuville would continue their dice for the lead, Ott closed the gap a further six seconds to Craig. There were changes further down with Elfyn and Esapekka both moving up ahead of Juha into sixth and seventh places.

SS14 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22.30km)

1 Ogier 13:31.0 (101.5kph)

2 Neuville +4.5

3 Latvala +5.0

Thierry would take six seconds out of Seb’s lead in stage 15, but the good news for Ott would continue in the afternoon loop, with him moving ahead of Craig into fourth place. After his improvement in the previous stage, Esapekka would lose a bundle of time dropping to eleventh place. All the drivers behind would move up one place each.

SS15 – Amarante 2 (37.55km)

1 Neuville 24:33.8 (92.5kph)

2 Ogier +6.2

3 Tanak +10.3

So, after a dramatic Saturday, lets here from the drivers, starting with the top three.

Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:

“I’m very happy with how my day went. It’s been a very long time since I‘ve been able to do this kind of performance – having always been first or second into the stages. I think I did the same kind of driving as yesterday but the road position is quite different and I’m very pleased with the gap that we have managed to build.

“For sure the rally is not over yet and we still need to finish the job. With 16 seconds you can never relax completely so we need to continue in the same way – keeping the same speed and staying clear of trouble.

“We have some beautiful stages still to drive tomorrow and I really love Fafe – it’s fantastic. For sure we still have to push because no one is going to back off. We still need to give it all we have and the Power Stage is always important for those extra points.

“I’m really looking forward to this last day and hoping to bring home another good result for the team and the championship.”

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:

“We have done all we could do today to stay in touch with the rally leader. We have shown consistent pace throughout the day and also taken two stage wins ourselves, which is encouraging. But Ogier has been out of reach in some stages today, which has allowed him to build a healthy lead. We are pretty happy to be second, though, especially after the tough day we had yesterday. This morning was something of a compromise on tyres. We started strongly in SS13 with the win but then it was hit and miss, as we gained in some places and lost in others. The final run of the day was the one I felt most comfortable with, and it was nice to end the day with a stage win. There are still opportunities in the final four stages but as a team we have two cars on the podium, so we won’t be doing anything crazy on Sunday morning.”

Dani Sordo (3rd) said:

“It’s been a difficult day really but we can be reasonably content to be in a comfortable podium position. I tried my best, as always, but I wanted to put up more of a battle for the lead than we were able to. The car was sliding around at the rear quite a bit, especially in the morning, and we were missing some traction compared to our nearest rivals. We tried to make improvements at lunchtime but the times did not improve. The stages were still enjoyable and I had fun. We can’t be too disappointed to be third, on the provisional podium, which was our target this weekend. There is still a lot to do on Sunday, so it is not guaranteed yet.”

Ott Tänak (4th) said:

“It was a shame about what happened this morning. We were pushing hard but still felt quite comfortable with the pace we were setting. This is rallying and it’s just the way it goes sometimes so I’m not too frustrated.

“This afternoon we weren’t pushing so much – just concentrating on having a good rhythm with a smooth and clean drive. It was good to get back up to fourth, and that gives us a better road position going into tomorrow.

“We’ll see what happens and try to do our best as always. Craig [Breen] is still quite close behind and he’s had some good speed this weekend so we’ll have to keep an eye on him for sure.”

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

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:

“We were really happy with the first stage [SS10], but it’s not been so good since then. I made a mistake half way through the second stage [SS11] and was quite lucky to get back on the road. We did, but we drove to the end of the stage with a puncture and that then caused some damage to the damper – which hampered us for the longest stage of the loop [SS12].

“Moving on to the afternoon, we decided to try some different things and experimented within our package. It didn’t work out, but nothing ventured nothing gained and we did manage to get back up to sixth which is a positive.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (5th)

“It was difficult for me to compete with drivers who have contested some stages for the last three years. In any case, we managed to hold onto fourth place for most of the day and improve our understanding of the car. On Amarante 2, I had to cope with wear on the rear tyres and I made a little mistake, which let Tänak past. But the gap is less than three seconds and tomorrow is a proper leg, so we’ll see. I’m staying positive!”

Stéphane Lefebvre (14th)

“I struggled to get my bearings in the car this morning. It’s true that my road position was less favourable than yesterday. But as we completed more stages, and then during service, we made significant progress with the set-up. It was an instructive day.”

Kris Meeke (23rd)

“I was unable to reproduce the level of performance I had yesterday. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact there wasn’t much at stake today, given that we rejoined under Rally2 rules. We worked on the set-up, and made some progress between the morning and afternoon loops.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (18th)

“Insofar as we were running second on the road, we inherited a tough situation because there was a lot of cleaning. Everything didn’t go perfectly today; I found myself with no ‘boost’ on SS14 and the car was very difficult to drive at that point. In any case, the C3 WRC has a huge amount of potential and I think I have made progress in driving the car.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon commented: “What can I say? It just seems our bad luck continues. We started this morning’s loop in a positive frame of mind despite the issues we had yesterday. The team worked hard to replace the loom on the car to allow us to continue under Rally 2. We knew it would be tough as second on the road, but we were determined to push and have some fun. I enjoyed it! We had some good sideways moments and put on a good show for the fans. The times were never going to be representative with all the cleaning we had to do. Then, in the afternoon, our luck turned once again as we experienced a steering problem that ended the day early. Not a lot more to add, other than we’ll try to have a trouble-free final day tomorrow.”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (8th) said:

“After yesterday’s punctures and time losses we were in a vacuum with no realistic chances of a top placing. I am still trying to learn the 2017 spec car and has used the six stages today to test different suspension settings and get some experience with the different tyres. We have advanced according to plan and will be fighting for as many points as possible tomorrow.”

Speaking about Jari-Matti, Mads continued-

“He is not far behind, but I get some motivation actually to fight for position. We will use the experience from this rally to come back even stronger in Sardinia, but first I must keep Jari-Matti behind me tomorrow.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (9th) said:

“I started the day not feeling very well: I had a stomach upset that made it difficult for me to keep any food down, but it’s been getting better and better. The really positive thing about today is that we’ve definitely improved the car for the second passes over the stages, especially the suspension. Everyone has done a lot of good work so compared to yesterday, it’s certainly going in the right direction. We’ve had one or two small niggles during the day but no major problems. The roads were more solid today, which made the cleaning effect bigger, but this also meant that they were not damaged as much in the afternoon. This rally has been a good learning experience for us so far.”

Juho Hänninen (7th) said:

“We saw some dust from Esapekka on the final stage, and he quickly let us past on after his problem so big thanks to him and the team for co-ordinating this. Quite a tricky day for us, as in the afternoon we lost about a minute after the car stopped on stage 14 and then it took us some time to get going again; I’m not entirely sure why yet, but I believe the team will fix it. Generally, the stages this afternoon were in better condition than they were yesterday, but of course I am driving with a bit in reserve as I don’t really have any experience here. Apart from that, no big issues, but the grip for me felt a bit variable all day. The important thing is to stay calm, then hopefully we can have a good result tomorrow.”

Esapekka Lappi (11th) said:

“I got caught out by some loose gravel on the asphalt part of the final stage and unfortunately this meant that the back of the car hit a wall: it did some damage to the rear-right and we also lost the brake disc. Luckily, we were able to come back to service. On the second stage this morning we also lost around a minute: I stalled the car on the stage, which was my mistake, and then I had to make some adjustments to start it again. So a few mistakes from me today and we didn’t always have the right tyres either, but that is all part of the learning process. Generally, I thought there was a bit less grip on the roads today than yesterday, so in some places I was braking a bit too early.”

Top ten after day two

1 Ogier 3h15m24.6s

2 Neuville +16.8s

3 Sordo +51.3s

4 Tanak +1m29.6s

5 Breen +1m32.4s

6 Evans +3m01.8s

7 Hänninen +3m29.8s

8 Ostberg +5m16.6s

9 Latvala +5m32.7s

10 Mikkelsen +7m06.6s

11 Lappi +8m00.9s

Sunday

First stage of the day would feature the world famous Fafe leap! Hayden would hit the ground running and won it from Ott and Thierry. The only place that would change was Esapekka moving ahead of Lefebvre into tenth place. Thierry closed the gap to Seb by a little over a second, bringing the gap down to 16 seconds. Ott was also closer to Dani, going seven seconds faster than the Spaniard.

SS16 – Fafe 1 (11.18km)

1 Paddon 6:39.7 (110kph)

2 Tanak +2.6

3 Neuville +2.7

Dani wasn’t going to let the young Estonian through without a fight though and was duly faster than Ott keeping the gap above thirty seconds with two stages left. Mads was doing a great job in his Fiesta, keeping Jari-Matti behind him.

SS17 – Luílhas (11.91km)

1 Ogier 8:09.7 (82.5kph)

2 Sordo +3.3

3 Neuville +3.3

Hayden would continue his good form, winning his second stage of the day, and Kris just behind him showing much better, after a pretty awful event, one that he won last year as well. With one stage to run, the gap between first and second was now 17.5 seconds and barring disaster, Seb was in the pound seats. Dani was doing a perfect run, maintaining the gap to Ott at the thirty second mark.

SS18 – Montim (8.66km)

1 Paddon 5:51.7 (96kph)

2️ Meeke +2.1

3 Evans +3.4

Ott would win the power stage and with it the five points. Thierry would take second and four points, Elfyn three points, Esapekka completing his first WRC event fourth in this stage and taking two points from it and championship leader Seb, one point.

SS19 – Fafe 2 (Power Stage) (11.18km)

1 Tanak 6:38.3 (110kph)

2 Neuville +0.4

3 Evans +1.5

Final Results

1 Ogier 3h42m55.7s

2 Neuville +15.6s

3 Sordo +1m01.7s

4 Tanak +1m30.2s

5 Breen +1m57.4s

6 Evans +3m10.6s

7 Hänninen+3m48.6s

8 Ostberg +5m29.7s

9 Latvala +5m43.6s

10 Lappi +8m13.3s

Seb took his second win of the season for M-Sport, to open up the gap to his closest challenger, Thierry.

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

Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:

“I’m delighted with this result. It’s been a hard fight until the end but I think everyone always enjoys winning like that. Honestly, when we did the recce, I didn’t think we would have a chance to challenge for the victory – and that makes this result an even prouder and happier one.

“Opening the road is always a challenge, but we had a really good run through Friday’s stages and that gave us a much better road position for the rest of the rally. On Saturday, I was back where I always prefer to be and posted the first or second fastest time though every stage.

“It was an intense fight with Ott through the first half of the rally. He had great pace all weekend and, even after his mistake, managed to score good points for the team.

“Everything feels good and I really must thank the team for all of their hard work. I’ve always said that rallying is a team effort and the car has been perfect all weekend. Everyone is putting in the maximum and they really deserve this victory.

“I’m happy that we could give back from our side with a strong performance. Actually, my number one mechanic and my engineer are Portuguese so I’m sure they are very proud to secure this one too!”

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

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:

“We had a good, clean Power Stage to end our rally in a positive manner. We have struggled a bit with the rear of the car this weekend, which has prevented us from challenging Ogier and M-Sport for the win more strongly. They delivered a great performance here, which we couldn’t match. Still, after two wins I am pleased to finish second as well as taking another good haul of Power Stage points. That has been very important for my position in the Drivers’ Championship, moving now into second place behind Ogier. Also, from a team point of view, with Dani in third, we have added more points to the team’s standings, so it’s been a valuable and successful weekend. Thanks to the team for their efforts, we can now look ahead to Sardinia, where we were victorious last season, in a very positive frame of mind.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally de Portugal
18-21 May 2017
Thierry Neuville – Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: RaceEMotion
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd) said:

“I am really happy with this podium result. I was a bit disappointed on Saturday not to be able to fight closer to the front, but Sébastien and Thierry were just too fast. It left me a bit too far away to attack more on today’s stages so I was just focused on finishing third and taking the podium. It was a fun and enjoyable weekend. The support of the spectators was incredible and it was fantastic to see so many people lining the stages. Big thanks to everyone who has cheered us on, and to everyone in the team for this great result.”

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak (4th) said:

“Generally, I think we can be pleased with our weekend. We made a mistake on Saturday which meant that we lost the chance to battle Seb for the victory, but we had good pace, good speed and a good feeling with the car.

“I think this was probably the best set-up that I have had all year. After every test we keep improving and we’ll have a two-day test next week to prepare for Sardinia where we hope to challenge for another strong result.

“This is traditionally the event where you see the true potential of the cars and, at the moment, it looks like we have a good package. For sure there are still some small improvements to be made, but it’s certainly looking promising.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:

“It’s been a rally of ups and downs. It’s not been the perfect weekend, but there are plenty of good things to take away. It wasn’t ideal that we made the mistake on Saturday, but when the going was good, so was the speed and we have to take that positive forward.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen (5th) said:

“It looks like I’ve signed up for fifth place for the season! It’s been another good weekend for us. We were one of the fastest on Friday and in all likelihood, we would have led the overall standings had we not hit a rock and broken a damper on SS7. We had a little bit more difficulty matching the pace of the leading cars on the next two days. I think there were several factors at play, but it was mainly down to my lack of knowledge of the stages and not having such a good starting position. We’ll keep working and try to do even better in Sardinia.”

Stéphane Lefebvre (13th) said:

“The result obviously falls way short of what we were looking for when we came here. We had worked particularly hard to prepare for this rally, but our race changed shape dramatically on Friday morning. After our roll, we tried to improve as we completed more stages. Our starting position certainly didn’t help us to show what we can do.”

Kris Meeke (18th) said:

“We ended the rally today having got back to a rhythm closer to that of the leading crews. It seems that our level of performance wasn’t as good after the first leg, and we’ll need to work out why. We must all keep working and, on my side of things, I have to cut out these minor mistakes.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (17th) said:

“We had quite a scare on the second run over the Fafe jump! I wanted to go faster than on the first pass, but it was clearly a bit too much… In any case, I’m pleased to make it to the end of my first rally in the Citroën C3 WRC. I need to get more kilometres under my belt to come to terms with its potential.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (29th) commented:

“First of all, I’d like to say big thanks to our team for their hard work. It’s been a frustrating one at times but they have never given up. In fact, they only dig deeper with each rally so we are all aiming to conquer this challenge together. We wanted to use these final stages of the rally to show what we could accomplish, and the fact we could set more stage wins only reinforced what might have been without our troubles. The Power Stage was fun. As first on the road, we had to do a lot of cleaning, more than we expected, but I enjoyed it. Seb has done an amazing job in his first time in the car. We could’ve been fighting for the win here this weekend but there are some encouraging signs for the future.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (9th)

“Physically, this is the hardest rally I have ever done in my career. I was feeling terrible yesterday, but I spent the night in hospital to rehydrate and as a result I felt a lot better today and we were able to finish in the points, which I am very happy about. There’s no test before Sardinia, so I have a chance to rest properly – I think I could sleep now for the next two days! – and come back even stronger for the next rally.”

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

Juho Hänninen (7th)

“I’m happy to end another rally in a points-scoring place, especially because we didn’t have much experience here and conditions were quite tricky, although not quite as bad as Argentina. The most important thing is that we learned a lot and generally had a clean run: this helps the confidence. Today we were trying a couple of different things for the future, and I had a lot of fun on the Fafe stage: the crowds were amazing and it was a fantastic experience, so thank you to them as well.”

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

Esapekka Lappi (10th)

“To be honest, before the rally I was hoping that we could score points in the overall classification, but I would never have dreamed of it happening on the Power Stage. So, in many ways, this rally didn’t exactly go as I expected, but I’m happy: I think we found the right speed, which is very important. On the first two stages, today I tried to save the tyres, then on the two final ones I could push harder. My landing after the jump on the Fafe Power Stage was interesting – but at least I could demonstrate how tough the suspension on the Yaris WRC is!”

Jipocar WRT

Coming into the last day, Mads was in a fight with Jari-Matti. The Fiesta crew was therefore very happy that they beat them! In his traditional showman way, Mads decided to go for it over the famous Fafe jump in the power stage. I’ll let him explain what happened!

Mads Østberg (8th) said:

“I saw the 40-metre sign coming towards us and we landed with our front left wheel more or less on top of it. A little bit more “exciting” than we had planned perhaps, but fun to give the huge crowd something to cheer for!”

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

Talking about the event overall, he went on to say,

“We started the rally with ambitions to fight for a top position, but their chances were destroyed with two punctures midway through Friday. The first one we “survived”, but on SS5 we had to stop and change the wheel and lost three and a half minutes. So, the rest of the rally has been a question of finishing and testing different set-ups. Of course, it has been disappointing not to be up among the frontrunners, but we have won two stages in this rally and also gained a lot of valuable experience.”

Finally explaining about the gold covered roof on their car, and their hopes looking forward to Rally Italia.

“We started to talk about the heat inside the car in Argentina. A black roof on the car actually sucks the rays of sun and heat into the car, and then someone suggested a shiny and reflective surface on the roof. And shiny gold really does the job.”

“It has been much cooler inside the car and much more comfortable for Ola and me. On long stages, we have experienced less sweating and dehydration. I feel that we are on the right course. Rally Portugal wasn`t as expected for us, but we have gained a lot of valuable experience with the car and will use that to fight for a better result in Sardinia.”

Well then, lets sum up the weekend. Seb returned M-Sport to the top step for the second time this year. Thierry and the Hyundai team continue their incredible consistency after those wobbles at the start of the year.

