Rally Argentina 2018 Preview – Back to Gravel!

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

The WRC heads to Argentina for the fifth round of this year’s championship. Seb Ogier increased his lead over Thierry Neuville last time out with a dominant victory on the tricky roads that make the Tour de Corse. This year’s event features 18 stages and a very interesting twist at the end. El Condor, which is the Power Stage and is one of the most famous stages in the world will be tackled uphill this year.

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

Here’s the full stage schedule.

RALLY ARGENTINA SCHEDULE (GMT-3)

THURSDAY 26 APRIL

8.00am: Shakedown (Villa Carlos Paz – Cabalango)

6.30pm: Start (Villa Carlos Paz)

6.45pm: Regrouping (Villa Carlos Paz – 20 min)

7.08pm: SS 1 – Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km)

7.33pm: Parc fermé (Villa Carlos Paz)

FRIDAY 27 APRIL

6.25am: Start and Service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.10am: SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km)

9.00am: SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (33,58 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,85 km)

12.08pm: SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km)

12.48pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

2.51pm: SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km)

3.38pm: SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (33,58 km)

4.51pm: SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,85 km)

6.41pm: Flexi service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SATURDAY 28 APRIL

7.30am: Start and Service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.23am: SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km)

9.08am: SS 10 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (16,02 km)

9.35am: SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 1 (40,48 km)

11.38am: SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km)

12.15pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

1.23pm: SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km)

2.08pm: SS 14 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (16,02 km)

2.35pm: SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 2 (40,8 km)

4.35pm: Flexi service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SUNDAY 29 APRIL

7.45am: Start and Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

9.08am: SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km)

9.55am: SS 17 – Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero (22,41 km)

12.18pm: SS 18 – Copina – El Condor Power Stage (16,43 km)

2.21pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 min)

2.31pm: Finish

 

There’s 358km of stages this year. Last year, we saw welsh wizard Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt drive brilliantly throughout the event, only to be denied victory after some technical problems by Thierry Neuville who won by just seven tenths of a second.

Here’s the views from the drivers then.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Argentina is a famous event and one that attracts an incredible crowd of passionate rally fans. It creates a fantastic atmosphere that we appreciate during the stages. We have good memories of last year’s rally, which we won in dramatic style in the Power Stage.  I hope we can pull off a similar result this time around. It is a highly demanding event, very tough on the car and the crew, so it’s not one that we can take lightly.”

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Argentina is probably one of my favourite rallies of the entire season. It is a very special type of gravel event because the roads are sandier which suits my driving style a bit more; you can really create an angle, which helps to attack the corner. The stages can get quite rough on the second pass so it’s important to take care of the car, but all in all it is a beautiful rally. El Condor and Mina Clavero are two stages I particularly look forward to.”

Dani Sordo

“The huge number of spectators really makes this a special rally for everyone. It is always nice to see so many people lining the routes and cheering us on. It gives us a real boost regardless of how we are performing. Of course, our aim is to be fighting towards the front. We have had a couple of solid results in a row, so we want to use the momentum to add another gravel podium to the one we scored in Mexico.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Argentina is a place where I have had some very enjoyable moments in the past, including my win there in 2014. It is a really challenging event and that makes it very satisfying when things are going well. There is a nice mixture of different stages over the weekend, from the fast and sandy roads in the valley on Friday to the rougher mountain stages on Sunday, including the famous El Condor, which is the Power Stage again this year. It is always a very spectacular stage with all of the fans up on the hillsides cheering us on. Argentina is a very demanding rally for the cars, and we learned a lot there as a team last year. Together, we are working hard to constantly improve the car, and hopefully we can show some good progress. It would be good to get some more points on the board.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Miikka Antilla. Photo credit – Toyota Gazoo Racing

Ott Tanak

“Rally Argentina has always been a tough event. There are some nice smooth and fast stages but also some pretty technical roads, so it’s a rally where you get a bit of everything in one weekend. It’s also really demanding on the cars, as the stages can get pretty rough. I finished third there last year, and that gives me confidence that I can perform well this time. I’m also feeling good after our pre-event test in Sardinia: the roads went from wet to dry during the test and the surface can be just as rough there, so I think that we got just the right conditions that we needed for a good test for Argentina. I am pretty happy with the improvements that we were able to make to the car and now I am eager to see how we are going to compare against the others.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Although I haven’t competed in Argentina before, I have done the recce twice, so I have some picture of what the rally is like. I have heard that it can be the toughest round of the championship: the surface can get very rough in places, and there are a lot of rocks, so you need to take care sometimes. It looks as though on Friday the roads are going to be a little bit softer than on Saturday, and then on Sunday in the mountains there will be more loose gravel and rocks. I am really confident that we can do much better in Argentina than in our last gravel rally in Mexico, where I think I learnt quite a lot. It is usually a rally where a lot of things can happen, so it might be that my main target will be to just try and stay out of trouble, but let’s see how it goes.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“I come into this fifth round very determined to move back up the championship standings, but this rally is such a challenge, you have to treat it with respect it deserves. I’ll do my very best, as always, but the weather may be a factor. The condition of the roads is often determined by how much rainfall there has been over the previous six months. In any case, it’s a rally that I really love, both for the wide range of difficulties involved and the warm, very enthusiastic welcome we get from the local fans. Added to which, I have always been comfortable here: I’ve finished on the podium twice in my four appearances, including my first WRC win.”

Craig Breen

“Having only raced here once before, and even then, only for part of the rally, when the other guys have been driving on these stages for years, I fear that my lack of knowledge may hamper me a bit. But I really enjoyed the brief glimpse of the rally that I got here last season and I can’t wait to get started. Testing went really well. It had been a little while since I had last driven the C3 WRC on gravel and the car has clearly improved on this surface. So, my confidence has been given a serious boost coming into this rally, which is set to be pretty demanding.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Khalid Al Qassimi

“I think this rally is going to be a real challenge for me because it has been some time since I last competed here, but I am very much looking forward to it. I’ll have to get my bearings again, review and revise the pace notes for the stages. My sole aim is to make it to the finish and enjoy myself, whilst also supporting the team.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We’ve made a great start to the season and come to Argentina with the ambition of continuing this positive start. It’s the only event Julien and I are yet to win and, even though I won’t be fixated on a win this week, I would also love to stand on the top step of the podium in Argentina!

“We know that the win won’t be easy, but we have made a lot of progress this year and will certainly give it our best. The competition is strong, but if we can limit the time loss on Friday, which will be the key, I’m sure we’ll be in with a chance.

“The car felt great last time out on gravel, but the surface in Argentina is completely different. The roads are much softer and sandier here, but also quite rough in places meaning that a good result is dependent on a compromise between speed and endurance.

“We completed a development test in Portugal last week and everything continues to go in the right direction. We’re keen to see what we can do next week, and optimistic of delivering another strong result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Mexico (MEX) – WRC 08/03/2018 to 11/03/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“It’s great to see Dan fully recovered and back at an event that holds a lot of special memories for the both of us. It’s where we secured our first podium in 2015, and where we came so close to victory last year. That was a hard defeat to take at the time, but it made us stronger and we’ll be hoping to challenge for the top results again this year.

“It’s fair to say that I’ve not had the best start to the season, but we’re determined to turn that around this week. With a solid result in Corsica, and Dan back by my side in Argentina, we’re looking forward to the challenge and focused on delivering a strong result.

“You have to take a fairly measured approach to an event like this as there is very little margin for error. There’s the potential for something to catch you out around practically every corner – so you have to have a clean rally and keep mistakes to a minimum.

“We completed some development testing in the lead-up to this event where we were able to get a feel for driving on gravel again. We will have a fairly good road position for the opening day and the car feels good – so let’s see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen

“Argentina will be an interesting event in that sense that I have not competed here before. We did the recce in 2016 and from what I can remember there are quite a few rhythm changes on the stages – high-speed roads often turning into very narrow tracks with no room to run wide.

“The rhythm change is the biggest challenge, but the roads are also soft in places and the risk of punctures is increased by small stones bordering the road.

“We completed a development test in Portugal and got some good kilometres under our belt on gravel. It was really important to have that test. We have trust in the car but I know that the conditions will be a little different in Argentina.

“My aim this week is to continue to learn, continue to gain experience and continue developing my driving. If we can do that, the good results will come too.”

 

Well, we are set for a very good rally. All the ingredients are there, with Kris and Thierry who have conquered these very challenging stages in recent years. Also, let’s not forget that Elfyn and Dan led a large portion last year, only to miss out by such a small amount in the end. Perhaps Seb will take his first win here this weekend. He’s come pretty close before, but with him opening the road throughout Friday, he’ll need to ensure that the time loss to the leaders is kept small.

One driver missing, which is a shame, is 2016 winner Hayden Paddon. I’m surprised that Hyundai didn’t have him in the third i20 this weekend. Still, we’ll see him next time in Rally Portugal.

Enjoy the rally!

Rally Sweden 2018 Preview!

Its time for Round Two! The WRC heads for the amazing snow-covered roads of Sweden, one of the fastest rallies of the year! Helping the drivers keep a grip will be the special tyres that Michelin bring.

 

Two centimetres narrower that their gravel equivalent, and a full five centimetres narrower than the tarmac version, Michelin’s “Sweden” tyre mainly stands out due to the 384 studs glued into drilled holes on the tyre tread. The studs provide such a high level of grip that at equivalent speeds, the braking distances are the same as on dry tarmac! The challenge in Sweden therefore consists of taking great care of these twenty-millimetre-long spikes, which protrude around seven millimetres from the tread blocks. The Scandinavian rally is also one of the few events where taking two spare wheels, especially on the second pass when gravel begins to appear and lines form, actually helps performance. The challenge is to switch tyres at the right moment, so that the studs wear out evenly, and avoid having an uneven tyre set-up.

 

This year there are 19 stages and a total of 314,25 competitive km’s.

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

 

Here’s the full details of the stages!

 

THURSDAY 15 FEBRUARY

8.00am: shakedown (Skalla)

8.04pm: Start day 1 (Karlstad)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Karlstad (1,90 km)

9.54pm: End of day 1

 

FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 2 and Service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

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

9.07am: SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km)

9.54am: SS 4 – Röjden 1 (19,13 km)

11.31am: Service B (Torsby – 30 mins)

1.41pm: SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21,26 km)

3.03pm: SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km)

3.50pm: SS 7 – Röjden 2 (19,13 km)

4.56pm: SS 8 – Torsby 1 (9,56 km)

5.31pm: Flexi Service C (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 17 FEBRUARY

7.05am: Start day 3 and Service D (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.54am: SS 9 – Torntorp 1 (19,88 km)

9.12am: SS 10 – Hagfors 1 (23,40 km)

10.08am: SS 11 – Vargasen 1 (14,21 km)

11.40am: Service E (Torsby – 30 mins)

12.44pm: SS 12 – Torntorp 2 (19,88 km)

2.12pm: SS 13 – Hagfors 2 (23,40 km)

3.08pm: SS 14 – Vargasen 2 (14,21 km)

5.45pm: SS 15 – Karlstad 2 (1,90 km)

7.26pm: SS 16 – Torsby Sprint (3,43 km)

7.56pm: Flexi Service F (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 18 FEBRUARY

6.30am: Start day 4 and Service G (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.50am: SS 17 – Likenäs 1 (21,19 km)

9.51am: SS 18 – Likenäs 2 (21,19 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Torsby 2 (9,56 km)

 

1.00pm: Podium (Torsby)

 

 

Here’s the views of all the teams then!

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier

“It looks as though we are in for a true winter rally next week with everything needed for a classic Rally Sweden. Reports from the region suggest that there’s a good ice base and high snow banks which is everything a driver wants to hear ahead of this event.

“In those conditions, we can reach incredible speeds and lean the cars on the snow banks to help guide us through the corners. It’s an amazing feeling, but it’s not without its challenges.

“There’s certainly an art to driving on snow and you need to be precise. You have to judge the strength of the snow banks perfectly and – with more snow than previous years – there could be a lot of work to do on the Pacenotes.

“As the first car on the road, we’ll also have to wait and see what the conditions are like and we’re certainly not hoping to see any fresh snow on Friday.

“We got the season off to a great start last month, but we all know how strong the competition is and we’re expecting it to be even stronger next week. The Scandinavians are always strong here, but we plan to give them a hard time and secure another strong haul of points for our championship defence.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“Rally Sweden is an event that everyone looks forward to. On a classic Rally Sweden – like what we’re expecting this year – we can reach incredible speeds and if you get it right it’s easily one of the most enjoyable rallies on the calendar.

“The feeling on snow isn’t a million miles away from driving on gravel, but there are certain techniques that we’ll need to adapt and it can take a bit of getting used to at first.

“Vision can often be a challenge – particularly if there is a lot of fresh snow making it difficult to read the road ahead. Our Pacenotes and recce are going to have to be spot on, but we’re ready for it and really looking forward to it.

“There’s something of a score to settle after Monte where we were capable of achieving more than we did, so let’s see what we can do in Sweden.”