What about Hayden and Kris? Well, both really need a break. Since Kris won in Mexico, he has not scored a decent result. Who’d have thought that Craig would be the highest placed Citroen driver?!

Hayden also needs a break too. Unreliability has certainly cost him results him this year. He’s certainly shown the pace this year, just like Kris.

Finally, what about young Finn, Esapekka Lappi? On his first drive in a top car for Toyota he drove his Yaris WRC to tenth place and also scored points in the power stage. Impressive indeed, and he clearly has a future at the top of this sport.

Let’s take a look then at the championship positions for the drivers and teams.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round six:

1 Sebastien Ogier 128

2 Thierry Neuville 106

3 Jari-Matti Latvala 88

4 Ott Tanak 83

5 Dani Sordo 66

6 Elfyn Evans 53

7 Craig Breen 43

8 Hayden Paddon 33

9 Kris Meeke 27

10 Juho Hänninen 21

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round six:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 199

2 Hyundai Motorsport 173

3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 113

4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 85

Hope you enjoyed my review of Rally de Portugal.

Warren Nel

@Warren_S_Nel (Twitter)

@warrensnel (Instagram)

1st June 2017

Rally Argentina Review 2017 – Thierry gets it at the end!

When I wrote that this is the modern-day Acropolis Rally, I meant it. It’s tough on the cars and drivers. We saw all sorts of problems, and through it all, the margin between first and second place came down to just seven tenths of a second.

A reminder then of the 18 stages that made this year’s Rally Argentina such a thriller!

FRIDAY 28 APRIL

7.00am: Service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.38am: SS2 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 1 (19.95km)

9.41am: SS3 – Amboy / Santa Monica 1 (20.44km)

10.24am: SS4 – Santa Rosa / San Agustin 1 (23.85km)

12.29pm: SS5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6.04km)

1.09pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

3.02pm: SS6 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 2 (19.95km)

4.05pm: SS7 – Amboy / Santa Monica 2 (20.44km)

4.48pm: SS8 – Santa Rosa / San Agustin 2 (23.85km)

7.08pm: SS9 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6.04km)

7.43pm: Flexi Service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SATURDAY 29 APRIL

7.20am: Service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.08am: SS10 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 1 (20.80km)

9.21am: SS11 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 1 (38.68km)

10.14am: SS12 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 1 (20.52km)

12.04pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

1.08pm: SS13 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 2 (20.80km)

2.21pm: SS14 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 2 (38.68km)

3.14pm: SS15 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 2 (20.52km)

5.04pm: Flexi Service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SUNDAY 30 APRIL

7.15am: Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

9.13am: SS16 – El Condor – Copina (16.32km)

10.56am: SS17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (22.64km)

12.18pm: SS18 – Power Stage El Condor (16.32km)

1.41pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 min)

2.01pm: Finish

On Thursday morning shakedown showed that once again the cars were pretty close to each other.

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS

1. Latvala 4:02.0

2. Paddon 4:02.1

3. Sordo 4:02.2

4. Neuville 4:02.6

5. Ogier 4:03.0

6. Ostberg 4:03.4

7. Meeke 4:03.5

8. Breen 4:04.4

9. Tanak 4:05.3

10. Hanninen 4:06.4

The crews would enter in championship position.

Ogier, Latvala, Neuville, Tanak, Sordo, Breen, Meeke, Paddon, Evans, Hanninen, Ostberg, Bertelli

Stage one was held on the Thursday evening and the short 1,75km stage would confirm the close pace!

The leaderboard would look as so.

1. Ogier 1:53.8

2. Evans +0:00,9

3. Sordo +0:00,9

4. Neuville +0:01,6

5. Latvala +0:02,1

6. Ostberg +0:02,4

7. Paddon +0:02,5

8. Meeke +0:02,7

9. Tanak +0:03,1

10. Hanninen +0:03,8

It was a cold start on Friday morning and Elfyn Evans in his D-Mack shod Fiesta would power through and take the lead on the 19,95km stage at an average speed of 94,2km. Clearly road position would be an advantage to those further down in the championship standings. Ogier could only manage seventh fastest after sliding wide on a left-hander. Kris was the closest challenger to the young welsh wizard, just a few seconds behind in his Citroen C3. Dani was also enjoying a good start to the event! Ogier would slide wide after a wrong pacenote, and would drop some time. Hayden would roll in this stage, but not in a big way. He would lose two and a half minutes though.

SS2 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 1 (19,95km)

1. Evans – 12:42,3 (94,2kph)

2. Meeke +0:04,6

3. Sordo +0:06,9

Stage three next of course, and there was drama for Dani, who ran wide and damaged a steering arm. Whilst he replaced it, he would lose 11 minutes!

SS3 – Amboy – Saint Monica 1 (20,44km)

1. Evans – 10:18,8 (118,9kph)

2. Meeke +0:02,3

3. Tanak +0:02,7

Stage four next, and there would be big drama for both Kris and Craig in their Citroen’s! Kris would roll in the stage after hitting a bump in the road which launched the car into a big roll. Incredibly, Craig would hit the same bump, and this would damage his gearbox leaving him stuck in fifth gear. With the demise of Kris, Jari-Matti would move into second place overall and Mads third! His secret plan was working well!

SS4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,85km)

1. Evans – 13:44,8 (104,1kph)

2. Latvala +0:02,8

3. Tanak +0:05,6

The short six km stage before service was next. Elfyn was driving really well and now had increased his lead to thirty seconds!

SS5 – Super Especial Parque Tematico (6,04km)

1. Evans – 4:43,5 (76,7kph)

2. Neuville +0:02,2

3. Ostberg +0:03,4

Stage six then, and Jari-Matti would get some problems with overheating in his Toyota, and he just could not understand why there was a problem! It was a great time though for Mads, and he would move ahead of Jari-Matti into second place overall!

SS6 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 2 (19,95km)

1. Evans – 12:35,9 (95,0kph)

2. Neuville +0:08,7

3. Ostberg +0:12,0

Stage seven next and Seb would start to push hard and move up as would Thierry in his Hyundai. Hayden would go well though here as well, clearly getting back in the groove.

SS7 – Amboy – Santa Monica 2 (20,44km)

1. Evans – 10:21,1 (118,5kph)

2. Paddon +0:00,0

3. Ostberg +0:00,1

Hayden would go one better in the next stage, becoming the first driver to beat Elfyn all day in a stage. The big mover was Thierry, who moved from fifth overall, into third and only ten seconds behind the flying Mads!

SS8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,85km)

1. Paddon – 13:39,0 (104,8kph)

2. Evans +0:04,0

3. Neuville +0:07,1

So the final stage of the day, and this would be won by Thierry, but Elfyn would remain in the lead, from Mads, who was now just five seconds ahead of Thierry.

SS9 – Super Especial Parque Tematico 2 (6,04km)

1. Neuville – 4:49,4 (75,1kph)

2. Latvala +0:00,3

3. Ogier +0:01,4

Here’s the thoughts then of the top three at the end of the first day.

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

“It’s been a really positive day for us – everything has been working well and we got ourselves into a pretty good rhythm from the word go. I’ve really enjoyed the driving and what more can I say…? The car has performed really well and the driver’s not been too bad either!

“We’re really glad to be here with no dramas and in such a strong position. But we need to remember that there is still a long way to go. The stages tomorrow are really nice, but quite challenging and we’re expecting another tough day out there which is always the case in Argentina.

“But right now, it feels pretty good. Tomorrow, we just need to go out there and continue to enjoy it. We’ll try not to think too much about the result and just focus on ourselves as if it’s a brand new day.”

Mads Østberg (2nd) said:

I had a good feeling before the start, but still a bit unsure of where we would find ourselves after the first stages as I have not competed since Sweden. But the day has been good and has confirmed that the development work we have done on the car, has been successful

The result today is a team effort. We have a small but competent team, and everybody is working in the same direction. I got a very good feeling during our test in Portugal in the beginning of April, when I felt that the whole team worked according to my own ideas for set-up of the car. We all have the same goal and that is to fight for podiums in the WRC, which is exactly what we are doing right now.

I really didn`t know what to expect, even if I felt the speed was good. Now I have got that confirmation and we will continue working to go even faster. Tomorrow will be a long and tough day and tyre choice and strategy will be important, but we will push as hard as we can to stay in the fight for a podium.

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

Thierry Neuville (3rd) commented:

“We are pretty happy to end today in third place overall considering just how difficult it has been for everyone. Argentina has always been a demanding event but that is the case even more so this weekend. We had a hard morning loop. A lot of things happened in the stages so we were pleased to make it to service. We picked up some damage to the rear damper, which meant we couldn’t push and didn’t feel as comfortable. The mechanics did an exceptional job over lunchtime to get all our team’s cars ready for the afternoon. Although it was still tricky, I felt better and we could make up some positions to keep firmly in the podium fight. There’s a long way to go!”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“Like expected, it’s been a tough day and difficult for everyone. Many people had a lot of trouble and, on top of that, we knew that we would suffer from opening the road. We were fighting as much as we could and I’m happy with where we are tonight. We’re still in a good fight for the podium and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.

“We will keep pushing and tomorrow should be a much more enjoyable day. These long stages are very beautiful and I’m sure we will have good fun driving them.

“Elfyn has had incredible speed today and no one could match his performance. It’s been an impressive drive from him and Dan. If they continue like this then no one will have a chance of catching them. But of course, we always need to remember that there is still a long way to go.”

Ott Tänak (5th) said:

“It’s been a tricky day. We knew that this rally would be hard on the cars and my plan was always to drive quite safely and to look after the car. Maybe we were a bit too cautious in some of the rougher sections, but we made it through which has been the most important thing today.

“On the smoother sections, we’ve still been driving quite fast and the times have been okay so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to fight for at least second place tomorrow.

“It’s still all very close and anything can happen. Tomorrow’s stages aren’t as rough as the ones we saw today and they should be easier on the cars – and for sure more enjoyable to drive.

“There’s still a long way to go but I’m looking forward to a good battle tomorrow.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“I was surprised by how rough it was right from the very first stage: we hit the sump guard hard in about five places, so I knew it was going to be tough. In the afternoon conditions were even rougher, with all the cars having already passed through the stage once, so we raised our car to play safe. This set-up was definitely safer, but I didn’t feel so confident with it. On stage eight we were avoiding a rock, went wide, and put the tyre off the rim. There were about 15 kilometres to go and we drove on the rim to the finish, which is where we lost the time. That was bad luck, but at least we are still here and ready to improve some more over the next challenging two days.”

Juho Hänninen (9th)

“It was really rough all day, which meant that you focused simply on getting through the stages. In the morning, we had a power loss, which cost us a bit of time, but we were able to find the problem and fix it at service easily. Then we had no issues for the rest of the day. In the morning, we also lost part of the aero package over the bumps: it made the handling quite tricky but it was still OK. Tomorrow, we will hopefully be able to make up some more places: this is definitely a rally of endurance.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (7th) said: “Things definitely went better in the afternoon! Conditions have been very rough out there today. It’s a lot tougher this year, especially with the extra speed for the new cars. In the first stage of the day, we were caught out at a hairpin and the car rolled. It was very slow and thankfully we could get out and get it back over. The car wasn’t quite as competitive as it was before but we were still in the rally. The team worked fantastically at service to get us ready for the afternoon. It is good to take our first stage win of the season, but we know this will be a rally of attrition so we have plenty still to fight for.”

John Kennard (NZL) seen after crash during the FIA World Rally Championship 2017 in Carloz-Paz, Argentina on April 28, 2017

Dani Sordo (13th) said: “It was really bad luck! There were lots of loose rocks and I knew it would be hard on the cars. We reached a fast-right-hand corner in the second stage this morning and touched something on the inside. The result was a broken steering arm, which we had to stop and fix. We just lost so much time. It’s hugely disappointing because I really enjoy this rally and the car felt quick. Thanks to the team, we could continue into the afternoon. My aim now is to try and make the most of the weekend and see what we can pick up.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“This fourth stage turned into something of a nightmare for the team, since both cars were forced to retire at the same time. It’s a shame because before that, my pace was good and I was holding second place behind Elfyn. Then we were surprised by this bump in the road: it just launched the car and I couldn’t regain control before the next corner. We hit the bank on the outside of the corner and rolled. It wasn’t a massive crash, but it did a lot of damage to the car.”

Craig Breen

“Right from the start this morning, I had moments in several places, the road surface was just so difficult to judge. I wasn’t pushing that much, but I knew that’s what I needed to do and stay patient. On the fourth stage, I was caught out by this compression on a fast-left-hand corner. The bottom of the car hit the ground hard and that damaged the gearbox. We tried to keep going to make it to service, but oil leaked out and we had to retire. We’ll be back tomorrow to keep picking up experience.”

Top ten at the end of the first day

1. Evans 1:24:55,4

2. Ostberg +0:55,7

3. Neuville +1:00,7

4. Ogier +1:06,7

5. Tanak +1:11,3

6. Latvala +1:29,9

7. Paddon +3:41,8

8. Bertelli +4:13,9

9. Hanninen +4:48,6

10. Tidemand +6:32.3

Day two then and could anyone catch Elfyn and Dan in their D-Mack Fiesta with the six stages and 160km of stages? Seb didn’t have a good start and had to avoid a dog and then he got stuck in a water splash, losing him more time. Thierry had a huge moment on the exit of a right-hander, nearly spinning which caused a puncture on the rear right tyre. The sun was so low, that he couldn’t see the apex of the corner and went in too fast. In the same stage Mads lost his rear diffuser and then also started to spin in the same corner as Thierry. He’d also started to get hydraulic problems, meaning that his handbrake was not working and the centre diff was affected as well. Elfyn did a great stage and won it, extending his lead over Thierry, but how impressive was the Belgian, only eight tenths down from the young Welshman?! Kris returned to the fray with a rebuilt C3, going third fastest.

SS10 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 1 (20,8km)

1. Evans – 11:00,2 (113,4kph)

2. Neuville +0:00,8

3. Meeke +0:02,1

Kris would win stage eleven, showing good pace in his Citroen and Ott would go ahead of Seb in this stage as well and in doing so close on Mads who was really struggling without his rear diffuser.

SS11 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 1 (38,68km)

1. Meeke – 20:01,6 (115,9kph)

2. Neuville +0:00,6

3. Tanak +0:01,5

Stage twelve would see another mistake from Seb, running wide and having to rejoin the road, costing him more precious seconds. Kris won the stage, with Mads just behind, clearly getting a handle of his car woes. There was a little drama though for Elfyn who misheard a note from Dan and they picked up a puncture on the right rear.

SS12 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 1 (20,52km)

1. Meeke – 13:18,2 (92,5kph)

2. Ostberg +0:01,1

3. Tanak +0:01,8

Stage thirteen now and Ott was on a mission targeting both Mads and Thierry ahead of him. The smoother roads were suiting his style and he got past Mads into third place and was only nine seconds down on Thierry.

SS13 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 2 (20,8km)

1. Tanak – 10:47,9 (115,6kph)

2. Ogier +0:01,2

3. Meeke +0:01,8

Stage fourteen would see the retirement of Mads. He hit a rock and damaged the right-rear suspension. A sorry end after a massively heroic drive. Thierry was right in the groove now and closing on Elfyn. Hardly a surprise given that he’d lost downforce at the rear of the car. Sadly, this was the stage which saw Kris roll spectacularly out. The car was totaled and they were out.

SS14 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 2 (38,68km)

1. Tanak – 19:45,5 (117,5kph)

2. Neuville +0:00,0

3. Paddon +0:02,0

Stage fifteen would see Thierry close even more, going nearly 19 seconds faster than Elfyn with Ott and Hayden second and third fastest.

SS 15 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 1 (20,52km)

1. Neuville 12:59,5 (94,8kph)

2. Tanak +0:06,9

3. Paddon +0:10,4

That was the last stage of the day, and Elfyns’ lead was just 11.9 seconds. Could he hang on and take his maiden WRC victory, or would Thierry nick it?

1. Evans 2:40:27,3

2. Neuville +0:30,4

3. Tanak +0:38,8

4. Ogier +0:57,2

5. Latvala +1:25,1

6. Paddon +4:35,2

7. Bertelli +8:02,0

8. Hanninen +8:43,4

9. Sordo +13:20,3

10. Tidemand +13:57.5

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

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

“We’ve not had the best of days with a few issues here and there. Some small mistake from myself and a few little niggles with the car have dented our advantage quite a lot, but it’s still an advantage and it’s all to play for tomorrow.

“We’re here to do a job so we’ll focus on that and do the best we possibly can. There’s still a hard 50 kilometres to go and anything can happen, but we’ll be giving it our all.

“After all the hard work over the past two days, we didn’t come here to finish second. If Thierry wants this victory, we’re going to make him fight for it!”

Thierry Neuville (2nd) commented:

“We couldn’t have asked for more from our Saturday. The day didn’t start too well after I got caught out on the opening stage, and picked up a puncture. Things improved after that and we were able to catch Mads to extend our grasp on second place. The balance of the car was good and for the most part I felt comfortable. We gave a bit of a push in the final stages to try and reduce the gap to Elfyn, which we were able to do. The aim is always to win but it’s going to be a tough fight, not only for the victory but also to defend our current position from those chasing behind us. We will see what happens!”

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“It was always the plan to play it quite safe through the first day. Maybe we were a bit too cautious in places, but today it was a lot easier on the car and we could enjoy the driving a lot more.

“I think it was a good drive from us today. We made some quite big changes to the car during service and things got even better in the afternoon.

“Tomorrow will be a really tough day with two very tricky stages. In these stages, 20 seconds is nothing so we need to keep going and keep concentrated. Anything is possible so we’ll keep focused and keep pushing.”

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“We’ve had some small issues today and struggled to find the speed that we wanted. This morning we had some problems with the rear of the car. It felt very unstable but the team changed everything during the midday service and it felt a lot better after that.

“We had a good first stage in the afternoon, but I started to struggle again towards the end of the loop. During the last stage, in particular we had massive wheel-spin which knocked our confidence.

“It’s not been the day we wanted and we’re not in the best position to fight for the podium, but with these two stages a lot can still happen. Our target will be to get through them without issue and then see what we can gain from the Power Stage. We still have to push, because anything can still happen.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“We started the day really well, although in the morning it was tricky to see because the sun was in my eyes. The second stage of the morning loop was actually where I had an accident last year, so I was maybe a little bit too careful. We’re more or less there on pace, but we’re missing just a little bit; I’m not entirely sure what it is. I seem to be losing small chunks of time to the leaders; I think maybe through being a little bit too aggressive in the corners. But still we’re going to keep the pressure on and see how it goes. The final day tomorrow is a bit shorter, but it’s still going to be one of the most challenging days of the whole rally.”

Juho Hänninen (7th)

“The car felt a bit nervous today in the rough conditions but it was reliable, although not so easy to drive. I just wanted to be careful and make sure that we got to the end with no problems. In the end, we managed to do that and even make up some places. I’ve obviously been talking with the engineers and we think we can make some changes to make the car better for me tomorrow. Again, the priority will be to have a clean day and try to score some points.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (6th) said:

“I was happy with our speed in the morning loop, considering our road position. We had a good feeling in the car and were preparing to push in the afternoon. A broken roll bar in the first stage of the repeat loop was definitely not what we wanted. We had to fix that and in doing so we were six minutes late to check-in for the following stage, incurring a time penalty. Generally, though, the stages today were smooth, flowing and enjoyable to drive. There was still a bit of frustration over what happened on Friday because without that we could have been in the fight for second place – and, from there, who knows what could have happened. We can’t dwell on that, though. We will instead aim to finish the rally strongly and secure some valuable Championship points for a top-six finish.”

Dani Sordo (9th) said: “Being first on the road today made it almost impossible to set good times, but these are the rules. We’ve had very little luck this weekend, but I am sure it will be better next time. We simply wanted to go out there and enjoy ourselves. We have benefited from other crews’ misfortune to make up some positions, and we are now inside the top-ten. Tomorrow, we will adopt a similar approach, trying to bring the car home safely and then look forward to Portugal.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“This morning, I was pleased to be able to repay my mechanics for the incredible job they did in repairing the car last night with two stage wins. It was also good to be able to contest these stages, which are new for all the crews, and find some good pace with the car again. On SS14, I lost control of the car on a very fast corner. I oversteered, the car span and we hit a bank. We were then thrown into a series of rolls…”

The final day dawned bright and warm. Thierry was poised, but could Elfyn get that win?

Stage 16 beckoned and Ott continued his push, winning the stage. Elfyn lost more time, after experiencing brakes that would not work at first, but then came back to him later in the stage. His lead was now 9 seconds.

SS16 El Condor – Copina (16,32km)

1. Tanak 13:07,0

2. Neuville +0:01,3

3. Evans +0:03,8

Stage 17 and Thierry flew through the stage, an incredible 8.4 seconds faster and this meant that the gap was just 6 tenths of a second, with Elfyn just in the lead. Elfyn’s car started to overheat again. One stage remained.

SS17 Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (22,64km)

1. Neuville 18:05,0 (75,1kph)

2. Evans +0:08.4

3. Breen +0:11,7

It was time for the final stage and Thierry won the stage. The question was, could Elfyn do enough to keep the Hyundai driver behind? Well, 5.7km into the stage, Elfyn was 3.1 seconds up on Thierry! Mega drive! Coming to a bridge, the Fiesta rear slid and hit the post. He lost all of his advantage there sadly crossing the line 1.3 seconds slower in the stage. Thierry had won the event by seven tenths of a second, the closest finish for six years!

SS18 El Condor (16,32km)

1. Neuville 3:38:10.6

2. Evans +0.7

3. Tanak +29.9

It’s his second victory in a row and takes him closer to second place in the world championship. Let’s hear what the top three had to say then.

Thierry Neuville (1st) commented:

“I cannot believe it. I have never had such a nerve-wracking final few minutes of a rally in my career. It’s an amazing result and I have to say thanks first of all to the team for everything they’ve done. Congratulations also to Elfyn, who put up an incredible fight this weekend. I gave it absolutely everything I had in today’s final stages. After the difficult start to the rally, I would have been happy to take second but it’s a special feeling to win again. It has been an exciting but crazy rally from the start, so to come away with the victory is fantastic. We wanted to build up our momentum after Corsica and this was the perfect way to do just that. To have the Power Stage win is just the icing on the cake and gives us a very important boost in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship. We could not have asked for more.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
27-30 April 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Elfyn Evans (2nd) said:

“We’ve got mixed emotions at the end of this one. It’s obviously disappointing to have missed out on victory by such a fine margin but it was definitely a rally of two halves.

“Thierry had his own problems on Friday whilst we had a really good day and were able to establish a fairly reasonable lead. But it was a case of role reversal over the next two days.

“Thierry drove really well and no one can take that away from him, but we had a fair amount of problems – some self-inflicted and some not. To be honest, we didn’t have a clean run since the opening stage on Saturday morning so it was a big push to keep the battle so close.

“It’s a long story and I could probably write a list as long as my arm for why we didn’t manage to make it stick this weekend – but all credit to Thierry. He’s driven really well and from our side there are still a lot of positives that we can take away.

“When everything was working well, our speed was really strong. We just need to make sure that we learn from this weekend and come back stronger.”

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

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“It’s been a very good weekend for us. In the past I’ve not been so lucky here so we decided to change the approach and had a clear strategy of what we wanted to do.

“We played it safe through the rough stages on Friday – maybe a bit too safe to be honest as we gave a lot of time away. But since Saturday morning when the conditions became a lot smoother we have been on the pace.

“The guys at the front have been really on it today so we weren’t able to build on third position, but we come away with another podium and some good points so we’re happy with that.

“Coming up next, Portugal is one of my favourite rallies. I’m really excited to get back to Europe and tackle some of the more ‘traditional’ gravel events. We’re in a strong position in both championships and the plan will be to build on that as the season continues.”

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

The rest of the drivers

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“It’s been a very difficult weekend for us. For much of the rally we’ve had a strange feeling with the car and lacked confidence as a result. For the moment, we’re not sure what is causing the issue so we’ll have to look into that before the next event and ensure we get to the bottom of it.

“Regarding the hard weekend, we’ve had, to score 14 points is not too bad and we’re still leading the championship which is the most important thing.”

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“The final day of the rally was consistent. I tried not to be a superhero and just finish the rally safely! Our car is very tough, we can say that for sure, and we certainly improved the performance compared to the last gravel round in Mexico. We got one point for the Power Stage and took fifth overall, but the most important thing was that we kept our consistent run of points that we had from Monte-Carlo, and so the championship stays open. It’s incredible, but in all of my career I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to the front after just five rallies. Now I’m looking forward to the next test and the next rally, so that we can keep on making the car better.”

Juho Hänninen (7th)

“Our last day went without a problem and that was good because I needed to finish. We drove quite carefully as there was some big gaps in front and behind us, so no point in taking any risks. El Condor was actually much rougher than I expected, so my goal was just to bring the car back in one piece. In general this has been an extremely tough and demanding rally, with some especially rough roads, but now we have got to the end of it, scored some points, and learned a lot, so I am happy.”

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (6th) said: “You could not have written a script more opposite to what we had here last season. We’ve gone from a career high to a result that is much lower on the scale. I just can’t believe our luck. Our issue on Friday was long behind us as we started to show some improved performance. There was not much we could do about our position but we wanted to build a rhythm. I didn’t have the feeling with the car in this morning’s stages, and that culminated with a power steering problem in the Power Stage. We struggled to the finish but sixth place is not where we want to be.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
27-30 April 2017
Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (8th) said: “It has been a horrible weekend for us. The rally was over almost as soon as it had begun, really. When you lose so much time early on in the event, as we did, it is impossible to regain that. We just had to concentrate on bringing the car to the end but even that was difficult. The puncture on El Condor came at the beginning of the stage, and it typified our luck this weekend. Incredibly unfortunate and it’s a shame because I feel that we had the car to do better. I just want to put this behind us and look ahead to Portugal.”

Well, what an amazing event! Just incredible. Elfyn will win this season I believe. What about Thierry as well? He’s definitely offering up a challenge for this year’s title. Seb is doing just enough to remain in front with his fourth-place finish. Finally, Kris and Citroen, what must they be thinking? Their season has to be due some luck soon.

Final Standings

1. Neuville 3:38:10.6

2. Evans +0.7

3. Tänak +29.9

4. Ogier +1:24.7

5. Latvala +1:48.1

6. Paddon +7:42.7

7. Hänninen +11:16.9

8. Sordo +14:44.1

9. Østberg +15:11.3

10. Tidemand +17:32.1

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Sébastien Ogier – 102 points

2. Jari-Matti Latvala – 86 points

3. Thierry Neuville – 84 points

4. Ott Tanak – 66 points

5. Dani Sordo – 51 points

6. Elfyn Evans – 42 points

7. CRAIG BREEN – 33 points

8. Hayden Paddon – 33 points

9. KRIS MEEKE – 27 points

10. Juho Hanninen – 15 points

11. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points

12. STEPHANE LEFEBVRE – 10 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. M-Sport WRT – 162 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport – 140 points

3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – 102 points

4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 73 points

 

Warren Nel, WRC editor

Rally Argentina Preview 2017- The modern day Acropolis!

 

Time for Round Five! Its back to the rough stuff for the first in five rounds that are going to all feature gravel and no tarmac. This event for the last two years has featured new winners with Kris Meeke winning in 2015 and Hayden Paddon last year.

Incredibly, Seb Ogier has never won this event. Him and Julien have finished in the runner up position three times in seven starts.

Now, you could argue that this event is the modern-day Acropolis Rally, given the unbelievable roughness. This year there are 18 stages covering 357.59km’s! It’s a tough event indeed. Also, it’s held in their autumn, so there will be fog on some stages.

The Citroen team have won this event 10 times since 2004, including the last time they entered this event in 2015 when Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle took their first victory! However last time out they retired from the lead. The team investigated the problem and this is what their Technical Director Laurent Fregosi had to say.

“When we got back from the Tour de Corse, we analysed Kris Meeke’s car to identify the reason for his retirement. The cause was a broken lubrication system connector, so it wasn’t an actual engine issue. Obviously, we studied an alternative solution, which came through with flying colours at our recent pre-event testing. During the five days of testing, we focused on the suspension, which is a very decisive factor in car performance and driver confidence on gravel. Argentina is a tough event, as the loose ground deteriorates between the two passes, exposing large rocks on the road. Combined with the high speeds reached, the impacts subject the chassis and the suspensions systems to considerable stress.”

So, here are the details of each stage awaiting the crews.

RALLY ARGENTINA SCHEDULE (GMT-3)

THURSDAY 27 APRIL

8.00am Shakedown (Villa Carlos Paz – Cabalango)

4.00pm: Start (Villa Carlos Paz)

5.10pm: Regroup (Córdoba)

7.08pm: SS1 – Ciudad de Córdoba (1.75km)

8.18pm: Parc ferme (Villa Carlos Paz)

FRIDAY 28 APRIL

7.00am: Service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.38am: SS2 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 1 (19.95km)

9.41am: SS3 – Amboy / Santa Monica 1 (20.44km)

10.24am: SS4 – Santa Rosa / San Agustin 1 (23.85km)

12.29pm: SS5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6.04km)

1.09pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

3.02pm: SS6 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 2 (19.95km)

4.05pm: SS7 – Amboy / Santa Monica 2 (20.44km)

4.48pm: SS8 – Santa Rosa / San Agustin 2 (23.85km)

7.08pm: SS9 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6.04km)

7.43pm: Flexi Service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SATURDAY 29 APRIL

7.20am: Service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.08am: SS10 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 1 (20.80km)

9.21am: SS11 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 1 (38.68km)

10.14am: SS12 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 1 (20.52km)

12.04pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

1.08pm: SS13 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 2 (20.80km)

2.21pm: SS14 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 2 (38.68km)

3.14pm: SS15 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 2 (20.52km)

5.04pm: Flexi Service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SUNDAY 30 APRIL

7.15am: Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

9.13am: SS16 – El Condor – Copina (16.32km)

10.56am: SS17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (22.64km)

12.18pm: SS18 – Power Stage El Condor (16.32km)

1.41pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 min)

2.01pm: Finish

Right then, let’s hear from the drivers then.

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

It’s remarkable to think that it now two years since Kris won his first WRC event. I was lucky enough to write about this as one of my first ever reports, and to see him go on to win further rallies since then has been fantastic. We saw that the car has very good pace on gravel with Kris and Paul’s win in Mexico last month. There’s no doubt that they will be near the front again.

Kris Meeke said:

“I only have good memories of racing in Argentina: third place on my first appearance and then my first WRC win, which is now two years ago! This rally is also special for its atmosphere and the excitement – some might even call it craziness – of the crowds. As soon as you get off the plane, you can feel that people love motorsport. Even though I didn’t compete here last year, I’ve every reason to feel confident. What with my win in Mexico, the start of the Tour de Corse and the work done in testing this week, I feel good coming into this rally. I’m nonetheless aware of the difficulties of this event, which can be fairly unpredictable.”

Craig Breen said:

“I can’t wait to compete in my very first rally outside Europe! Argentina looks like a fantastic country, with some magnificent stages. I know I’m going to have a lot to learn and I’m aware that it could be a tough weekend for me. It’ll be my first event on gravel in the C3 WRC and it’s a quite a few years now since I last took part in a rally which was completely new to me. I’ll be making the most of every kilometre to build up my experience, without thinking about the final outcome. I’ll be able to use the work done during this week’s test in Portugal: I had a very good feeling in the car.”

M-Sport WRT

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

It’s been great to see M-Sport back at the front again after a long time of no wins. They’ve lead the manufacturers championship from the start and Seb leads the drivers’ championship. He’ll be looking to continue this, but on the first day he’ll be running first on the road. This will make tyre choice critical. Feedback from the safety gravel crews will be extremely important.

Sébastien Ogier said:

“Rally Argentina is the only event that Julien and I have not yet won and, every year, we go there with the ambition of securing victory for the first time. That has not changed this year. We want to win, but it won’t be easy.

“We’ll be opening the road through on the first day which brings its own challenges, and then there are the stages themselves. The surface is unlike anything we have visited so far this year. It’s gravel, but it’s a completely different type of gravel to what we experienced in Mexico.

“In Argentina, the roads are much softer and sandier but also quite rough in places. That means that challenging for the win is always going to be a compromise between speed and endurance.

“I had two days of development testing in Portugal last week and everything is moving in the right direction, so we’ll be hoping for another strong result next week.”

Ott Tänak said:

“It feels good to be heading back to gravel, but we start with a big challenge at Rally Argentina.

“It’s not like my favourite high-speed events where you can use the entire road and slide from one side to the other. Here, there is always something to hit. Rocks can often get dragged onto the stage and you need to keep your eyes open – you have to keep that margin and know which risks are worth taking and which ones aren’t.

“In the past, I’ve not had the best of luck in Argentina, but I feel as though we’ve done a lot to improve ourselves and it would be nice to put that right this year.

“We had a good test last week – working to improve the handling of the car and to get an even better feeling behind the wheel. I’m looking forward to next week and I think we have a fair chance of a strong result, so let’s see what we can do.”

D-Mack WRT

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans said:

“We’ve got some special memories from Rally Argentina, and we’re looking forward to getting back on the loose stuff. We’ve not had the best of luck so far this season, but hopefully that’ll change when we get back behind the wheel next week.

“It’s an event that I’ve always enjoyed, but you have to take a fairly measured approach. Each day is really different in terms of character, but there is always very little margin for error with something to catch you out around practically every corner. You have to have a clean rally for the majority and keep mistakes to a minimum.

“That said, it is definitely a real highlight on the calendar. The fans are phenomenal – some camping out on El Condor days before the action begins. There’s a real passion for motorsport in Argentina and it’s always special to compete here.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Argentina // April 21-24, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

This team have definitely built the fastest car, and in Thierry a great driver capable of winning. The win last time out in Corsica has kickstarted their season and the team won this event last year with Hayden and John taking their first WRC victory. The team will be determined to continue this and take the fight to championship leader Seb.

Hayden Paddon said:

“When you go back to a rally where you’ve got good memories, it’s very easy to be in a positive frame of mind. I would love to repeat that result again, although I’m obviously under no illusions as to how difficult that it will be. However, once you’ve won it once, you have to go back with the target of trying to win it again and that’s exactly what we are aiming to do. We have a good run of gravel rallies ahead of us and we should have a decent road position, so I’m determined that Argentina will be the real start of my season.”

Thierry Neuville commented:

“The result from Tour de Corse is still fresh in our minds so we want to carry this feeling forward. Argentina is a completely different challenge to what we faced in Corsica, but we will do our best to pick up some momentum in the Championship with another good performance. Rally Argentina is probably the roughest rally of the season. It’s a rally where you need to take extra care in certain sections. The terrain doesn’t suit my style of driving perfectly and it is a rally where I have never found too much speed. Yet, this year we are looking forward to it with our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. I think we will be much better in these conditions and a lot more comfortable as well.”