 

Teemu Suninen

“We’ve just completed some good test kilometres in Northern Sweden which went really well. I’ve not driven the Fiesta WRC since last year’s Rally Finland, so that gave us a chance to get familiar with the car and we’re now feeling well prepared for the start of the rally.

“It would be amazing to challenge for a podium again. Perhaps that is a realistic goal, but we would have to deliver the perfect rally to achieve it. With eight events this year, we also have to consider a slightly different approach. In 2017, we were solely focused on our future and showing what we could do, but this time we also have to think about the team and scoring points for the manufacturers’ championship.

“In terms of the weather, there have been talks of freezing temperatures and high snow banks but we’ll have to wait for the recce before we can see for ourselves. Whatever the conditions, the speed is always high. On a rally as fast as this the seconds are harder to gain, and we will have to be on the pace from the very first stage.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It looks like we going to get perfect winter conditions this year and like all the WRC drivers, I can’t wait to get started! In the last few seasons, with a limited amount of snow, you had to be very cautious or risk getting stuck in a snow bank after the slightest impact. The snow banks seem to be bigger and more compact this time around, so we’ll undoubtedly be able to drive more aggressively and use the banks more, although we may need a bit of time to get used to that. In any event, it’s an exciting challenge that I’m going to try and tackle with the same sensible approach as in Monte-Carlo.”

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Rally Sweden 2017. Photo Credit, Citroen

Craig Breen

“Between the start and end of last season, the C3 WRC made a lot of progress on gravel, so I hope it’ll be the same on snow and ice. Especially as Sweden is one of my favourite rallies, and one where I feel really confident. In fact, I had my very first race in a WRC here in 2014 and also made my maiden appearance in Sweden with Citroën Racing in 2016. After a difficult Monte, I’d love to get decent points on the board. And it looks like the road conditions will be perfect for this year’s rally, with really solid snow banks that are forgiving if you make a relatively minor mistake.”

 

Mads Ostberg

“Rally Sweden is a special event for me and I have always been quick here, so I’m very happy to have this opportunity to rejoin the team. I’m hoping to make the most of the shakedown at Satory and then the day of pre-event testing to adapt quickly to the C3 WRC. In any case, I’m already up to speed in these conditions, having contested two winter rallies in Norway, the second of which I won. With the bigger snow banks this year, the roads are likely to be narrower and more technically demanding, so perhaps we Scandinavians may be able to take advantage of our greater experience in conditions like these.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Sweden is one of my favourite rallies and actually the place where I took my first WRC victory 10 years ago – although it really doesn’t feel like so long ago! Compared to last year I think we have a better car: we concentrated on improving it on the slower and more technical sections during our test, and we definitely made a step forward in this area. Having said that, the competition is even tougher this year: within our own team as well. It’s going to be a really nice challenge in proper winter conditions and that of course helps me raise my own game; I’m confident we can fight for the win again. This weekend I’m also taking part in a local rally on snow in Finland with Juho Hänninen in my historic Toyota Celica, so this will be a lot of fun and the perfect way to prepare.”

Last years winners for Toyota Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla tackle Colins Crest. Photo Credit, Toyota Gazoo WRT

 

Ott Tänak

“I’m still learning about the Yaris WRC, but after driving it on snow during the test I’m beginning to understand why Jari-Matti won in Sweden last year. For the first part of the rally we’ll just have to see how everything goes, but of course I’m hoping that we can fight for the podium and even the win. If the snow is heavy on the stages, which seems to be the case, our start position of second on the road won’t be ideal, but of course the weather can change. I’m just going to enjoy the weekend and do my best. There’s a lot more still to come.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It took me a few days to get over the disappointment of losing fourth place in Monte-Carlo on the last stage, but in the end, there were more positives than negatives. Up to that point, we had driven a very consistent rally, and my aim is to do the same in Sweden. We had a good test and did around 400 kilometres in two days, which was enough for me to get a good feel. Our car should be well-suited to Sweden but it’s a very different type of rally to Monte-Carlo: in Monte, sometimes you have to be brave by going slow enough, whereas in Sweden you need a different type of commitment. I didn’t compete on the rally last year, so I am missing a bit of experience, but snow is a surface I always feel comfortable on.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Sweden is a very special event for me because of the opportunity we have to go rallying across the border into my home country of Norway. We have a lot of support from fans, family and friends. It’s a beautiful event and the only one we get to tackle completely on snow and ice with proper studded tyres. They give amazing grip and the feeling is unbelievable. We expect a good number of snow banks this year, so we will be able to explore the limits.”

Thierry Neuville

“We had good speed on the Swedish and Norwegian stages last year but unfortunately things didn’t end well when we were forced to retire on the penultimate day. This year, I am aiming to challenge once again for the win but with a far better outcome. Sweden is truly a unique event; the only one where we can compete with fully studded tyres for the complete rally. As one of the fastest rallies of the season, it’s an exhilarating one from inside the cockpit and for the fans lining the stages. We want to put on a good show and, most importantly, deliver a good result.”

Hayden Paddon

“I can’t wait to get my 2018 season underway finally. It feels like a long time since we were competing in Australia.  Sweden will be a fresh start for us. I have good memories from finishing on the podium two years ago, and I will be trying to repeat some of that performance. It was great to get re-acquainted with the car in testing recently. We were able to enjoy some outstanding winter driving conditions. More of that in the rally, as well as a decent result, would be the perfect start to my season.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, WRC, Sweden
06-12 February 2017
Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Action
Day 1
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

Now, there are lots of spectacular stages in this event, none more so than Vargasen, which features Colins Crest! Lots of fans base themselves there, just to see these amazing cars fly through the air and last year, Mads got the biggest jump of the event.

This year looks to be just as amazing! There has been a lot of snow, which means the snow banks are of very good quality!

We’ve got the returning Hayden and Mads, plus a good battle between Ott and Seb. What chance we have seeing a different driver leading the championship on Sunday afternoon?

 

Enjoy!

Rally Spain 2017 Review- Kris and Paul emerge victorious!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here’s the driver quotes for day one.

Andreas Mikkelsen said: (1st)

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

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

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

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

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

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

Seb Ogier, Friday, Rally Spain 2017

Kris Meeke (3rd) said:

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

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

Ott Tänak (4th) said:

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

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

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

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

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

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

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

Dani Sordo (6th) said:

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

Thierry Neuville (7th) said:

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (ret) said:

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

Juho Hänninen (8th) said:

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

Esapekka Lappi (10th) said:

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

Stéphane Lefebvre (9th) said:

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

Elfyn Evans (11th) said:

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

Khalid Al Qassimi (19th) said:

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Kris Meeke (1st) said:

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

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

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

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

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

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

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

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

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

Juho Hänninen (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (6th) said:

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

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

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

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

Speaking about the rock that he hit…

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

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

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

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

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

Stéphane Lefebvre (8th) said:

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

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:

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

Khalid Al Qassimi (18th) said:

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

 

Sunday morning was much like Saturday- warm and sunny.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Rally Spain 2017 result

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what the drivers had to say.

Kris Meeke (1st) said:

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

Kris and Paul take their fifth WRC victory.

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

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

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

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

 

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

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

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

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

 

Juho Hänninen (4th) said:

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

Juho Hanninen, Rally Spain 2017

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

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

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

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

 

Stéphane Lefebvre (6th) said:

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

 

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:

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

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

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

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

 

Khalid Al Qassimi (17th) said:

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

 

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

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

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

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

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 11:

1 Sebastien Ogier 198

2 Ott Tanak 161

3 Thierry Neuville 160

4 Jari-Matti Latvala 123

5 Dani Sordo 94

6 Elfyn Evans 93

7 Juho Hänninen 71

8 Craig Breen 64

9 Kris Meeke 60

10 Hayden Paddon 55

11 Esapekka Lappi 49

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 11:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 358

2 Hyundai Motorsport 275

3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 225

4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 198

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

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

 

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

 

Here’s the stage information for you.

RALLY DE ESPAÑA SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

 

THURSDAY 5 OCTOBER

8.00am: Shakedown – Salou (2.97km)

8.00pm: Ceremonial start (Salou)

 

FRIDAY 6 OCTOBER

8.15am: Start

9.53am: SS1 – Caseres 1 (12.50km)

10.21am: SS2 – Bot 1 (6.50km)

10.56am: SS3 – Terra Alta 1 (38.95km)

1.11pm: Service A (PortAventura – 30 mins)

3.19pm: SS4 – Caseres 2 (12.50km)

3.47pm: SS5 – Bot 2 (6.50km)

4.22pm: SS6 – Terra Alta 2 (38.95km)

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

 

SATURDAY 7 OCTOBER

6.45am: Service C (PortAventura – 15 mins)

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

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

9.54am: SS9 – Savalla 1 (14.12km)

11.35am: Service D (PortAventura – 30 mins)

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

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

3.02pm: SS12 – Savalla 2 (14.12km)

5.00pm: SS13 – Salou (2.24km)

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

 

SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER

6.00am: Service F (PortAventura – 15 mins)

7.00am: SS14 – L’Albiol 1 (6.28km)

7.38am: SS15 – Riudecanyes 1 (16.35km)

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

10.14am: SS17 – L’Albiol 2 (6.28km)

10.53am: SS18 – Riudecanyes 2 (16.35km)

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

1.41pm: Service G (PortAventura – 10 mins)

3.00pm: Podium (Salou)

 

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

 

Sébastien Ogier said:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Thierry Neuville said:

 

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

 

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

Hyundai, Tarmac test 2017

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

 

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

 

Here’s his thought’s….

 

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

 

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

 

Dani Sordo said:

 

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

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Ott Tänak said:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Elfyn Evans said:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Kris Meeke said:

 

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

Citroen C3 WRC 2017

Stephane Lefebvre said:

 

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

 

Kalid Al Qassimi said:

 

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

 

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

 

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

Toyota Yaris WRC

Juho Hänninen said:

 

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

 

Esapekka Lappi said:

 

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

 

Onebet Adapta WRT

 

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

 

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

Mads, Spanish tarmac test.

Final words to the Team Principal’s.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hyundai Team Principal Michel Nandan said:

 

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

 

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

Fans plan to celebrate Elfyn Evans’ brilliant year at Rally Wales GB with #ELFYNSCORNER

A group of fans have come together through Twitter and Facebook to cheer on D-Mack driver and Welsh Wizard during Rally Wales GB this coming October. The rally takes place from the 26th to the 29th of October.

 

They’re going to gather together in Myherin, a stage that is very well known in the rally world. The stage is just under 20km’s in length and will be run twice on Friday.

 

Those currently joining the fun at the moment are, Phil, Kevin, Sam, Lee and Andrew. I asked them what for their hopes were for Elfyn. Here’s what they said to me.

 

Phil Duke said:

“To show our support for Elfyn, Daniel and D-Mack as they don’t get the acknowledgement they deserve. Hopefully #ELFYNSCORNER will bring the attention to ELFYN and co and to have a laugh and meet new and old friends. This is going to be the first time the whole group has got together so will great to meet them all in person and show our support. Hoping Elfyn and Daniel will have a full time full works backing for 2018 and to be fighting for the win at Wales Rally GB 2017 it’s what he has proved this year that can fight at the front and a win is just around the 6 left!”

 

Sam Walker adds:

“I for one, think the lad has done amazing to get where he is, he has worked his backside off and done everything asked of him within the BRC and WRC.  I think next year, having gained experience with the car and knowing how it works, there is every chance he will be on the podium more often than not.  Not sure he is capable of winning just yet, but give him a couple more years and I have high hopes for our very own Welsh lad.”

 

Kevin Pascoe said:

“My hopes are for a top 2 finish for Elfyn, but a wet Wales Rally GB, with the current tyres, doesn’t inspire confidence for supporters or for him. Taking a longer-term perspective, hopefully good results in Spain and Australia should secure a competitive car and critically tyres for next season. Probably still with Ford, but would not rule out any of the three factory teams. Team managers know the challenges he has faced this year – but he has delivered anyway on most events.”

 

Lee said:

“I hope Elfyn becomes a world champ and keeps flying our flag with pride” and he added, “he is a national hero to us and he deserves to be a champ.”

 

Peter Jones said:

“Followed him from his first rally, and seen him grow into what I believe is a driver who can now compete at the very top. Thankful to D-MACK for giving him the opportunity this year, but that has also brought with it some frustrations i.e. Tyres have in most rallies been a handicap, and have beyond doubt held him back from exhibiting his full potential. Hope tyres work well on GB and that he can give it a real go. Hopes for next year is for him to be on Michelins, in a strong car, and getting that first important win.”

“Elfyns’ corner, an opportunity for his fans to get together and show the support he has got, and a chance to meet the idiots I have been tweeting over the past 12 months, and have some fun. Here endeth the lesson.”

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt during Rally Finland. They finished second overall.

Now, let me take you back to last year.