Dani Sordo said:

“The rallies in the Americas are always special events for me personally. The roads are really rough and there are always so many spectators. The atmosphere is guaranteed to be fantastic, and we can really feel that support when we are on the stages. It gives us a boost. However, Argentina is an incredibly demanding rally for both car and crew, so we know that we will have to be at our absolute best to secure a good result. We always like to drive in Rally Argentina, so we are excited about our chances. It was great to score our first podium of the season in Corsica, despite it being a difficult weekend. I hope we can make a more confident mark on next weekend’s rally and aim for another top-three performance.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Toyota have made a remarkable return to the world championship, and with Jari-Matti they really do have a great driver. He’s won this event before as well, so despite Toyota not having much experience, they will be near the front I believe.

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

“I’ve always had a very good feeling with Rally Argentina. We’ve won it before, and even last year we were leading until we had a problem and went off on Saturday afternoon. The first two days are fast and flowing, then the last day is slower and more technical, with tricky stages featuring lots of corners and the possibility of very bad weather conditions, especially fog. Although the roads tend to be soft and sandy there is generally quite good grip, I have been working on the differential settings in particular: I didn’t feel that they were the best for me in Mexico, so that is something I really wanted to improve for Argentina, and we have some good solutions now.”

Juho Hänninen said:

“I have many fond memories of Argentina, so I’m really looking forward to getting back there after many years away as it’s one of my favourite gravel rallies. It’s not just the stages that are fantastic, but also the fans, who are so passionate about rallying: even on the road sections. Of course, one big unknown is the weather because everything is possible over there, which makes it difficult if the stage conditions change after the recce. In any case, it won’t affect our set-up a lot: if it’s really muddy you can make the car a bit softer but we won’t make any big changes. Whatever happens, it’s important just to drive naturally without feeling too much pressure.”

Onebet Jipocar WRT

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

Mads missed both Rally Mexico and then also The Tour de Corse events, so comes into the event with good knowledge, but lacking experience with the new generation of WRC cars. Rally Mexico was missed as his wife Beate was due to give birth and then the team missed Tour de Corse as they didn’t get the tarmac suspension in time to do a proper test. The good news is that the team did a two-day test in Portugal to get some seat time and test suspension and differential settings for Argentina. They feel that they are as ready as they could be, and also this event is very different to the Rally Mexico event, even though they are both gravel.

Mads Østberg said:

“I have done only one rally in the 2017-spec car, while most of my opponents has done four. I have a good feeling before Argentina, but must admit I am a bit unsure of what I can expect result-wise in my first competitive outing after nearly three months. I love the stages and the atmosphere, and I am positive to deliver some good stage times, but the competition level has become very high this season and I lack some experience with the new spec car compared to the other guys. My goal for the season is to fight for podium places, I can`t promise this will happen in Argentina.”

So, we are primed for another great rally I believe. Four different winners so far, this season, could that trend continue, or will we see the first repeat winner?

Enjoy!

Warren Nel, WRC editor

@Warren_S_Nel

Tour de Corse 2017 Review. Thierry claims Victory!

This year’s Tour de Corse is a tale of two halves. The Citroen team had done some serious hard work before, to try and get a handle on the car’s behaviour on asphalt after the disappointment in Monte Carlo.

Shakedown suggested that there would be little in it.

1 Ogier 3:50.7

2 Paddon 3:51.3

3 Meeke 3:51.6

4 Latvala 3:51.8

5 Neuville 3:51.8

6 Tanak 3:52.0

7 Sordo 3:52.2

8 Breen 3:52.7

9 Lefebvre 3:54.0

10 Evans 3:55.0

All of the teams have experienced reliability problems this year and this is what would happen here too.

So, the first day’s action would be played over these stages, without a midday service. Should anything happen, then the crews would have to solve it as best as they could.

9.22am: SS1 – Pietrosella – Albitreccia 1 (31.20km)

11.14am: SS2 – Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carpocino 1 (29.12km)

12.24pm: Regroup (Porticcio)

1.39pm: Tyre fitting zone (Porticcio)

2.11pm: SS3 – Pietrosella – Albitreccia 2 (31.20km)

4.03pm: SS4 – Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carpocino 2 (29.12km)

7.15pm: Neutralisation (Place Saint-Nicolas – Bastia)

8.30pm: Flexi Service A (Bastia airport – 45 mins)

At the end of that first stage, Kris and Paul in their C4 would be the only crew to dip below 20 minutes! It was a bit damp under the trees and when Seb got to the end, he explained that he didn’t like the feel of the bumps in the Fiesta in the middle of the stage. Both Jari-Matti and Ott talked about the damp patches in the stage, making it very tricky to be fully confident, so holding back a bit. Thierry talked about the bumps as well and suffering a bit with understeer, so not able to push as hard as he wanted. Kris was very happy though.

1. Meeke – 19:56,5 (93,9kph)

2. Ogier +0:05,7

3. Neuville +0:11,0

It set a marker that the C4 was very capable on this surface now.

Stage two and Kris won this as well, with Seb remaining his closest challenger, just a few seconds slower at the end of the 29,12km stage. Seb adjusted his suspension a little, and combined with the smoother stage, was a little closer to Kris. Thierry also would struggle to be quicker, just lacking his rhythm and in the tree covered roads, seeing where the grip was.

1. Meeke – 18:22,3 (95,1kph)

2. Ogier +0:03,2

3. Neuville +0:06,2

Onto stage three then and this would be where we would we would see the first name fall. Ott would go off a couple of km’s into the stage. They were fine, but the car wasn’t coming out easily. Hayden and John in their i20 would start to have a problem with the rear of the car stepping out, and this would see the car slide out on a right hander and hit a rock face, leading to a little damage to the rear left, but at least it was cosmetic, rather than anything serious. Kris’ lead was now eight seconds over Seb.

1. Ogier – 19:52,1 (94,2kph)

2. Meeke +0:00,8

3. Neuville +0:06,2

Last stage of the day then and Kris would take this as well, thus making his lead a pretty good 10.3 seconds.

1. Meeke – 18:20,4 (95,3kph)

2. Ogier +0:02,2

3. Neuville +0:03,2

Let’s hear then from the top three at the end of the first day.

1st

Kris Meeke said:

“I really enjoyed driving the Citroën C3 WRC on these roads. The rally is far from over, but today’s good result is just rewards for the hard work done by the team, especially during pre-event testing. We managed our day well, particularly in the afternoon when we had to cope with more dirt and gravel pulled onto the racing line and higher tyre wear. I feel good but I have to be wary because I only have a very narrow lead.”

2nd

Sébastien Ogier said:

“We tried as much as we could today. I have to say that I’m pretty happy with my drive, but we also know that we’re still missing a little performance.

“We tried a few things stage after stage and the feeling did get better as the day went on. It’s still not perfect, but we have some ideas for tomorrow that will hopefully help us gain some more speed. It’s all about the set-up and we have to try to improve the feeling in the car so that we can get the most out of it.

“Tomorrow we will continue to push and try our best. It’s only 10 seconds, and there are still plenty of kilometres to come. Of course, it would have been better to have had a 10 second advantage ourselves, but at the moment we are behind and we need to keep the pressure on and continue to push.”

3rd

Thierry Neuville commented: “Everyone seems to be on strong pace here this weekend, which will make it a nice fight. The first stage this morning went OK from my point of view. We had a few things to improve on the car, with understeer in some corners affecting the confidence a bit. Although we had no lunchtime service, we made some adjustments on the ride height to improve the grip at the front axle, which we hoped would give us better steering and turn-in performance. We tried to push in the afternoon loop but the gap to the front was still too big. We were certainly on the limit, so we’ll have to see what improvements we can make overnight to help us reduce the gap to Meeke and Ogier, who have both been quick today.”

The rest of the drivers.

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen 4th

“It’s been a good day, especially as we’re not a million miles away from the podium. On the advice of the engineers, I’ve changed my tarmac driving style completely to try and be less aggressive on the brakes. It seems to be working but I feel that there’s definitely room for improvement. I was also trying to adjust the settings of the diff maps on the stages and I think it seems to be better. Everything is going well, the C3 WRC is really nice to drive in conditions like these.”

Stephane Lefebvre 8th

“The main thing is that we have had a clean, consistent day, in line with the target we had set ourselves. Obviously, I’m suffering from my lack of knowledge on this rally. It was only on the first seven kilometres of Pietrosella, which are new for everyone, where I was able to compete with the leading guys. It’s not easy to get the right level of aggression. If you push too hard, you get more understeer and that’s not what we’re looking for either!”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo 5th said:

“It’s been a relatively trouble-free day for us, but we are missing some speed and performance compared to our rivals. It’s difficult to put our finger on what is exactly missing because the car feels quick and I have felt very comfortable with my driving. We tried a few things today, also adapting my driving style, to try and extract some more pace, but there wasn’t any big change. We have to discuss things with the team this evening; I am sure there are more things we can try.”

Hayden Paddon 7th said: “The first stage this morning was not the ideal way to start the rally. It was tricky with some damp patches that did nothing whatsoever for the confidence. The second stage went better but the times were still not there. We couldn’t do much over lunch with just a tyre fitting zone so we persevered for the afternoon loop. In SS3, we had a good first half but we then lost the rear towards the end, which created a few moments. Once you lose the rear, you are a passenger really. The final stage felt fine but we know we can do a better job. The gap is bigger than I would like but we have this evening to work out how we can turn things around for the rest of the event.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Tour de Corse – Rallye de France
06-09 April 2017
Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala 6th said:

“Today has been OK, but really I’m not too happy with my driving. I think I’m being a bit too cautious, especially in the places where it is damp or slippery. But I’m not so worried about it as I know that these conditions don’t really suit me. Where I think, I am losing time is under braking and acceleration; it’s also a question of getting used to the active central differential with the extra power this year. We’ve had a great start to the season and so the expectation is high but it’s also important to remember that we have a lot of testing and learning to do, so this is a realistic position that we are in at the moment. The car has plenty of potential, so of course we hope to improve tomorrow.”

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

Juho Hänninen (retired)

“It was disappointing for me obviously: there was a slight surface change before a bridge close to the end of the first stage and I just lost the car under braking, which meant that we arrived at the corner much too quickly and went wide. The right-rear of the car hit the bridge parapet, and that caused a fire soon afterwards from the damper oil. We were able to put the fire out and continue to the end of the stage, but the problem was that we had also damaged the front and rear tyres, and like everyone else we had just one spare wheel. So, we had to stop to save the car. It’s not been a good day for us, but at least we have the chance to come back tomorrow.”

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

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak (Rally 2 / 23rd) said:

“There was a long corner and a bit more gravel than we were expecting. We understeered wide and the road was quite narrow. We were on the edge for some time and in the end we just missed that little bit of luck to keep us on the stage.

“There was very little damage to the car but we got stuck on a steep bank and it was quite difficult for the tow truck to get us out so we had no chance on our own!

“It’s a big shame because the car felt really nice. I’ve always struggled with this rally but this year I had been really enjoying it. We had a good test in the lead-up and we worked really hard with the notes to get everything perfect.

“I can say that it’s a bit of an empty feeling right now. The times this morning were good and close to the ‘Tarmac experts’ so of course it’s disappointing. But that’s life, and sometimes it’s tough. Now, we just need to have a good sleep and get back out there tomorrow.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (18th) said:

“We had a problem with the hydraulics early on in the second stage so it’s been a long day trying to manage the issue. Obviously, it’s been a bit frustrating as this is one of the strongest events on the calendar for us. It’s disappointing, but we have plenty to learn and plenty of purpose to keep fighting for the rest of the rally.”

End of day one:

1 Meeke/Nagle 1h16m32.1s

2 Ogier/Ingrassia +10.3s

3 Neuville/Gilsoul +25.8s

4 Breen/Martin +52.4s

5 Sordo/Marti +53.8s

6 Latvala/Anttila +1m00.2s

7 Paddon/Kennard +1m18.8s

8 Lefebvre/Moreau +2m07.6s

9 Mikkelsen/Jaeger +2m57.3s

10 Sarrazin/Renucci +16m09.4s

Saturday dawned dry and warm, with four stages again in front of the crews.

8:40am SS5 La Porta-Valle Di Rostino 1 (48,71 KM)

10:17am SS6 Novella 1 (17,27 KM)

1:03pm Service C

2:28pm SS7 La Porta-Valle Di Rostino 2 (48,71 KM)

4:08pm SS8 Novella 2 (17,27 KM)

So, stage five and Thierry pushed hard and he mentioned that the conditions were very tricky, with a lot of dust on the road. Seb said that the road was very bumpy and that he didn’t feel comfortable to push hard. Could Kris take advantage and increase his lead? Well, he didn’t win the stage, but he was quicker by almost 9 seconds. He said at the end, very very dirty compared to last year. He was happy though.

SS5 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 1 (48,71km)

1. Neuville – 32:19,6 (90,4kph)

2. MEEKE +0:08,8

3. Ogier +0:14,9

Stage six would see the demise of Elfyn Evans. He would go off the road on a left-hander and there was no way back on under their own steam. Craig Breen was in a battle with Dani Sordo, but it would go a bit pear-shaped for the C4 crew. They’d lost their intercom and Craig had had to drive blind with hand signals from Scott. He was furious! Thierry would drive a great stage and move ahead of Seb after going through almost nine seconds quicker than the Fiesta pilot! He said the stage was good and that he’d had to back out a little in some places after the sump guard bottomed out on the road! Seb was very unhappy though. He couldn’t explain why he was so slow. Unfortunately, it was the end for Kris and Paul…. Engine let go, one km from the end of the stage. He said the car was incredible, but they were out.

SS6 – Novella 1 (17,27km)

1. Neuville – 11:13,1 (92,4kph)

2. Sordo +0:02,2

3. Hanninen +0:03,3

Stage seven would see Seb finally win a stage on Saturday! However, it took a spin for Thierry in a hairpin where he just lost the rear. Seb had a much better handling car, as well after making some changes in service.

SS7 La Porta- Valle di Rostino 2 (90,6kph)

1. Ogier 32:15.9

2. Latvala +0:05.0

3. Neuville +0:06.0

One more stage then on this afternoon of drama. Stage eight… Well, it would be Seb that would hit trouble! The paddle shift for the gear change would completely fail. He’d have to use the gear shift. How much time would he lose? Well, the answer was loads! He was only eighth quickest and 36.7 seconds slower than Thierry. Dani had driven well too and steered his car into a solid third place.

SS8 Novella 2 (17,27km)

1. Neuville 11:17.7 (91,7kph)

2. Sordo 0:03.2

3. Latvala 0:03.6

Well, we had a new leader and Thierry found himself benefitting from his rivals’ misfortunes. Let’s hear from the top three then.

Thierry Neuville 1st commented:

“A fantastic day for us, and a real turnaround from Friday’s stages. The team worked really hard to improve the set-up of the car for today’s loops, and the handling was much better. I felt more confident to push and could carry more speed through the corners. To score two stage wins on the first loop was very pleasing and we finished strongly with another fastest time this afternoon. Aside from a small spin in SS7, we’ve had nearly the perfect day. We won’t take anything for granted even with a 39-second advantage over Ogier. We have one very long stage to start Sunday, so this rally is far from over! To be leading at the end of the penultimate day, though, is an important step closer to our target.”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“It was quite a disappointing day – especially as the fight with Thierry was shaping up to be a really enjoyable battle. A situation with a technical issue is never one that you want to be in, but this is motorsport and it happens.

“This morning we didn’t have a lot of confidence and Thierry was able to get ahead of us. This afternoon we had no option but to try and react, and it was good to see that we were able to do that. We got the lead down to just two seconds, but unfortunately that’s where the fight ended for us.

“I’m happy that we at least saved our second place which means good points for the championship – and that’s the only target remaining for us now. If we manage to finish like this and collect some points in the Power Stage it will be a very good weekend for us.

“It would mean increasing our lead in the championship and every weekend that we’re able to do that is a good weekend. I will be happy with that even if tonight I am a little disappointed. I would have preferred to fight until the very last stage as that would have been exciting for us and for the fans as well.”

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

Dani Sordo 3rd said:

“We started this morning feeling more confident and we were setting better stage times. The team worked hard last night on the differentials, suspension and general set-up of the car. I was much happier and we could immediately notice the improvement. The afternoon wasn’t as good. I pushed as hard as I could but the times were not as fast as this morning. Still, we are in third place and involved in a close fight, so we have to work hard in the final two stages tomorrow to defend our position – and hopefully score my first podium of the season.”

The rest of the drivers

Jari-Matti Latvala 4th said:

“The car was actually transformed after some of the changes that we made at midday service. In the two stages this afternoon I really enjoyed driving it: I was able to push and it was a big pleasure. Obviously, there was a lot of mud and dirt on the road during the second run, so we had to be careful, but we still made a very big improvement compared to the morning. On the first two stages today I didn’t have a good feeling under braking in particular, but we improved this as well during service. Now I think we’re in a strong position for tomorrow, so we’re aiming for a solid finish.”

Craig Breen 5th said:

“The Tour de Corse is undoubtedly the worst place in the world to lose the intercom! We nonetheless managed not to lose too much time on SS6. This afternoon, there was a bit more pressure on my shoulders after Kris and Stéphane’s retirements. I kept out of trouble and I’m still within striking distance of Jari-Matti Latvala. We’ll see tomorrow if we are able to go after fourth place.”