Ott Tanak pushed Seb very closely for the win last year with the D-Mack tyres on his Fiesta WRC winning a number of stages and finishing second in the end. Well, Elfyn will be using D-Mack tyres this year. I’m not going to speculate, but my feelings are that he will certainly be running near the front and will definitely take some stage victories.

 

The conditions in the stages will largely dictate the overall finishing position, and at this point it’s impossible to say what the drivers will face at this point.

 

However, these fans will hope that their efforts to support Elfyn and Dan will spur the crew to a top result.

 

All I will say is you won’t miss this banner. It’s huge! Emma Duke, Phil’s wife did most of the work to get it looking so great! Look out for it!

People featured in this article

@rallymadphil @welshroadhog @samwalker170875 @pjhj51 @KevinPascoe  @madmumov3 @ELFYNSCORNER

Rally Finland Preview 2017. The Gravel Grand Prix!

It’s time for the big one! This is it. The WRC is heading for the iconic roads in Finland. Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, this very fast event includes the super-fast Ouninpohja, a stage that you must have absolute faith in the car and the pace notes that will guide you through its jumps and, run twice on Saturday, it features jumps and blind crests over its 24.38km’s! One key difference this year is that this stage will be run in the opposite direction compared to last year.

 

Last year saw Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle win during their part time season with Citroen. This year has certainly not been what they wanted, with a single victory in Mexico, and various other problems causing retirements, including mechanical problems and mistakes from Kris. He sat out the last round in Poland, but is back for this one.

 

In the Jipocar squad, Mads and Ola have parted and so for this round, he’ll have a new co-driver called Torstein Eriksen alongside him.

 

Here are the details of the stages.

 

RALLY FINLAND SCHEDULE(GMT+3)

 

THURSDAY JULY 27

8.00am: Shakedown – Ruuhimäki (4.62km)

6.42pm: Start (Jyväskylä)

7.00pm: SS1 – Harju 1 (2.31km)

7.25pm: Parc ferme (Jyväskylä)

 

FRIDAY JULY 28

6.05am: Service A (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

7.12am: SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)

7.45am: SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)

8.48am: SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)

10.06am: SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)

10.38am: SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)

11.42am: SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31 km)

1.37pm: Service B (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

3.00pm: SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)

4.13pm: SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)

5.11pm: SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)

6.09pm: SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)

7.22pm: SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)

8.30pm: SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)

9.00pm: Flexi Service C (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY JULY 29

7.20am: Service D (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

8.58am: SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)

10.06am: SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)

10.49am: SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)

12.02pm: SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)

1.27pm: Service E (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

2.55pm: SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)

4.08pm: SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)

5.16pm: SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)

6.24pm: SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)

8.39pm: Flexi Service F (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 30 JULY

8.00am: Service G (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

9.25am: SS21 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)

10.08am: SS22 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)

11.47am: SS23 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)

1.18pm: SS24 – Oittila 2 Power Stage (10.12km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä – 10 mins)

3.00pm: Podium

All of this adds up to 314.20 km’s of action. Let’s hear then from the drivers.

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Sébastien Ogier said:

 

“Rally Finland is most definitely a highlight in the season. The Finns certainly know how to deliver a good rally, and these gravel roads are tailor-made for rallying.

 

“It’s fast – really fast – and the big jumps and high grip levels offer an incredible sense of speed that every driver looks forward to. At that pace, you’re fighting for tenths of a second and I’m expecting a very close battle.

 

“The weather looks as though it could be a little unsettled, so we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out, but we want to be in the fight at the top. That demands a near-perfect performance throughout the weekend with no mistakes and a set-up that delivers confidence in the driving.

 

“We had a two-day test this week and, although it was cut short and I’m sorry for my teammates who were unable to continue, the car felt fantastic. I’m really looking forward to the rally now – where we hope to secure a good result for our championship defence.”

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

Ott Tänak said:

 

“Poland didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but we know that we have the pace and we’ll be looking to take that forward to Finland – another high-speed rally and another of my favourite events.

 

“I think every driver looks forward to Rally Finland. When you’re on it and hook up the perfect stage there really is no better feeling – and we’ll be hoping for plenty of that next week.

 

“The roads are really fast with blind corners after big jumps and a surprising amount of grip. You need to be brave and confident in yourself. If you don’t feel completely comfortable it’s almost impossible to push to the maximum and you’ll lose time – something that’s not easily gained at these speeds.

 

“We completed a two-day test in Finland this week – working to find the best set-up – and I’m confident that we’ll be able to fight at the head of the field again. I’m looking forward to it and I’m excited to see what we can do.”

 

Teemu Suninen said:

 

“It’s always nice to start to my home rally, and it will be especially nice this year as we’re behind the wheel of a world rally car.

 

“We were brought up on these roads, which are incredibly fast, but many people forget that I actually don’t have a lot of experience at Rally Finland. I’ve driven the stages of Rally Poland quite a few times with a four-wheel drive car, but the Finnish stages not so much – and I’ve never driven Ouninpohja in this direction!

 

“Of course, I’m excited to be competing on home soil, but the goals remain the same as they would on any other rally and we will need to drive well to secure the result we want.

 

“In Poland, we aimed to be in the top six and finished sixth. Losing a position on the final stage felt like a small disappointment, but that does not change my approach for Rally Finland. We’ll need to be on the top of our game from the start if we want to achieve our goals, and that is certainly the aim.”

 

D-Mack WRT

 

Elfyn Evans said:

 

“Rally Finland is one of the most enjoyable events of the year and I think everyone is looking forward to this year’s encounter. With these new cars, the spectacle will be something very special and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.

 

“We’re keen to get back to the sharp end and at the moment the weather looks as though it could be a little unsettled so we’ll have to wait and see how that works for us – hopefully the conditions won’t be as challenging as they were in Poland.

 

“The stages are so fast and you need to have precise Pacenotes and the confidence to drive to the maximum. The high speed combined with the technical nature of the stages is incredible and when you get into a good rhythm it’s a phenomenal feeling.

 

“It’s not all fun and games though as the margins for error are so fine. That said, we’ve shown some pretty good speed here in the past and, if everything works in our favour, anything is possible.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville said:

 

“We were delighted with both our own and the team’s performance in Poland. We hope that it can be a real catalyst for further success moving towards the end of the season. The car is looking very strong and with two wins on gravel already this season it has shown how competitive we can be. We are confident that we can continue to challenge for the Championship. We know that Finland can be a tricky event and that the margin of error is minimal due to the high speeds and complexities of the track, but we are confident of putting on a good show.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 08, Rally Finland 2016 / July 28-31, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said:

 

“Finland is definitely a rally that I enjoy, it’s very fast and it has got a lot of history. We know how tricky an event it can be, given the speeds that we reach and some of the difficult jumps and corners that come up during the event, but I’ve done it eight times now, so it’s good to have that experience. It’s a rally where I feel at home, so we want to put on a really good show for everyone watching. That Polish podium has given us a big confidence boost, and we can’t wait to get back out on the stages and look for a similar result.”