Hayden Paddon 6th said: “We have made steady progress today, trying to close on the top-five. To be honest, we’re in a bit of a no man’s land on the classification, a bit too far away to pose any threat to Breen. After yesterday, we wanted to try a few things to improve our feeling in the car, and the morning loop allowed us to do that. There was a bit more gravel pulled out on the stages in the afternoon loop but the route note crew did a great job to report that back to us. I have enjoyed driving these stages today and we are closer to the front than we were here six months ago, so it’s not all bad. Our focus is now on bringing the car home. Anything could happen yet.”

Ott Tänak (16th) said:

“Overall, it’s not been such a bad day. Yesterday we were pushing quite hard, but today the main priority was to get through the stages and secure some valuable points for the manufacturers’ championship.

“During the second loop the stages were quite dirty and really challenging so we didn’t take any big risks. We might not have been flat-out, but we had a good rhythm and a good feeling with the car. We continued to learn and improved the balance for tomorrow so hopefully we can continue that through the final stages.”

Finally, those that didn’t make it to the end of the second day.

Kris Meeke (DNF) said:

“Obviously, this is not the outcome I was hoping for, but it’s part and parcel of the sport. In order for a car to go as fast as possible, there are tens of people who work on thousands of parts… and sometimes, it doesn’t work quite as it should. In any event, this weekend has given me a huge confidence boost for the future. It was really special to lead this rally, which I think is the most difficult tarmac event. We know that our C3 WRC can win on all surfaces and that’s what we’ll try to do in Argentina, and then in Portugal and everywhere else.”

Stéphane Lefebvre (Rally2) said:

“We didn’t hit the wall that hard, but hard enough to break part of the suspension. We tried to repair it so we could keep driving in the afternoon and pick up more experience. Unfortunately, we arrived at the time control after the maximum thirty-minute limit and were therefore excluded. We’ll be back under Rally2 rules tomorrow. I’ll try to restart at a good pace in order to leave Corsica on a positive note.”

Elfyn Evans (Rally 2 / 26th) said:

“This hasn’t been the Tour de Corse as we have known it in previous years. Luck has definitely not been on our side this time and it was really disappointing to end today’s action so early. It was just a very small and unfortunate mistake. Hopefully we can get the car back out on the stages tomorrow and get some more mileage under our belts.”

Top ten at the end of day two.

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul 2:44:10.2

2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia +38.9

3 D. Sordo M. Martí +57.7

4 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +1:09.4

5 C. Breen S. Martin +1:12.2

6 H. Paddon J. Kennard +1:43.8

7 A. Mikkelsen A. Jaeger +6:21.7

8 T. Suninen M. Markkula +7:29.6

9 S. Sarrazin J. J. Renucci +7:46.8

10 Y. Rossel B. Fulcrand +9:56.5

Sunday morning then and two stages to decide this year’s winner!

7.15am: Service E (Bastia airport – 15 mins)

8.58am: SS9 – Antisanti – Poggio di Nazza (53.78km)

12.18pm: SS10 – Porto-Vecchio – Palombaggia (10.42km)

1.30pm: Podium (Porto-Vecchio Marina)

17:30: Parc Ferme (Bastia)

First up was the longest stage of the whole weekend. A great decision by the organisers to have it first thing on the last day. All the crews choose to go with hard tyres. The stage was identical to last year, so it would be interesting to compare the times.

There was a good battle between Craig and Jari-Matti for fourth overall and by the end of the stage, Jari-Matti was five seconds slower than the young Irishman. Seb ran wide on a left-handed hairpin, losing more time. He was pretty unhappy and didn’t say what was causing all the problems for him.

Thierry and Nicolas was twenty seconds quicker than the champion and Dani had moved into second overall, just a couple of seconds ahead of Ogier.

SS9 – Antisanti – Poggio di Nazza (53.78km)

1. Neuville 32:34,6 (99,1kph)

2. Sordo +0:00,1

3. Breen +0:01,8

Just one stage left then…. Could Jari-Matti get back in front of Craig and could Seb get back into second? Ah, the power stage and Hayden was first in. It wasn’t to be though. He slid into a driveway, under braking for a left hander. No damage to the car, and he finished the stage trailing spectator tape, just like Kris in Mexico.

Jari-Matti, winner two years ago and he was fully committed! He’d lowered the car to make it quicker. It worked! Craig and Scott would be only 1 tenth slower at the end meaning that Jari-Matti had just got ahead into fourth! He also had won the power stage.

12.18pm: SS10 – Porto-Vecchio – Palombaggia (10.42km)

1. Latvala 6:02,2 (103,kph)

2. Ogier +0:00,8

3. Breen +0:02,1

At last Thierry had taken his first victory of this new season. The Hyundai team had started slowly on Friday, but had closed the gap to the front through Saturday, into a position to capitalise on Kris’ misfortune with his engine crying enough.

1. Neuville / Gilsoul 3:22:53.4

2. Ogier / Ingrassia +54.7

3. Sordo / Marti +56.0

4. Latvala / Anttila +1:09.6

5. Breen / Martin +1:09.7

6. Paddon / Kennard +2:16.3

7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger +8:10.7

8. Suninen / Markkula +9:17.0

9. Sarrazin / Renucci +9:23.6

10. Rossel / Fulcrand +12:57.1

Let’s hear from the top three then.

Thierry Neuville 1st commented:

“It’s an amazing feeling to take the win here in Corsica this weekend. I am sure there are many people who share in this celebration with us, not least the whole of the Hyundai Motorsport team. They have been so supportive of me since Monte Carlo and Sweden, and I’m really happy. This win is ours! It was a tough start to the rally with some struggles on Friday, but we worked through that methodically to return stronger. With Dani finishing third, we’ve picked up a healthy score of points which helps to get us back firmly into the title fight. An incredible weekend for us.”

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

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“It has definitely been a roller coaster weekend for us! We’ve had lots of highs and lows, but I’m happy to say that we finished on a high with some really good points for the championship.

“We’re happy with the pace that we had and things are definitely moving in the right direction. We struggled with the set-up at times, but honestly the car is not too bad and I think we have some performance in the tank.

“We had the pace to challenge Thierry for the win – only two seconds behind him before the technical problems – but of course we have some work to do to ensure we don’t repeat this stressful weekend.”

Dani Sordo 3rd said:

“We knew it would be hard to hold onto second place after we inherited it from Sébastien in the first stage this morning. We pushed as hard as we could and I am still very happy we have finished on the podium this weekend. It has been a strange event and almost a lottery at times with our feeling in the car not matching the times set on the stages. Our target for today was to defend our third place, which we did, so from that point of view it is mission accomplished. This is a great result for the team, and we can now try to build on that in the next gravel rounds.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala 4th said:

“The power stage was completely maximum attack: I was totally focussed on my driving. I knew that if I wanted to have fourth place I needed to have a perfect run and I nearly achieved that: there were a couple of places where we arrived too fast and had some understeer, and also one jump where we arrived completely sideways. I could see people running away, so I’m sorry if I gave them a fright, but in any case, it was all under control, even though it looked spectacular! We’ve taken 17 points with fourth place and the Power Stage win, so this is a really fantastic result for our first rally on asphalt.”

Juho Hänninen (DNF) said:

“About five kilometres from the end of the first stage this morning I just missed a right-hand corner. I think it was maybe a problem with my pace notes, which perhaps were not clear, but in any case, I went straight off the road and there was no chance to come back, so my rally finished there. It’s disappointing because we showed plenty of speed on this rally and came so close to the finish, but of course I am happy for the team as Jari-Matti achieved a very good result here.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen 5th said:

“This morning, the conditions were ideal once again, with beautiful weather and magnificent roads. Obviously, it’s very frustrating to lose a position by only a tenth of a second, but that’s also why we love rallying! I have no regrets, because I tried my best on the Power Stage. I have to be pleased with the weekend. We didn’t make a single mistake and we held our own when fighting with drivers with a lot more experience than us. That bodes well for the future.”

Stephane Lefebvre said:

“We completed today’s final two speed tests looking to increase our knowledge of the car and the Corsican stages. We really enjoyed it and that helped to increase our confidence. We won’t be racing in Argentina, so I can’t wait for Rally de Portugal to come around. Last year, I really enjoyed competing at this event.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon 6th said: “Our focus on this final morning was simply on bringing the car home and scoring a few more points. It’s been a learning weekend for us, but we have to find the positives. Even if the end result doesn’t show it, we have been competing closer to the front this weekend and shown an improvement from last year’s Tour de Corse. There’s obviously still plenty to learn but we’re making progress. We must now look ahead to the next rally, the start of a run of five on gravel. We should have a good road position for Argentina so I’m looking to feature more prominently in the next events. Congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas – and everyone back at Alzenau – for the victory.”

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak (Rally 2 / 11th) said:

“It’s been a rally of highs and lows. This has always been one of my least favourite events so it was really good to see that we had good speed through the opening stages. We were on pace with the Tarmac specialists and, for the first time, I was really enjoying these twisty roads.

“That made it really hard when we slid off the road – it was an empty feeling to be honest – but we have to look to the positives. We’ve learnt a lot and my pace has been so much stronger than it had been in previous years.

“The result wasn’t what we wanted, but the pace was good and we’ll come back stronger – all focus now on a proper push at Rally Argentina!”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (Rally 2 / 21st) said:

“This has always been one of my favourite events so it’s disappointing not to have been in a position to have challenged for a strong result. What with the problems on the opening day, and the mistake yesterday, it’s just not been our rally.

“But it’s not been a wasted weekend by all means. We’ve learnt a lot and collected a lot of information that we can use to be stronger at the next asphalt event. Now, all focus is on Argentina – and it’ll be all guns blazing there!”

So, what a great rally! Our fourth different winner this year and this year, a trend I hope will continue! The next event is in Argentina and we will see who will come out on top there.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 04, Rallye de France 06-09 April 2017, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo, Nicolas Gilsoul, Marc Martí,
Photographer: RaceEmotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 4

1 S. Ogier 88

2 J.M Latvala 75

3 T. Neuville 54

4 O. Tanak 48

5 D. Sordo 47

6 C. Breen 33

7 K. Meeke 27

8 H. Paddon 25

9 E. Evans 20

10 A. Mikkelsen 12

11 S. Lefebvre 10

12 J. Hänninen 9

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 4

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 129

2 Hyundai Motorsport 105

3 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 79

4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 71

 

Warren Nel, WRC editor

Tour de Corse 2017 Preview

After the tarmac and ice of Monte Carlo, the snow in the forests of Sweden and last time out on the gravel roads, high in the mountains around Leon, Mexico, the fourth round of this year’s World Rally Championship comes to the Island of Corsica! Famously known for its twists and turns (apparently, it’s got 10,000 corners) we’ll get to see the new generation of faster world rally cars for the first time on a sealed surface. Okay, Monte is tarmac as well, but with the ice and snow there, it’s quite different!

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11, Rally de France, Tour de Corse 2016 / September 28 – October 02, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

This year, Tour de Corse features ten stages. Doesn’t sound much I hear you say? Well, what this event is about is quality. This year sees the crews attack 316.80km’s.

Just a reminder of the top ten last year, which saw Seb win for the first time on the streets of Corsica.

01 Ogier (VW) 4h 07m 17.0s

02 Neuville +46.4s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +1m 10.0s

04 Latvala (VW) +1m 35.6s

05 Breen +2m 18.6s

06 Paddon +2m 36.1s

07 Sordo +3m 06.9s

08 Camilli +4m 53.9s

09 Østberg +5m 37.7s

10 Tänak +6m 26.6s

All of the teams have been testing on the island recently and are fully prepared for the challenges that will confront them.

So, lets from the crews ahead of the 60th running of this classic event.

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier said:

“We’ve had a nice few weeks since Rally Mexico – combining work with time at home – and now we’re ready to tackle the Tour de Corse. It was nice to spend some time with my family and to enjoy some skiing out on the slopes, but we also had a good test to find the best set-up for what are very unique stages in Corsica.

“We’re back to asphalt and I had a good feeling with the Fiesta in Monte-Carlo, but this event offers a completely different surface which demands a slightly different approach. Working with the team, we were able to explore a lot of different settings with the dampers and centre-differential which I hope will see us well placed to challenge for another strong result next week.

“We’ve seen some very close battles this year, and I expect that to continue. We’ll certainly be doing our best to be in the battle, and the ultimate goal will be to come out on top. It won’t be easy, but the Tour de Corse never is. Even if the route remains very similar to last year, this rally is always a big challenge!”

Ott Tänak said:

“Next week’s Tour de Corse will be the biggest test of the year so far, but we’ve done a lot to improve ourselves and await the challenge.

“It’s an event that I’ve not really clicked with in the past, but to be honest I had the same feeling about Rallye Monte-Carlo. That worked out really well for us so if we remain focused and motivated, anything is possible and we could find ourselves in contention for a positive result.

“That’s always our goal and we always want to deliver the best result we possibly can. The Fiesta felt really good in Monte and we’ve done a lot of work in testing since then. Last week we completed close to 500 test kilometres, so hopefully that all pays off next week.

“But at the same time, I know just how challenging this event is. The stages are so narrow and twisty and there is something happening all the time. There really is no margin for error and we’re going to have to remain calm and focused from the very start.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans said:

“The Tour de Corse is a real technical challenge but I think that’s what I like about it. We’ve had some really good results there and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this year.

“It’s a unique event and there’s actually quite a lot of variation amongst the stages. Some are surprisingly smooth, but then there are those which are typically Corsican with abrasive Tarmac that twists through the mountains.

“It’s all about adapting to the conditions but at this time of year, and with the stages being so long, it’s possible to be faced with dry Tarmac and wet Tarmac on the same stage. Like in Monte-Carlo, we could find ourselves looking for the package that provides the best compromise.

“When we had dry Tarmac in Monte, our pace was really good and that gives us a big positive to build on. We had a test working of different set-ups last week and it felt pretty good. It’s an event that you can never predict, but there’s no reason for us not to feel fairly optimistic so let’s see what happens.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said:

“I am determined that Corsica will be the real start of my 2017 season. I feel confident in myself and I’ve been working hard to prepare for the first WRC tarmac event of the year. Taking part in Rallye Sanremo will give me the chance to adjust to the driving and pace notes on that surface. Corsica is a difficult event, the toughest tarmac rally on the calendar in my opinion, but I am really looking forward to it. We are ready to put a good performance.”

Thierry Neuville commented:

“Tour de Corse is a famous and historic rally. It’s also an event that Nicolas and I have won back in 2011 – when it was part of the IRC – so we remember what it is like to go there and perform. I thought we did well there last year especially, finishing second. The stages were just lovely, so we are looking forward to getting back there. Mexico was a really important result for us after the competitive but frustrating first rounds of the season. We want to build on that podium – and Corsica is a great place to do just that.”

Dani Sordo said: “Corsica is our first experience of a proper tarmac rally this season, so I am excited to have the chance to show what both we and the car are capable of. The setting of the rally is one of the most spectacular on the calendar, with the route taking us through the mountains and the forests- it really is a great event to take part in. Our performances so far this year have been pretty consistent but now is the time to step up our game – and bring ourselves even closer to the front.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“For sure, we won in Mexico, but the Tour de Corse is a completely different kettle of fish. For me, this rally is the ultimate challenge on tarmac. Last year, I really enjoyed the stages and I would’ve been in contention for the win had I not made a minor mistake. I can’t say that I come into the rally full of confidence, but I’m very pleased with the work done in testing. We have a good car, with consistent handling. In the rally itself, we’ll see if we are close to our full potential. I can’t wait to get started, I’m expecting it to be very close at the front.”

Number of appearances at the event: 4

Best result: 4th (2015)

Craig Breen

“I was surprised to learn that I’m the team’s most experienced driver at this rally! It’s true that I know the Tour de Corse very well and I really love racing here. There are some similarities with conditions in Ireland, like the unpredictable weather and the uneven surface of the roads, which are sometimes in poor condition… Last year, I had a good feeling on my first tarmac rally in a WRC. This year, I hope I’ll be able to put together a series of stages with a good level of confidence. It really is all about confidence with these new cars! If I can manage to do that, then we should secure a good result.”

Number of appearances at the event: 5

Best result: 4th (2013/ERC)

Stephane Lefebvre

“Like Monte-Carlo or Finland, the Tour de Corse is one of the WRC’s unmissable rounds. I don’t have particularly fond memories from my appearance here in 2015. It was hell on earth with all the rain! I therefore still see myself as a rookie and I know that my lack of experience may be difficult to overcome. But I’ll be giving it 100% to try and secure the best result possible. Testing helped me to fine tune my driving on tarmac. The C3 WRC handles a little bit like a track racing car.”

Number of appearances at the event: 2

Best result: 11th (2015)

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

“Corsica is a special event for me: when I won there, it meant so much to me because for Finns it was always a difficult place, after the accident with Henri Toivonen in 1986, and as a nation we never used to do very well there. Now I think it is different, and of course rallying is a lot safer. We had a very good test completing 380 kilometres over two days, with one day on narrow and bumpy roads and the second day on fast and abrasive roads. On the rally, we will have both, so I think we found a good set-up between those two conditions, trying a few different damper settings. We already have an idea about the potential of the car on asphalt after Monte-Carlo, and my feeling with the car now is much better than it was after the test for Monte. However, our rivals will be very strong, as we saw already on all the rallies so far, so we take nothing for granted. We are just staying focused on our task of improving the car with every rally. Up to now, that objective is being met, so I am happy.”

Juho Hänninen said:

“I feel so much better now than I did before so I am looking forward to Corsica: it feels good to be back on Tarmac. I have only done the rally once before and that was a long time ago, although I also did the recce last year. So, I have been relying a lot on the advice from Jari-Matti about how to set up the car and this is working very well. To me, the car actually feels quite similar to what we had in Monte-Carlo, but that is good as I had a very nice feeling with the car there. The main difference in Corsica is the tyres, so we have been learning how to get the best out of them, especially for the long stages. Mexico showed that if you persist you can have a good result even if the circumstances are against you and that is also a little bit the philosophy of Toyota this year: we are going to keep trying to make the car better and better.”

So, these are the stages that await the crews. The itinerary is 96% identical to last year’s event, which was held in October.

TOUR DE CORSE SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

THURSDAY 6 APRIL

8.00am: shakedown (Sorbo Ocagnano)

FRIDAY 7 APRIL

8.15am: Start (Ajaccio – Parking Miot)

8.50am: Tyre fitting zone (Porticcio)

9.22am: SS1 – Pietrosella – Albitreccia 1 (31.20km)

11.14am: SS2 – Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carpocino 1 (29.12km)

12.24pm: Regroup (Porticcio)

1.39pm: Tyre fitting zone (Porticcio)

2.11pm: SS3 – Pietrosella – Albitreccia 2 (31.20km)

4.03pm: SS4 – Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carpocino 2 (29.12km)

7.15pm: Neutralisation (Place Saint-Nicolas – Bastia)

8.30pm: Flexi Service A (Bastia airport – 45 mins)

SATURDAY 8 APRIL

7.30am: Service B (Bastia airport – 15 mins)

8.40am: SS5 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 1 (48.71km)

10.17am: SS6 – Novella 1 (17.27km)

1.03pm: Service C (Bastia airport – 30 mins)

2.28pm: SS7 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 2 (48.71km)

4.08pm: SS8 – Novella 2 (17.27km)

5.48pm: Neutralisation (Place Saint-Nicolas – Bastia)

6.58pm: Flexi Service D (Bastia airport – 45 mins)

SUNDAY 9 APRIL

7.15am: Service E (Bastia airport – 15 mins)

8.58am: SS9 – Antisanti – Poggio di Nazza (53.78km)

12.18pm: SS10 – Porto-Vecchio – Palombaggia (10.42km)

1.30pm: Podium (Porto-Vecchio Marina)

17:30: Parc Ferme (Bastia)

I’d say that Friday is the most challenging day, as there is no midday service, just a tyre fitting stop. It would be very easy to make a mistake and cost yourself a lot of time or even retirement from the event and then any hope of scoring points.

With the pace that Thierry has shown on asphalt, I’d say he should be the one to watch for the victory, but we know how strong Seb is, and he won this rally last year. M-Sport are also very capable of building a quick car for this surface. Witness Elfyn and Dan leading this rally two years ago, and getting their best result with second place behind Jari-Matti in the end.

Speaking of him, he’s had his best start to a season for a while and has really come into his own at the new Toyota team. If the car is up to it, then I can see him getting a podium.

Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall drove Rallye Sanremo last weekend in their first event together and scored a very positive second place behind the wheel of an i20 R5 car. Tarmac is a surface that Hayden has been working hard to get the pace right.

During Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s part season last year, they performed well at this event, but a puncture during one of the stages put paid to his fight for the lead. He subsequently had an accident, which put him out of the points. He set some quick times though, getting some great experience for this year.

Any driver could be on the podium, so let’s enjoy the event and see what happens!

Warren Nel, WRC editor

Rally Mexico Review 2017- Kris Meeke wins via a carpark

 

The event got underway with two stages around the famous square in Mexico City. To get the cars there some 400km’s from the base in Leon, they were driven down in transporters, with the teams heading down in a plane. What transpired though was a big shame. The first two stages on Friday morning had to be cancelled. The reason? Well, the transporters were held up on the road back for five hours after there was accident on the road.

The results for those first two stages looked like this

SS1x

1. Hanninen – 1:51,1 (50,9kph)

2. Meeke +0:00,3

3. Paddon +0:01,6

SS1y

1. Ogier – 1:44,8 (53,9kph)

2. Tanak +0:00,1

3. Neuville +0:00,3

So, the top ten looked like this after those two short stages

1 HAN 0:03:37,2

2 MEEKE +0:01,6

3 TAN +0:01,6

4 NEU +0:02,6

5 PAD +0:03,2

6 OGI +0:04,0

7 SOR +0:06,0

8 LAT +0:06,2

9 TID +0:06,7

10 BER +0:10,3

11 LEFEBVRE +0:19,4

16 EVA +5:02,5

So, Juha Hanninen was our surprise leader and with the two morning stages cancelled we had to wait till mid-afternoon before stage four started.

This was the famous El Chocolate which at 54,9 kms and high in the mountains as well, would be a real challenge for these new cars.

It was Kris and Paul who emerged in the lead after this monster stage, held over 2700 metres above sea level! All the Hyundai, M-Sport and Toyota drivers reported big problems with their cars, overheating and going into road mode, meaning that they couldn’t push like they wanted.

Stage four top three

1. Meeke – 39:15,6 (83,9kph)

2. Ogier +0:07,3

3. Paddon +0:17,9

Next up was stage five, and it saw a fight back from the Hyundai and M-Sport drivers with Thierry winning the stage, Elfyn in the D-Mack Fiesta second and Dani in third.

SS5 – Las Minas 2 (19,68km)

1. Neuville – 14:12,6 (83,1kph)

2. Evans +0:05,7

3. Sordo +0:06,5

It was a good fight back for the Hyundai drivers, with good times seeing them both come up the leaderboard after their problems in El Chocolate. Kris Meeke, rally leader lost some time in this stage, after a spin and stalled engine which lost him around eight seconds.

SS6 – Guanajuato Street Stage (1,09km)

1. Neuville – 0:57,3 (68,5kph)

2. Evans +0:01,4

3. Sordo +0:01,4

Just a short stage then and Thierry continued his strong pace which we have seen from the beginning of the year. Also, a good show from Elfyn, showing that he’s very comfortable in his Fiesta and able to express his talent.

Stage 7- Autódromo de León 1 – 2.30 km

1. Meeke 1:40.0

2. Elfyn +0.2

3.Hänninen +0.3

Stage 8 – Autódromo de León 2 – 2.30 km

1. Evans 1:38.0

2. Meeke +0.3

3. Hänninen +1.3

This was the top ten then at the end of this shortened day.

1 K. Meeke P. Nagle 1:01:33.8

2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia +20.9

3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul +56.7

4 J. Hänninen K. Lindström +1:27.3

5 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja +1:32.9

6 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau +1:52.8

7 H. Paddon J. Kennard +2:02.1

8 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +2:30.8

9 P. Tidemand J. Andersson +3:24.3

10 E. Camilli B. Veillas +3:59.7

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

1st Place

Kris Meeke said:

“Everything went very well today. We clearly had a good road position, but we had to make the most of it. I didn’t push too hard, because winning isn’t my main target for the weekend. My only regret was the minor mistake I made on SS5, which cost us about eight or nine seconds. But it’s good to be running well after a pretty tough start to the season! I’ll be looking keep up the same pace tomorrow.”

2nd Place

Sébastien Ogier said:

“It’s been a difficult day for more or less everyone but I think we managed it quite well and we can’t complain about being in second place and just 20 seconds off the lead tonight!

“Almost everyone had temperature issues and it was the same for us. We had to run most of the first stage in safe mode. I tried to be as soft as I could but we didn’t reach a critical point so there is nothing major that we need to be worrying about – but of course we still need to find a solution.

“We’ll have a good position on the road tomorrow which hasn’t been the case for quite a long time on gravel, so I’m looking forward to that. There are some very demanding stages still to come, and the temperatures could play a crucial role again, but we’ve been working hard with the team so hopefully we’ll have a good solution.”

3rd Place

Thierry Neuville said: “It was a frustrating way to end the day but we have to concentrate on the positives – we made it through despite the problems and we are still inside the top-three. This is very important as we look to fight for a podium this weekend. We will work hard with the team to make sure we get everything working at optimum level for Saturday’s stages. This is an unforgiving rally, particularly for a brand-new car. We are still learning things; I just hope that’s our bad luck out of the way for this rally. We’ll have a good road position for Saturday so let’s see what happens.”

The rest of the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

“I knew that the first day in Mexico would be tough, but maybe not this tough! We’ve seen in the past that overheating has been a particular problem on the very long El Chocolate stage, and I had to switch the car to road mode to try and cool it down, going back to stage mode as soon as it was a safe temperature. It was a little bit the same story on the other stages as well. In any case, I knew that we would lose time being first on the road today but we’re still here and looking forward to a better day tomorrow. There’s always a great atmosphere in Mexico and I am really enjoying being here.”

Juho Hänninen said:

“A tricky day, definitely, which meant that we weren’t able to take as much advantage of our road position as we would have liked. Still, after a long time away from this rally, we have to be happy with fourth overall, especially as there is a very long way still to go. Maybe we made a tyre choice that was too hard as well: even though we had a good road position I was still quite shocked as to how slippery the surface was. Like Jari-Matti we also had some problems with overheating but I think the engineers and mechanics can sort this out at service.”

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak said:

“The Mexico City stage was a really good idea. It was a very nice place to start the rally and, even though there are some lessons to learn for the future, I think it was generally very good.

“Almost everybody has had some issues to deal with today. This was our first time here with the new cars and our first time with this altitude and these temperatures.

“There are some things to learn for sure, but I think we managed the day pretty well and we are still here which is the most important thing.

“We’ll be taking a good look at everything this evening and hopefully it will be okay for tomorrow. There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans said:

“It wasn’t a perfect start with the penalty, but there was no point dwelling on that, we just had to go out there and drive our best.

“We had a small issue with some overheating which we had to stop and check on the first stage [SS4], but generally I think the feeling has been pretty good.

“Obviously it was the first time here with these new cars so it was to be expected that it wasn’t all going to be plain sailing. Almost everyone has experienced some sort of issue today, and I think we managed our day pretty well with a few top times to boot.

“Tomorrow’s going to be a difficult day running first on the road, but we just have to try our best and see what we can do.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said:

“It’s a very unfortunate situation that we had engine misfire issues across all cars but that’s part of rallying. Mexico is an incredibly tough, hard rally so the most important thing is that we made it through the stages and out the other end. Tomorrow’s another day, as the saying goes. These are extreme conditions with the heat and the altitude that we just can’t replicate fully in Europe. We will get on top of it and fight back on Saturday.”

Dani Sordo said:

“It’s obviously very disappointing to lose so much time on the shorter Super Special Stages. There was some confusion on my first run at the Autódromo, when we weren’t allowed to finish the stage. We need to understand what happened because from my point of view there was no reason to stop us. We were losing time because of the engine issue but we were still going. It had been a pretty good day up to that point. We had shown encouraging pace and weren’t taking any risks. The car felt competitive, so our aim now is to regain this for the rest of the weekend. There’s still a long way to go.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
08-12 March 2017
Dani Sordo, Marc Marti, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre

“For my first appearance at this rally in a WRC, the team asked me to focus on learning about the stages and adopt a measured pace. We made the right call on tyre choice and I remained focused on my job behind the wheel. The two gravel stages gave me a chance to improve and I’m pleased to be in sixth position, less than half a minute from the top 5.”

Saturday dawned and we would get a full day of competition! Nine stages, some just a couple of km’s and some more than 38km’s!

First, we found out what had caused the problems with the Hyundai’s. The team traced the problem to fuel filters which were blocked.

Stage nine first up then and Dani was pretty fired up, after he was given some time penalties. He flew through the stage to go fastest from Seb, who was 3 seconds slower. Third fastest was Kris, only losing a little of his lead to Seb. Kris did have a worry at the end with smoke coming into the car. The good news that it was just hot brakes causing this, and nothing bad ultimately.

SS9 – Media Luna 1 (27,42km)

1. Sordo – 17:01,4 (96,6kph)

2. Ogier +0:03,2

3. Meeke +0:04,1

Stage ten would also fall to Dani, clearly now in the groove, with Kris setting the same time as Dani and Seb a few seconds slower. Stephane Lefebvre would slide off the road, leaving the car beached.He would be done for the day, but there wasn’t any damage, so he would be able to re-join under the super rally rules.

SS10 – Lajas de Oro 1 (38,31km)

1. Sordo – 28:17,5 (81,2kph)

2. Meeke +0:00,0

3. Ogier +0:03,6

Stage eleven would see Thierry win the stage, the famous El Brinco, with a jump in the stage! Kris had had problems in the past with this stage, but this year he was fine and would once again match the time of the Hyundai driver, this time of course it being Thierry. Look how close they all were though!

SS11 – El Brinco 1 (10,09km)

1. Neuville – 5:27,1 (111,0kph)

2. Meeke +0:00,0

3. Ogier +0:00,8

Stage twelve saw the crews tackle Media Luna a second time and, we saw that Seb would take it this time from Kris, but running a different tyre combination, that would account for the couple of seconds’ difference.

SS12 – Media Luna 2 (27,42km)

1. Ogier – 16:44,0 (98,3kph)

2. Meeke +0:02,2

3. Tanak +0:05,6

Stage thirteen next and Kris would win it, so perhaps his tyre choice was better than Seb’s? Especially given Seb would suffer a spin and lose 18 seconds to Kris.

SS13 – Lajas de Oro 2 (38,31km)

1. Meeke – 28:10,6 (81,6kph)

2. Neuville +0:05,7

3. Tanak +0:12,6

Stage fourteen and the re-run of El Brinco, saw young Estonian Ott set the fastest time with Seb matching him and Thierry third.

SS14 – El Brinco 2 (10,09km)

1. Tanak – 5:22,2 (112,7kph)

2. Ogier +0:00,4

3. Neuville +0:01,2

Just three short stages then at the end of this second full day and Elfyn and Seb would win them. At the end of them, Jari-Matti would sneak back ahead of his team-mate Juho into sixth place.

SS15 – Autodrómo de León 3 (2,3km)

1. Evans – 1:37,5 (84,9kph)

2. Latvala +0:01,0

3. Neuville +0:04,2

SS16 – Autodrómo de León 4 (2,3km)

1. Evans – 1:38,1 (84,4kph)

2. Latvala +0:00,9

3. Neuville +0:02,5

SS17 – Street stage Feria de León (1,33km)

1. Ogier – 1:16,9 (62,3kph)

2. Neuville +0:00,1

3. Sordo +0:00,4

End of Saturday top ten

1. Meeke + 2:47:33.3

2. Ogier +30.9

3. Neuville +1:10.5

4. Tänak +2:12.6

5. Paddon +3:25.5

6. Latvala +4:32.9

7. Hänninen +4:32.9

8. Sordo +5:16.1

9. Evans +8:22.1

10. Tidemand +9:26.4

Let’s hear from the top three then.

1st

Kris Meeke said:

“Following a solid morning, we knew the afternoon loop could be decisive after going for a harder tyre choice than our direct rivals. I had to make it stick… and it worked! On the longest stage, I was able to pull clear. I’ve now got a healthy lead in the overall standings, but we’ll need to keep it neat and tidy tomorrow. I’m pleased to have been able to show the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC. I knew we had done a good job on the car! I’m also proud to have been quicker than Sébastien Ogier in normal racing conditions, without anyone mentioning the start order.”

2nd

Sébastien Ogier said:

“I’m never happy when I lose time but I have no regrets. I did what I could today – pushing without doing anything crazy – but it wasn’t enough and we were only able to set the same pace as Kris [Meeke] who is doing a great job. When it’s like this you have to be clever and think about the points which will be very good for us in terms of the championship.

“There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen. We need to stay focused, keep the same rhythm and keep applying some pressure. You never know what can happen and we can also focus on the Power Stage for a few extra points there.”

3rd

Thierry Neuville said: “First of all, I’d like to thank all the guys for an outstanding job in preparing the car for today’s stages. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC worked really well and it’s great to retain our podium position with two tests remaining. The morning loop went without incident. Our pace notes were perhaps a bit slow in places and some parts were quite tricky. Our tyre choice for the afternoon was maybe not ideal but we made it through and our aim now is to secure the podium with, hopefully, some Power Stage points.”

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak said:

“It’s been a nice day – our first gravel rally with these new cars and we’ve been trying to improve as the day has gone on. In the afternoon, I think we made the right tyre choice and it was a clean run through.

“Tomorrow there will be some more quite long and tricky stages including the Power Stage. This year you can collect quite a few points there so we need to be smart and hopefully we can collect some of those too.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans said:

“It was always going to be a challenge opening the road but the morning was pretty positive. We struggled a bit more this afternoon, but on the whole I think it’s been okay. We’re learning a lot about the new car on gravel and hopefully we can continue in the same vein tomorrow.