 

Dani Sordo said:

 

“Having come close to a podium in Poland, we are hopeful that in Finland we can claim a top-three finish. It has been a mixed season for us so far with some positive results and a few challenging moments. We have had a few issues in some events that have hindered our progress but we are as determined as ever. We want to continue the second half of the season on a positive note. Finland is a tough event, but we will do all we can to get the most out of the car and ourselves to score more points for the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

 

“Along with Monte-Carlo, Finland is the rally that everyone wants to win; especially if you are Finnish. There’s pressure to do well, but it’s a positive pressure. No doubt about my target: victory. I’m feeling confident, but I don’t think there’s such a thing as a big home advantage for Finnish drivers anymore. Now that so many of the stages are used every year, the other drivers have got a lot of experience as well. I’m expecting a big fight.”

Juho Hänninen said:

 

“Finland is the rally I have done more than any other, so I’m feeling quite confident. I don’t want to set any specific targets but I’m definitely going to push hard from the start and see how high we can finish. There’s no choice in Finland: the speeds are so fast that you don’t have time to build up to speed; you have to be awake from the first corner. The work we did on the test was mainly on the suspension and now it feels really good. I also had some rain at the start of my test but this is positive as it means that the roads should be really compact and in the right condition for the rally.”

 

Esapekka Lappi said:

 

“It’s going to be really exciting to take part in my home event for the first time with a World Rally Car. I think there’s a chance that if we have a perfect rally we could be on the podium, but everything would have to go without a hitch because the gaps in Finland are normally so small. Our car should be very well suited to the roads in Finland: I think the aerodynamics and engine are really our strong points. This rally is a big job for my co-driver Janne too as he’ll be calling out the pace notes at speeds that are much faster than we have ever experienced in Finland before.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT, World Rally Championship.

Kris Meeke said:

 

“Rally Finland has always been one of my favourite events, but it became even more special after my win here last year. You have some of the best gravel roads in the world here and it can be an awful lot of fun drive on them. I’m pleased to be back behind the wheel of the C3 WRC, although I’m expecting it to be a tough rally. Our test sessions were mostly held in the rain and with cool temperatures. It looks likely that we’ll have similar conditions for the rally, so my being tenth in the running order won’t be an advantage if the roads are covered in mud! Whatever happens, we’ll do our very best to secure a good result for the team.”

 

Craig Breen said:

 

“This rally is one of the ones where I feel most comfortable. I have very fond memories of last year’s rally, where I secured my first World Championship podium. After a frustrating Rally Poland, I can’t wait to get started here and will be aiming for a good result. After four fifth-place finishes, obviously, I’d like to go one or more better. We’ll just have to wait and see whether or not the racing conditions enable us to fight at the front. I’m also pleased to have the latest upgrades on the Citroën C3 WRC.”

 

Kalid Al Qassimi said:

 

“Finland is an extremely fast rally and the jumps can be difficult to negotiate. My aim will be to maintain a good pace in the C3 WRC. We’ll need to work well during recce, in order to have precise pace notes. My day of testing gave me the chance to re-familiarise myself with the quick roads here, and discover the latest upgrades made to the car. I would like to wish Kris and Craig the best of luck and hope that they can once again secure the best result possible.”

 

Jipocar WRT

 

Mads Østberg said:

 

“I am looking for a new permanent codriver after we agreed with Ola to go separate ways earlier this summer. Torstein has been a part of our team organisation since 2012, he knows my pacenote system and he has been with me in the car during testing. He is a very competent codriver, but the challenge for him is to adjust from the speed of the R5-cars he is used to the full 2017 spec WRC-Fiesta. I`m sure he will manage well”.

 

“Finland is really something else, and you need to be extremely mentally tough with yourself to cope with the highspeed nature of the event. You sometimes need to go beyond what your brain tells you is the “sensible” approach. But if you start braking that little split-second early, you immediately will lose a lot of time. The fight is always very close in Finland, a few seconds in either way can mean the difference between a top or a mid-field position. I have been on the podium in this rally before, and if things go according to plan I will aim to fight for many points this time”

 

“First and foremost, we were happy with finishing Poland relatively problem-free, and we had good speed on the fastest bits. Finland is however different with all the jumps. On some stages, you feel you are in the air most of the time. Of course, it isn`t so, but it makes for a really special challenge”

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

Just a few days to go then and what an amazing event this will be. There’s some uncertainty about the weather, with some reports of possible rain throughout the three days. This would make running at the front as Seb, Thierry and Jari-Matti less of a disadvantage. Both Seb and Jari-Matti have won on these roads, but Thierry will want to give Hyundai their first podium and perhaps it will be a win.

 

This is last year’s result.

 

  1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 2:38:05.8
  2. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +29.1
  3. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +1:41.3
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:45.9
  5. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:48.2
  6. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.6
  7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo R WRC) +2:22.4
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:53.8
  9. Abbring / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:22.4
  10. Suninen / Markkula (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:35.5

Rally Poland 2017 Review; Thierry makes it three!!

 

Thierry Neuville would take his third win of 2017 on the Polish roads, but there would be lots of different leaders of the 74th Rally Poland. Here is the story of this year’s event.

Thursday morning would dawn a very wet day after thunderstorms would hit the stages overnight. The shakedown stage was very very muddy. Thierry would set the fastest time by two tenths of a second, from Ott, winner of the last rally in Italia. There was little to separate them.

THURSDAY 29 JUNE

8.00am: Shakedown – Sady (4.90km)

4.00pm: Start (Mikolajki)

7.08pm: SS1 – Mikolajki Arena (2.50km)

7.28pm: Parc ferme (Mikolajki)

 

SS1 – Super Special Stage Mikolajki Arena -1 (2.50km)

1 Evans    1:44.4 (120kph)

2 Neuville  +0.8

3 Ogier       +0.9

Just the usual short evening stage to get the event underway and it was a stage that Elfyn would win, and therefore hold an early lead.

FRIDAY 30 JUNE

6.25am: Service A (Mikolajki – 18 mins)

7.15am: SS2 – Chmielewo 1 (6.52km)

9.00am: SS3 – Wieliczki 1 (15.96km)

9.55am: SS4 – Swietajno 1 (19.60km)

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

It was an early start for the teams on Friday morning, and Thierry would start very strong, winning stage two and taking the overall lead. Previous leader, Elfyn in the D-Mack shod Fiesta would drop to 13th overall. Jari-Matti would pop into second overall with Seb in third at this point.

SS2 – Chmielewo – 1 (6.52km)

1 Neuville 3:22.9 (120kph)

2 Latvala      +0.2

3 Ogier          +1.4

The lead would change at the end of stage three, with Thierry dropping time and Jari-Matti took over top spot after winning the stage from Ott and Thierry losing 3.1 seconds and falling to fourth. Top three overall was now Jari-Matti, Seb and Ott.

SS3 – Wieliczki -1 (15.05km)

1 Latvala 7:33.0 (128.6kph)

2 Tanak       +0.9

3 Ogier         +1.3

Jari-Matti won the next stage as well, and his nearest challenger would become Ott, as Seb fell behind his young Estonian teammate. Speaking of teammates, Esapekka Lappi would stop in this stage, and lose time. Teemu Suninen had made a great start in his debut WRC event for M-Sport, running inside the top ten as well.

SS4 – Swietajno -1 (19.60km)

1 Latvala 9:47.3 (126.7kph)

2 Tanak        +1.3

3 Ogier        +3.0

Last stage of the morning and Andreas would suffer broken rear suspension on his Citroen C3 after hitting a tree sump. With the quickest time on this stage, Thierry would move back into second place, now just 4.5 seconds behind the lead Toyota driver. There were further changes in the top ten with Hayden moving into fifth place and Elfyn Evans back into ninth.

SS5 – Stare Juchy -1 (13.50km)

1 Neuville 6:54.8 (130kph)

2 Latvala       +1.9

3 Tanak         +3.2

Service gave Citroen Racing the opportunity to fix the suspension on Andreas car.

 

12.40pm: Service B (Mikolajki – 33 mins)

1.45pm: SS6 – Chmielewo 2 (6.52km)

3.30pm: SS7 – Wieliczki 2 (15.96km)

4.25pm: SS8 – Swietajno 2 (19.60km)

5.10pm: SS9 – Stare Juchy 2 (13.50km)

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

7.38pm: Service C (Mikolajki – 48 mins)

 

Stage 6 was cancelled. This was because spectators did not listen to the safely marshals, and stood in a prohibited area. Not good at all.

 

Young Finn Teemu, would take his first stage victory beating Hayden by seven tenths of a second. Very impressive indeed. There was a change in position between Ott and Thierry as well, with the Hyundai driver losing time and falling to third on the overall leaderboard.

SS7 – Wieliczki -2 (15.05km)

1 Suninen 7:47.9 (128.6kph)

2 Paddon     +0.7

3 Tanak         +1.2

However, on the following stage, with Thierry taking the stage win, it was all change on the overall positions again, with Ott moving to the top and now just 1.7 seconds covering the top three as well.

SS8 – Swietajno -2 (19.60km)

1 Neuville 10:03.3 (114kph)

2 Sordo            +1.2

3 Suninen      +3.4

The following stage was also won by the Belgian and this meant that with Ott third fastest and Jari-Matti sixth, Thierry moved into the lead from third!

SS9 – Stare Juchy -2 (13.50km)

1 Neuville 7:07.4 (111.4kph)

2 Paddon      +1.5

3 Tanak         +3.2

Last stage of the day and Elfyn would show that he was a master of this short stage, winning again just like Thursday evening.

SS10 – Super Special Stage Mikolajki Arena -2 (2.50km)

1 Evans    1:44.3 (120kph)

2 Tanak      +0.5

3 Neuville  +0.7

The first day then had its mix of lead changes, car problems and accidents. With Seb first on the road, he would struggle to stay with those whose road position would give them an advantage, but he was still within 35 seconds of the lead.

Top Ten Day 1

1  Neuville       56:21.2

2  Tanak                 +1.3

3  Latvala             +6.6

4  Ogier               +35.1

5  Paddon         +39.6

6  Sordo              +51.7

7  Suninen      +1:11.0

8  Hanninen +1:28.9

9️  Lefebvre  +1:37.0

10 Ostberg  +1:42.7

 

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

Thierry Neuville commented: (1st)

“It’s been a good start to this rally for us, even if the conditions have been very demanding throughout the day. We started this morning with a very good stage win but the rain made it difficult to correctly read the grip levels. To take the team’s 50th stage win of the season in SS5 was a nice way to finish the morning loop. We added another two wins in the afternoon as the conditions improved. At the start of the loop there was a lot of standing water in the ruts and no driving line to follow. Overall, though, I am very happy and the car has performed excellently. The fight for the lead has been close and I don’t expect that to change over the next two days. We’re in a good position but there’s a lot more to come from everyone and more surprises I’m sure.”

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:

“It’s been an extremely tricky day today, but the Polish roads are always enjoyable. It’s a really tight battle and I’m sure that tomorrow will be interesting with a lot of new stages. We just need to keep our focus and continue as we have today.

“This was only the first day of competition and with the conditions as extreme as they were there was no need to go flat-out. For sure we need to keep the speed up so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow – when the conditions will hopefully be a little drier so that we can really enjoy these mega stages!”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd) said:

“The morning was very good. I was happy with the car: it was working really well in the fast sections, and it was also OK in the more slippery sections. The afternoon was not so good: I didn’t go so well in the ruts, which were quite big because of the rain. We will look at what changes we can make but it’s difficult to know in these conditions. With everyone so close, it will be an exciting day tomorrow. We will be ready to fight from the first stage onwards.”

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla, Toyota Yaris WRC. PHOTO : @World

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“It’s been a really tough day and we suffered quite a lot this afternoon. Being the first car on the road there was so much standing water and so many ruts which lost us a lot of time. I really tried to push but there was nothing we could do when faced with these sorts of conditions.

“If it had kept raining all day then we would have had more constant speed – like we did through the morning loop. But that’s how it is and tomorrow is another day. We’ll keep fighting.”

Teemu Suninen (7th) said:

“We’ve had a good day and of course it was nice to get our first stage victory this afternoon.

“We know that we can be competitive over some sections and some stages, but the aim is to keep doing that consistently. I’ve had a stage win, but I want more and that means we must continue to work.

“We’ve learnt a lot and were able to improve quite a lot over the second pass. Tomorrow, we just need to continue with the same objective – more good work with no mistakes.”