“It was good to get a couple of stage victories in the bag on the super specials this afternoon as well – although to be fair I was helped a bit by the weather so I can’t take all of the credit for those!”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon commented: “There’s not much to say about this rally, in which we had some problems. We can only take consolation from a top-five finish, but with some more luck we know we can be fighting higher up – and for the podium. It’s been good to be back on gravel, it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t show a better performance. We can only keep on working in the hope that the tide will turn soon. Corsica is next, where I’m hopeful we can get better results.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
08-12 March 2017
Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo said: “I was pleased that our penalty from yesterday was overturned. It meant we could focus on just getting the best out of the car and ourselves. I tried to do well and the feeling from our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was very good. I was honoured to take the team’s 100th stage win this morning, and to take two stage wins in total. It shows just what we are capable of. The afternoon loop was not quite as clean. I picked up a flat tyre on the road section before the second run through Lajas de Oro, which meant we had to change to a worn tyre. It was a bit rushed, but we made it through the day and we’ll do all we can to reduce our deficit to the top-six in Sunday’s final two stages.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

“We’ve been managing the car and our situation today and that has worked well for us. The only mistake we made is choosing the wrong tyre: we were actually expecting rain, then it didn’t happen, so we ended up running on a tyre that was too soft, which gave us a lot of wear. The team found a solution to the overheating problems that were affecting us yesterday, which meant that we were gradually able to increase the power throughout the day. On the final day, tomorrow, our aim is to defend our position and score some points: especially on the Power Stage.”

Juho Hänninen said:

“We did what we could today. Like Jari-Matti, our tyre choice was a bit too soft. Also, I wasn’t feeling so well: it’s hard to know how much that affected me, but this afternoon was little better. Generally, it was OK on the stages but it felt worse after I stopped. The car felt very good: thank you to the engineers and mechanics for fixing the problem we had yesterday so efficiently. Today we did a lot of valuable mileage, which means that we can be much better in future in these types of conditions.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre

“Three kilometres from the end of SS10, I got caught out when I lost the rear of the car on a long left-hand turn. The car slid wide and off the road, onto a slope. We were unable to get the car back on the road, as there weren’t enough spectators around to help us. It’s pretty rough for us, given just how many fans there are next to the roads here! Everything was going well up to that point. I felt good in the car, but this minor mistake is a very costly one. I’ll be back in action tomorrow to keep learning about the stages.”

So, into Sunday we headed, with everything looking very stable. Just two stages awaited the crews. First up La Calera. Normally we see short stages on Sunday’s, but there was still over 50km’s of action!

Kris took stage 18, with a decent time, opening out his lead by a further seven seconds to nearly forty. Impressive indeed! He was happy that the mud created in the stage by the rain protected his tyres. There was drama for Dani in his i20! Just as he started the stage, it started to rain and then his wipers didn’t work, so it was impressive that he was only 20 seconds slower than Kris. Jari-Matti lost a few seconds to his teammate with a spin on a right-hander about 8km’s into the stage.

1. Meeke – 21:53,7 (90,3kph)

2. Ogier +0:06,3

3. Lefebvre +0:12,6

One stage then to go, and all the cars made it through pretty much okay. Thierry set the quickest time and took all five power stage points with Seb second just three tenths off. There was massive drama for Kris and Paul though! With just one kilometre to go, in a right-hander the car took off and when it landed off into a hedge lining the road with a carpark just the other side. When the C3 WRC emerged the other side, it clipped a VW Passat causing a little damage and the start of a puncture on the left-hand side of the car. Kris drove around the carpark looking for an exit, losing time! Paul pointed and Kris floored the throttle and the C3 burst through the hedge, taking some red tickertape with it, wrapped around the aerials and rear wing! They powered through the remaining kilometre and crossed the line, pretty sure that they’d lost the victory. In fact, they had won, crossing the line eighth fastest, 23 seconds slower than Thierry, but crucially still a gap of 13.8 seconds remained of what was a lead of 37 seconds. Kris and Paul had won taken their fourth victory and the first for the new Citroen C3.

SS19 – Derramadero Power Stage (21,94km)

1. Neuville – 12:13,9 (107,6kph)

2. Ogier +0:00,3

3. Tanak +0:03,8

4. Latvala +0:08,0

5. Sordo +0:09,8

Final Overall Classification – Rally Mexico

1 K. Meeke P. Nagle 3:22:04.6

2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia +13.8

3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul +59.7

4 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja +2:18.3

5 H. Paddon J. Kennard +3:32.9

6 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +4:40.3

7 J. Hänninen K. Lindström +5:06.2

8 D. Sordo M. Martí +5:22.7

9 E. Evans D. Barritt +8:41.8

10 P. Tidemand J. Andersson +10:51.9

So, let’s hear from the top three after a simply heart-stopping moment!

Kris Meeke 1st Place said:

“I think I might end up telling this story hundreds of times… I’m annoyed with myself for making that mistake. The car went wide after a big compression and we were very lucky. I quickly looked to get back on the road because I knew we could still win. That’s the main thing: we showed the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC in securing the car’s first win. I’m proud and delighted for the entire team, this result is for them.”

Sébastien Ogier 2nd Place said:

“I’m really pleased with this result. Coming away from Mexico with 22 points is a great result for me and honestly, I would have taken that before the rally. Opening the road on Friday, we knew that we would struggle in the loose conditions but I think we managed it pretty well.

“When the conditions become more even we were able to set the same pace as Kris but I must congratulate him also. He had a really strong drive and didn’t give us the chance to make any inroads into his lead so it was a deserved victory for him.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Thierry Neuville 3rd Place said:

“I can only say that I am really happy to have finished on the podium here in Mexico. It’s dedicated to the whole team of Hyundai Motorsport who have kept pushing me after the disappointment of the first two rallies. I described Monte and Sweden as fast but frustrating, so it’s great to be back in the top-three and scoring Power Stage points today. The team has worked hard this weekend, to fix the car after some problems on Friday. It was their persistence and determination that allowed us to stay in the podium positions, so thanks to them. Onwards and upwards.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
06-12 March 2017
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Day 1
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Now for the rest of the drivers.

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak 4th said:

“We lost a lot of time on Friday so it was a shame not to be on the podium, but it was still a positive event for us. From yesterday onwards we were back on the pace and setting good times so I’m happy with that. It was a very positive rally for the team as a whole and we’ve got some more good points on the board for the championship which is really important.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon 5th Place said:

“There’s not much to say about this rally, in which we had some problems. We can only take consolation from a top-five finish, but with some more luck we know we can be fighting higher up – and for the podium. It’s been good to be back on gravel, it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t show a better performance. We can only keep on working in the hope that the tide will turn soon. Corsica is next, where I’m hopeful we can get better results.”

Dani Sordo 8th said:

“I am pleased to get to the end of this rally, but I’m trying to remain positive. It’s not been an easy weekend for us. We have battled against problems, which has not given us the confidence we needed to push hard. We had some complications with the wipers this morning, which was definitely interesting when it was raining on the first stage. We did all we could in the Power Stage, and I’m happy to take one point. We haven’t had much luck in Mexico so we have to just put it behind us and focus on the next round, Tour de Corse.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala 6th said:

“I set myself a target of the top five, so I just missed out on that. On the other hand, I don’t think that anyone could have predicted the difficulties that we all faced, so to finish sixth and score some Power Stage points as well is a real achievement, which still keeps us well-placed in both championships. The last day was actually the best day for me: we had a really good feeling with the car until we got caught out by a slippery section on the first stage, so we had a spin and lost 10 seconds. Without that, I think it could have been a really good time. All the signs of progress are there, which is the main thing. We’re here to learn, and we have done a lot of that over the past four days.”

Juho Hänninen 7th said:

“We can take away many positive things from this rally although for me it was not as enjoyable as it could have been because I was not feeling well from start to finish. Still, I am very happy to get to the end and score my first driver points this year. It was fun to be so close with Jari-Matti heading into the final day: we started it separated by just 0.3 seconds but he was faster than me today. We will take on board many things for the future from this and move forwards as a team, which is the most important thing. On this rally, I managed to avoid all the trees as well, so it’s good to see that even at my age I can still learn some new things! Although I did notice that a left-hand mirror was broken, so maybe I didn’t get away with it completely…”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans 9th said:

“It’s been a tricky weekend with the penalty and then having to run first on the road, but overall I think we can be pretty happy with the weekend. This was our first time on gravel with these new cars and we’ve completed all of the mileage with good speed and three stage victories.

“It could have been a lot worse for sure and we’ve collected a lot of good knowledge which bodes well for the next gravel outing in Argentina.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre 15th Place said:

“We have picked up a lot of experience this weekend. Even today, being eleventh on the road meant I had the same grip as the leaders and I was able to get a feel for what the car can do in these conditions. Well done to Kris, Paul and the whole team; this win is a special moment for Citroën Racing.”

Well, the reigning champion is back on top of the table, but three rounds into this year’s championship and three different winners as well, we are definitely looking at a more open fight for this year’s drivers’ championship.

The next round is the classic Tour de Corse over the weekend of the 6th to 9th of April. It’ll be the first fully tarmac event of the year with conditions that will be equal to all drivers.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Sébastien Ogier 66 points

2. Jari-Matti Latvala 58 points

3. Ott Tanak 48 points

4. Dani Sordo 30 points

5. Thierry Neuville 28 points

6. Kris Meeke 27 points

7. Craig Breen 20 points

8. Elfyn Evans 20 points

9. Hayden Paddon 17 points

10. Stephane Lefebvre 10 points

11. Juho Hanninen 9 points

12. Andreas Mikkelsen 6 points

13. Jan Kopecky 4 points

14. Pontus Tidemand 3 points

15. Bryan Bouffier 1 point

16. Teemu Suninen 1 point

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. M-Sport WRT 103 points

2. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 67 points

3. Hyundai Motorsport 65 points

4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 55 points

Rally Finland Review! Meeke becomes Meekenen!

 

|They both came here. Colin and Richard. Looking to take on the Finns, Norwegians and Swedes in a place that the Scandinavians have dominated the top step for decades.

They never won, but now history has been made with the first fully British crew to win and beat them all.

Well, how did it all come about? As ever it all started on the Thursday evening with a short blast around SS1 which gave us a top ten of sorts.

1 A. Mikkelsen
2 O. Tanak
3 S. Ogier
4 T. Neuville
5 K. Meeke
6 J. Latvala
7 C. Breen
8 K. Abbring
9 H. Paddon
10 M. Ostberg

So to the first full day of stages and Kris and Paul really felt comfortable in their Abu Dhabi run DS3 and thus took the lead from Jari-Matti by 6 seconds, with Ott third on the stage. The top three overall was Kris, Ott and Andreas.

Moving onto stage three and Jari-Matti won it with Kris just two tenths behind followed by Ott in third. Early leader Andreas has slipped down the order sadly, now 6.9 seconds behind Kris. Of course the running order which is taken from the championship standings meant that he was second on the road.

Moving onto stage four and Ott went through fastest, but Kris with doing a great job, going through just seven tenths slower. It was all change behind that with Andreas going through third fastest and therefore moving into third overall. Jari-Matti suffered a puncture on this stage after running wide and crossed the line 16 seconds slower than Ott and dropped two places from third to fifth. Craig showed great pace on this stage as well, setting the fourth fastest time.

Onto stage five then and Kris won this one, to extend his lead over Jari-Matti and Craig again showing his talent to finish third through here.

Stage six next and Jari-Matti went through eight tenths faster than Kris, but the lead was still over 18 seconds. It seems that he’d found his inner Finn!

Stage seven saw Ott set the fastest time from Craig and Jari-Matti in third. What this all meant was that Craig was catching Seb for third place on the overall leaderboard, now only 8.9 seconds behind.

Top three on stage 8 was Kris, Ott and Jari-Matti. Craig was continuing to match Seb’s times, and driving exceptionally well, although he’d dropped down to sixth place after that stage as Thierry and Andreas went quicker than him.

Into stage nine, and Ott continued to set quick times after his puncture earlier winning this one from Jari-Matti, with Kris in third.

Stage ten saw a shock. Seb slid off into a ditch and lost over 16 minutes. Jari-Matti won the stage by 1.6 seconds with Thierry third. On the overall leaderboard, with the demise of Seb, everyone behind moved up a place. Andreas moved into third, and there was now just ten seconds between Craig in fifth and Andreas.

So, stage eleven. Kris and Jari-Matti continued their battle at the front with Kris just edging the stage win by nine tenths of a second and keeping his lead at around 19 seconds over the Finn.

So, the last stage of the day and Andreas won it from Thierry and Jari-Matti in third. Kris was fifth, 2.6 seconds slower.

This was the full leaderboard at the end of Friday.

01. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën, 1h 13m 22.2s
02. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 18.1s
03. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 44.3s
04. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 45.4s
05. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 53.8s
06. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 58.2s
07. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 1m 02.9s
08. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 14.4s
09. Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F), Ford, + 1m 22.6s
10. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 2m 01.8s

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 16m 53.3s

This is what the top three drivers had to say at the end of the day.

1st

Kris Meeke (#7): “I’m really surprised to have led throughout this first leg and to finish with a twenty-second lead. Latvala and Tänak were very quick today, but I managed to pull clear when they had problems. Otherwise, it was a constant battle, like it always is here. A really close fight with just a few tenths in it. My aim is still the same: do the best job possible. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I don’t absolutely have to win. So I’ll stick with the same strategy tomorrow, doing my best whilst staying just within the limit. It will be very difficult with two runs on Ouninpohja, in the reverse direction to recent years. I’ll have to be really focused, especially on the morning run.”

2nd

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“It’s not easy for me to sum up today. It definitely got off to a bad start, but fortunately my slip on the fourth special stage didn’t have too much of an effect. But the puncture cost us a lot of time. After that we kept on improving our rhythm and threw everything at the task in hand. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for us to overtake Kris Meeke. The advantage of the starting position is too great here in Finland. But we aren’t going to give up, we will keep driving at the limit and trying to pile on the pressure. Tomorrow’s action includes the stage “Ouninpohja”. A lot can happen; nothing is for free here.”

3rd

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been a day of two halves, really. In this morning’s first loop, we were pushing to the maximum but we weren’t really seeing the results on the timesheets. The car felt OK but we just struggled to find any traction. This afternoon we took the same approach. We got everything we could out of the car and the results were a bit better. It seems the morning loop doesn’t suit our settings so we will have to be aggressive first thing tomorrow. Still, I am pleased we are holding third position at the end of this first day. We know how unforgiving the rally is, and there’s a long way to go, but we’re there or thereabouts. We’ll try to make some improvements to the car ahead of tomorrow’s stages.”

Comments from the rest of the drivers.

Volkswagen

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The morning went really well for us: I was really pleased with the handling of my Polo and with our speed. Some sections were new to me and I noticed that I was faster in places. Then I found these tracks a little easier on the second pass. However, the competition also stepped it up and the battle for third place couldn’t get much closer. We also have the legendary Ouninpohja stage ahead of us on Saturday – there is a lot of work to do before the finish on Sunday.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“There is a hairpin turn at the point at which I was too hard on the steering and wanted to cut the corner. As a result, I slid into the ditch on the inside. It was totally my mistake, and then at perhaps one of the slowest sections of the entire rally of all places. But that can happen when, like Julien and I, you have constantly been at the limit for the last six rallies. Or need to give 110 percent to try and make up for the disadvantage of the starting position. Initially, it didn’t look all that bad and the fans did their best to help us. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many spectators there as I would have hoped for. But without their help, Julien and I would never have got back on the track, so Kiitos!”

Hyundai

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a disappointing day but if you take the top two drivers out of the equation, we are not too far off. The morning was difficult. We tried to be aggressive but we struggled with the car on the loose and slippery conditions. We were sliding around and couldn’t stay in the lines. We tried to enjoy it a bit more in the afternoon but it’s hard when the times are not as we’d like them to be. Still, we will come back fighting tomorrow and aim to make up some positions.”

Kevin Abbring commented: “I’d summarise by saying it was a pretty satisfying day. There are little bits that we can improve in all areas but this is normal in our first ever event with the New Generation i20 WRC. We didn’t do Poland so it’s been tough to get up to these incredibly high speeds and to find the confidence to drive flat-out. We’ve made improvements to the car as we’ve learned more about it, and adapting it to our style. The only real issue we had today was in SS8 (Mökkiperä) when I hit the front after a heavy compression. It seemed fine to begin with but by the penultimate stage of the day, we had some front right suspension damage so had to nurse the car back. Tomorrow’s another day – and I’m looking forward to it!”

M-Sport

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“It’s been a really fun day today – as offices go you don’t get much better than this! We’ve had some good sections of stages, and some not so good, but that’s okay. We’re still within touching distance of the podium, and anything can happen with two days of challenging stages still to come. We’ll keep pushing.”

Éric Camilli (9th) said:

“It’s been a great day for us. Rally Finland is such a special event and it’s never easy for a Frenchman to go fast here, especially when they are driving a world rally car for the first time!
“We’re so happy to have set some competitive times today. I know that we have a lot more to learn before we can be consistently setting top times on these stages, but it was fantastic to challenge the guys with much more experience at times.
“The car has felt fantastic and the team have been working really hard. The aim will be to continue learning and progressing tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (6th WRC 2) said:

“We came here with the intention of challenging for the win so this afternoon was obviously really disappointing. I think that we showed some good speed today, but these things happen. It’s disappointing for everyone as we were on course to challenge for another really strong result.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen (#8): “I might just be the happiest man in Jyväskylä tonight! From start to finish, we thoroughly enjoyed every moment in the car today. Even though I have competed here many times before, you really do go a lot quicker in a World Rally Car and the feeling is immense. Obviously, everything wasn’t perfect, but we learned a lot, especially on the second pass. I think I can safely say that it was best day of my career as a rally driver! I didn’t think that I’d be so high up the standings and within ten seconds of the podium…”

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “It’s been a fantastic day for us. We tried to steer clear of the worst of the trouble and we had a strategy that enabled us to start with a good rhythm. The car worked just as I wanted it to and we were a lot quicker than last year on the same stages. I even felt that I could have gone even quicker still. The second pass was very difficult for the car, with a lot of embedded rocks. I opted to drive more cautiously in these sections.”

Saturday morning then and a long day of action, with Ouninpohja run twice and 33km in length!

Kris had got up early to watch a video of the stage and had decided to push. Well, he certainly did that, setting a time that we would expect from Jari-Matti and winning the stage by 13. 4 seconds from the Finn. The lead that Kris now had was now 31.5 seconds. Ott was third, but the great pace of Craig had seen him take seven seconds out of Andreas’ lead and close to within 1.4 seconds of third overall. Thierry lost a lot of time and fell from third to fifth on this stage.

A shorter stage beckoned in the form of stage 14 and Ott won it from Kris who once more was faster than Jari-Matti by 3 seconds, opening up his lead further over the VW driver. There was a big crash on this stage, with Lorenzo Bertelli rolling his Fiesta, thus meaning any drivers behind would be given a nominal time for the stage. Craig was one of these, so although Hayden was shown in third place, it was extremely likely that position was Craig’s.

Moving into stage 15 next and Kris won the stage from Seb with Jari-Matti a further 2.4 seconds behind, thus meaning that the overall lead was now over 37 seconds.

So, stage 16. Seb and Mads shared the quickest time through this one, with Thierry slotting into third.

Overall, we got confirmation that Craig was up to third overall, just Jari-Matti and Kris ahead! A remarkable drive from the young man.

The Saturday afternoon action started with a re-run of Ouninpohja, stage 17. Kris went even quicker than he did in the morning and won the stage again, beating Jari-Matti by almost 6 seconds and thus taking his lead to over 40 seconds. Just totally in the groove!!

Stage 18 next and the duel for supremacy continued between the chaser, Jari-Matti and the man at the top, Kris. Ott was taking the fight to Craig for the final podium place, going through ten seconds faster and closing the gap to him to 14 seconds.

Into stage 19 then and Ott finished second behind Seb, taking almost another 2 seconds from Craig and the gap just 11 seconds between them.

Stage 20 and the last stage of the day. Craig matched Ott through this one to stop the young Estonian catching him. All the while the gap between Jari-Matti and Kris remained the same at the top.

This was the leaderboard at the end of Saturday then.

01. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën, 2h 22m 00.8s
02. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 41.0s
03. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 1m 43.0s
04. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 54.5s
05. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 2m 00.9s
06. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 2m 03.6s
07. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 2m 06.0s
08. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 2m 24.0s
09. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 4m 23.6s
10. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 5m 10.5s

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 19m 51.6s

Here are the thoughts of the top three then.

1st

Kris Meeke (#7): “Yesterday was my best day in a WRC. But that wasn’t the case for long, because today has surpassed it! This morning, I got up an hour early today to watch the video of my recce on Ouninpohja. I think it’s the greatest stage in the world, and the most iconic as well. So I was really determined to do something special on it! I knew Jari-Matti Latvala would try to close the gap so I had to push really hard… At the end, I felt that I couldn’t have done any more. But I was still surprised when I found out just how big the gap was! In the afternoon, the rain tended to improve the grip and I was able to go even quicker, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as the first pass. We’re now in a good position to see out the win. We’ll have to stay focused to manage our lead tomorrow and finish the job we have done over the last two days.”

2nd

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“Like yesterday, we had to settle for second best on the day. Kris Meeke produced a very strong performance and also had the better starting position. Put these two things together, and we had no chance. It is not as though we did not try, but after the first running of the Ouninpohja stage it was clear to us that we had to focus on making sure we picked up some valuable points towards the championship. Plus, we also have to think about the Manufacturers’ Championship. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the fans out on the stages for their support. That means an awful lot to Miikka and me, particularly here on home soil. We must all keep our fingers crossed for the Power Stage now.”

3rd

Craig Breen (#8): “I never thought I’d be fighting for a podium place before the start of this rally! This morning, I learned a lot during the first run on Ouninpohja. I then didn’t complete SS14 because it was cancelled after Lorenzo Bertelli’s crash. We kept improving though and we had already moved up into third by the mid-leg point. I did feel a little bit of extra pressure for the second loop due to my position. As was to be expected, I lost a bit of time on the stage that I hadn’t contested this morning. But I was pleased to hit back at Ott Tänak on SS20. He knows that I will try to defend my position tomorrow, even though I won’t go over the limit to do so. Once again, I’m delighted with how things are going for me!”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai

Thierry Neuville said: “All in all it’s been a decent day. We have done the maximum we could do, and we’re involved in a nice, close fight with Hayden. I didn’t really feel comfortable at the start of the morning loop but we have tried to make improvements to the car throughout the day. We were hoping to gain more confidence in the afternoon but it wasn’t easy. Still, we are in a very close battle and the gaps are so small that it won’t take much for us to suddenly be back in podium contention. We just have to keep focused on our job and hope that we have a trouble-free Sunday morning.”

Hayden Paddon said: “We started the day feeling more confident. It was certainly a better morning loop than we had yesterday. We made some changes to the car balance, adjusting some suspension settings, and it was more to my liking. Of course, we were second on the road so we were sweeping on the morning stages, which didn’t help. We were preparing for a good fight in the afternoon but we weren’t able to find the speed we were expecting. It was difficult to pinpoint why we were losing the time because I couldn’t have driven any faster. We’ll sit down with the team, do some homework and try to sort things out. I can’t be too negative – we get to drive a WRC car on these amazing Finnish stages and that’s special.”

Kevin Abbring commented: “We have just continued to acclimatise to the New Generation i20 WRC again on today’s stages. We’ve had to find the best compromise between finding speed and staying cautious. When you see people in front of you go off, as happened this morning, you’re reminded to take things carefully. To be in Finland for the first time in a four wheel drive car, it’s not realistic to be on the pace immediately. It’s the first time I drive this car competitively too, so we’ve been making changes on each stage to get a better understanding. We had an issue on this afternoon’s loop when we lost the paddleshift. The car was also misfiring with the mechanical lever too, so we had to drive around that. Our aim is still the top-ten, and we have four stages to achieve that tomorrow.”

M-Sport

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“We’ve been fighting really hard today – you never give up in Finland because anything can happen. I can’t believe how close it is. At the moment we are in seventh position, but the gap to the podium is actually relatively small. Even though it’s just a short day tomorrow, we have to keep pushing and keep the pressure on. We never give up.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:

“My pacenote into a left-hand corner was too fast. We went into a ditch and then into the trees and rolled the car. It was a big one – a proper crash – but we are both okay which is the most important thing.

“We have proven that we have the potential to be fast here in the future. Finland and Sweden are the most difficult rallies for a Frenchman – especially a Frenchman experiencing them for the first time – so it was a positive to challenge some of the more experienced drivers this weekend. We need to remember that.

“This wasn’t the finish that we wanted, but it wasn’t a bad weekend either; and next we have a series of Tarmac rallies that I am really looking forward to. I know that I have more knowledge and more feeling with the car on that surface.

“Rallye Deutschland is my favourite event of the year. We have competed there twice before and we are really motivated to do well there.”

Elfyn Evans (4th WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a much better day for us today. We’ve been driving well and managed to keep out of trouble for the most part. We climbed ahead of the two guys in front, but the gap is too big to reach the podium on driving alone. We just need to be reliable tomorrow and wait and see if anything happens.”

Volkswagen

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Although the atmosphere is fantastic and the routes are incredible fun, this is just not going to be my weekend at the Rally Finland. After yesterday’s mistake, we struggled with braking issues this morning. Unfortunately, the repairs then took so long that we were given a time penalty. That is obviously frustrating for Andreas, as he then had to take over the role of road sweeper. If anyone can understand how he feels, then it is me. For Julien and me, the priority on Sunday is to at least pick up a few points in the Manufacturers’ Championship and, obviously, to push for the three points on the Power Stage. There is nothing more at stake for us.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Our first day in the role of road sweeper was not particularly easy, but we did learn a lot. On the one hand, we can be happy with our performance: Anders and I really pushed and came through the day without any problems, except for one slight slip-up. Unfortunately, however, our hard work was not reflected in the results. Some of our times were only on a par with the slower R5 cars. However, we will take that on the chin and do our best again tomorrow – even though it is unlikely that we will be able to improve our position under our own steam.”

Citroen

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “The start of the day was difficult, with SS13 being cancelled after we had started driving on it. I made good progress in the afternoon, despite the weather conditions which made the stages very slippery in places. At the same time, I was thinking a lot about the performances of Kris and Craig. They are both enjoying a really great race and I’m delighted to see them so well placed this evening. I hope we can secure a great result for the Abu Dhabi Total team tomorrow.”

It was the last day and just 4 stages stood in front of Kris and Paul for an historic win. There had been four British co-driver winners before, sitting alongside local drivers, but never a fully British crew. All they had to do was bring it home.

First stage of the day, stage 21 saw a push from Ott and Raigo to catch Craig and Scott and they were 4.3 seconds quicker closing the gap to around 5 seconds.

The following stage saw that push end unfortunately. Ott and Raigo hit a rock and were forced to retire. Thierry won the stage from Hayden and Jari-Matti. Craig had a 7 second lead over Thierry who had benefitted from the demise of Ott to move up into fourth place.

Stage 23 then and how would Craig respond to this pressure then with the Rally Sardegna winner closing on him? Well, he went out there and took his first stage win, beating Hayden by a tenth of a second! A brilliant performance.

So, one stage left then and Kris held a large 32.4 second over Jari-Matti and Craig in third.

Thierry won the power stage, picking up the three points and beating his teammate, Hayden by a tenth of a second, with Jari-Matti just 6 tenths off in third. Craig was sixth and Kris eighth, but with that they’d won this rally and become only the sixth driver not from Scandinavia to win this event.

A truly remarkable performance! This is what he had to say.

1st

Kris Meeke (#7): “For a WRC driver, winning Rally Finland is the ultimate goal before becoming World Champion. It’s an incredible feeling to win on the greatest roads in the world. This result was largely determined yesterday with the two runs on Ouninpohja. At the end of the first run, I didn’t know my time but I knew that I had driven really well. But I could hardly believe it when I found out that I gone thirteen seconds faster than Jari-Matti Latvala! Last year, in the other direction, he beat me by six seconds when I thought I had driven the perfect stage. That just goes to show the progress we have made, through a combination of work with the team and my growing experience. I also have to say that the car worked perfectly all weekend. We only did one day of testing, last Sunday, but that was enough for us to see that we already had the best set-up. I felt really confident right from the word go and that was a key factor in the win. This morning, I was totally relaxed. I just had to drive the last few stages to finish off the work that we had done in the first two days.”

2nd

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am happy with my performance this weekend, even though I came up just short of a hat-trick of wins at the Rally Finland. Second place and a point on the Power Stage is a very good haul. I also climbed a place in the overall standings. All in all, we could not have done any more against Kris Meeke this weekend. I would like to say another big thank you to all the many fans who supported me. It is always very special to drive here on home soil. We now move on to the asphalt season, which was remarkably good to me last year. We must now back up this weekend’s performance in Germany.”

3rd

Craig Breen (#8): “It’s the best day of my career again. But it seems that with this car, every day is a bit better! When I grabbed third place yesterday afternoon, I already felt that I had moved up another level. There weren’t many kilometres left to complete today but it was still pretty tough because I was put under pressure by my rivals. I couldn’t be happier, claiming my first WRC stage win and finishing on the podium. The finish was very emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but it was fantastic to celebrate this moment with the people who have supported me. It’s also a richly-deserved result for the guys in the team, who had to work hard to repair the car after I went off during testing on Monday. I’ve taken a step closer to where I want to be this weekend.”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai

Thierry Neuville said: “We have given our maximum throughout the weekend and been absolutely on the limit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get on the podium – but it was very close! We had a strong finish with two stage wins today including the Power Stage, so that was a nice way to end the rally. It was particularly pleasing for the whole team to have a 1-2 in the Power Stage after a tricky weekend. We have had some difficulties with the car settings and grip levels on most stages so I think we can be reasonably satisfied. It was an exciting battle with Hayden and to have the opportunity to compete on these incredible Finnish stages is always a pleasure. There are definitely some more things we need to learn about the performance of our car in these conditions. We can now look forward to Germany – a rally where we have fond memories!”

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a challenging weekend but there are some positives to take away. We were second on the road for much of the weekend, so to come away with a top-five result is not too bad. We had a decent final day even if the driving was a bit untidy at times. We didn’t take any massive risks and concentrated on getting the cars home. With that in mind, to take 1-2 in the Power Stage was a nice consolation. We gave it our all but we’ve struggled with the car in the slippery conditions. It was a close fight with Thierry and I’ve really enjoyed these fantastic stages.”

Kevin Abbring said: “I am happy with how this weekend has gone all things considered. We haven’t made any mistakes and we’ve come away with a top-ten result in Rally Finland. It has been an extremely valuable learning experience and I’d like to thank the team for giving us the opportunity. The New Generation i20 WRC has performed well and it’s been a real pleasure to drive. We have made improvements with each stage, refining our pace notes and we’ve done what we set out to achieve.”

M-Sport

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“It’s been a really good weekend and we’ve been pushing hard on all of the stages. There’s been a fantastic fight for the podium throughout the entire rally. It’s quite incredible to see so many cars fighting for the top positions – and it’s just a shame that we’ve finished towards the end of that fight.

“I felt something wasn’t quite right on the back of the car and that prevented us pushing to our maximum today. It’s a shame that’s the way it ended – and that we had to settle for sixth – but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:

“We knew before the rally that it would be challenging. Like Sweden, it is hard for a Frenchman to come here for the first time in a world rally car and show immediate speed, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by our times.

“It was a pleasure to be battling with the guys who have a lot more experience than us and we were gaining a lot of confidence with every stage. Maybe we gained a little too much confidence!

“Through the first pass of Ouninpohja (SS13) we could see that our pacenotes were too slow. All of our minuses were in fact pluses, so I decided to change them for the next stage (SS14). But one left-hand corner was a minus, not a plus. We went wide into the ditch and rolled the car at high-speed.

“Thankfully both myself and Ben were okay which is the most important thing and we have to put this one down to experience. We’ve learnt a lot this weekend and I think we have shown that we have the potential to do well in the future.

“Now, we are really looking forward to the Tarmac rallies. I have a lot more experience on that surface and a lot more knowledge. Germany is an event that I know quite well, and I hope it will be possible to do something there.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a challenging weekend. Some problems on Friday put us on the back foot and dropped us down to sixth. Third place was probably the best we could have hoped for after that. We’ve had a clean rally with no mistakes and the speed has been really good in places too. It’s a shame as the result could have been a lot more.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “The pressure was on all our shoulders today! Between the stages, I kept up to date with Kris’ progress and Craig’s fight for third. Finishing with both Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team cars on the podium at Rally Finland is an extraordinary performance. We couldn’t really have hoped for a better result. I’m also very pleased with my performance. I managed to up my pace and improved significantly on my times from last year.”

D-Mack

Ott Tänak said: “Once again we’ve shown a top pace and been able to set top times on the fastest event of the season. But a few problems have stopped us from challenging for the victory, even though we pushed to the maximum all weekend. We had prepared really well for this rally and put in so much work before hand.”

Karl Kruuda said: “It wasn’t the final result we were after but our pace has improved steadily over the last three events. We had been pushing pretty hard here and the speed at the front really was fast. Finland is one of those special events and it really was an enjoyable weekend here.”

Marius Aasen said: “After the accident in Poland it was important for us to get a strong finish here. We improved our pace over the weekend and never made any mistakes and I was really having a nice enjoyable event. We made a few changes with the car and everything worked pretty well during the event.”

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Finland – Final Results*

01. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën, 2h 38m 05.8s
02. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 29.1s
03. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 1m 41.3s
04. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 1m 45.9s
05. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1m 48.2s
06. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 2m 04.6s
07. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 2m 22.4s
08. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 4m 53.8s
09. Kevin Abbring/Sebastian Marshall (NL/GB), Hyundai, + 5m 22.4s
10. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 5m 35.5s

24. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 19m 50.6s

2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

S. Ogier 143 points
A. Mikkelsen 98
J. M. Latvala 87
H. Paddon 84
T. Neuville 76
M. Østberg 70
D. Sordo 68
O. Tanak 52
K. Meeke 51
C. Breen 25
E. Camilli 23
H. Solberg 14
S. Lefebvre 12
M. Prokop 12
T. Suninen 8
M. Ligato 6
E. Evans 6
E. Lappi 6
L. Bertelli 4
K. Abbring 4
P. Tidemand
N. Fuchs 2
A. Kremer 1
V. Gorban 1
J. Kopecky 1

2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

Volkswagen Motorsport 227 points
Hyundai Motorsport 168
M-Sport World Rally Team 112
Volkswagen Motorsport II 109
Hyundai Motorsport N 86
DMACK World Rally Team 58
Jipocar Czech National Team 18
Yazeed Racing 6

So, what an incredible event! Fantastic to see the man who was mentored by Colin win a rally that is so specialist, that you just don’t see the Finns get beaten like this.

Also, what about Craig?! This young man has shown what he is capable of and driven amazingly through the weekend! Surely he has to be considered for the other seat next to Kris by Citroen after that performance.

So, the next rally up is Germany, and Thierry Neuville won there two years ago. Can that be repeated this year? It’s a fully tarmac event and this will certainly see Seb fighting at the front for the win.

See ya!


9th August 2016