Teemu Suninen, M-Sport WRT – PHOTO : @World

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (5th) said:

“After the rain, we expected very tricky, muddy conditions this morning, and that’s exactly what we got. Given our later road position, we couldn’t manage much more than fifth by lunchtime service. The grip was changing from one corner to the next, and it felt like driving on ice at times. The team made some changes at lunch, which transformed the car; I had more confidence to push and a competitive feeling, which was shown by our improved stage times.  When we’re on a level playing field, we can definitely be up there with the front-runners, so I’m hoping for better weather as the weekend continues, so we can enjoy these incredibly fast and fun stages. I’m definitely not here to settle for fifth!”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Poland
29 June-02 July 2017
Hayden Paddon – Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: RaceEMotion
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (6th) said: “If I am totally honest, I found this morning very difficult and not at all to my liking. The wet conditions made the stages changeable and erratic. I just could not get into a rhythm. We had to concentrate on completing the loop without any issues, which we did. Conditions improved on the afternoon loop and I had more control over the car. It just felt more ‘normal’ and there was a better feeling. We have lost some time as a result of the morning struggles, but there’s a long way to go in this rally and I hope we can have a more consistent Saturday.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Juho Hänninen (8th)

“Quite a difficult day with really tricky conditions on the stages. The morning went a bit better, we had no problems and no mistakes. This afternoon I was struggling with the ruts, we had the ride height a bit too low and there was so much mud on the dampers that we couldn’t raise it between the stages. Hopefully tomorrow can be better, and maybe a bit drier.”

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Yaris WRC – PHOTO : @World

Esapekka Lappi (Ret)

“Everything was going smoothly. OK, it was difficult for sure, it was so muddy, but we found a pretty good pace to drive at. Then on one long right-hand corner, I cut slightly too much and there was a rock which I didn’t have on the pace-notes, and it broke the suspension. It was my mistake. I need to learn from this. It is unfortunate we can’t continue because the more kilometres I do, the better I get: before the incident I felt comfortable with the car and the setup was really good.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (11th) said:

“We didn’t want extreme conditions this weekend, but that’s exactly what we got and we’ve just had to manage as best we can. It’s been really tricky out there and the inconsistent grip levels made it really difficult to judge.

“It was nice to take another stage win this evening, and let’s just wait and see what conditions we’re faced with tomorrow.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre (9th) said:

“It was a very difficult leg in terms of the conditions, but we managed to avoid making any major mistakes. It wasn’t all plain sailing this afternoon: I got my pace wrong on SS7 and the ride height was too low on SS8. But above all, I’m pleased to have matched Andreas’ times throughout the day and to be fighting for seventh place. If the weather is drier tomorrow, I think we can make up a place or two.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (12th) said:

“It was my first time in the car on muddy roads this morning and it was very difficult to get a sense of the handling. We made a few changes during the mid-leg service and that gave me more feeling for the level of grip. The conditions were also more even and that was reflected in the times. I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made today.

Craig Breen (26th) said:

“It’s been a miserable day. I was really motivated to have a good weekend, but we were let down by a mechanical issue on SS2. On the second pass, I just couldn’t find any confidence in the car. We’re going to press the ‘reset’ button now and let’s face it, tomorrow can only get better!”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (10th) said:

“I couldn`t get the car to turn in during the first loop of stages and it was extremely difficult in the mud. We changed the set-up on the front diff during service and that made a great improvement as we got rid of most of the understeering. Basically, this was my first experience with this car on wet and slippery roads as we have had limited testing and only in the dry.”

“The conditions today have been horrible in places and I don`t think it will be as difficult tomorrow. But it has rained heavily in the whole area and it will for sure be slippery also tomorrow. The character of the stages is also a bit different from today. We will continue working with the set-up for further improvements, so I`m looking forward to a better day overall.”

Mads Ostberg, Ola Floene, Jipocar WRT – PHOTO : @World

 

SATURDAY 1 JULY

7.45am: Service D (Mikolajki – 18 mins)

8.08am: SS11 – Baranowo 1 (15.55km)

9.20am: SS12 – Pozezdrze 1 (24.28km)

10.45am: SS13 – Goldap 1 (14.75km)

11.35am: SS14 – Kruklanki 1 (19.58km)

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny. I imagine this lifted the confidence of the Citroen drivers and who really struggled in the muddy conditions.

Jari-Matti hit the ground running, looking to get his Yaris WRC back in the lead. Thierry was less than eight tenths slower, so the gap didn’t reduce much. Ott was right there, but his four-time champion teammate lost more ground to the overall leader. Craig and last year’s winner, Andreas in their C3’s definitely were doing a better job in the dryer conditions.

SS11 – Baranowo -1 (15.55km)

1 Latvala 8:02.2 (112.5kph)

2 Neuville  +0.8

3 Tanak       +2.1

Ott hit the front of the leaderboard after his performance through stage 12. Thierry could only manage fourth fastest, 6.1 seconds slower and finding himself now 3.5 seconds behind Ott. Hayden also passed Seb who could only manage 13th fastest and was now a minute and ten seconds behind Ott.

SS12 – Pozezdrze -1 (21.24km)

1 Tanak 10:39.8 (126kph)

2 Paddon   +3.0

3 Latvala   +4.0

Hayden would win the next stage, and he was closing the gap to the front runners as well. The battle for the lead continued between Thierry and Ott, with just four tenths separating them at the end of this stage. Seb continued to fall down the field, ending the stage behind Dani, and Stephane in his C3 and Mads at the wheel of his Fiesta both passed Juho Hanninen who fell to tenth overall.

SS13 – Gołdap-1 (14.75km)

1 Paddon 7:24.1 (120kph)

2 Neuville    +1.4

3 Tanak        +1.8

Thierry won the next stage and moved into the lead, after Ott could only manage the third fastest time. Stephane and Andreas also found good pace through this stage, so perhaps Citroen were finding their feet.

SS14 – Kruklanki -1 (19.58km)

1 Neuville 10:08.5 (114kph)

2 Latvala         +3.2

3 Tanak           +4.4

 

1.12pm: Service E (Mikolajki – 33 mins)

2.08pm: SS15 – Baranowo 2 (15.55km)

3.20pm: SS16 – Pozezdrze 2 (24.28km)

4.45pm: SS17 – Goldap 2 (14.75km)

5.35pm: SS18 – Kruklanki 2 (19.58km)

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

8.00pm: Service F (Mikolajki – 48 mins)

 

After the service break, the Belgian increased his lead after winning stage 15 and it seemed that now he would continue to pull away from Ott. Seb closed the gap of Dani Sordo from around seven seconds to just three tenths of a second! A mighty drive from the champion.

SS15 – Baranowo -2 (15.55km)

1 Neuville 7:47.9 (128.6kph)

2 Tanak          +1.7

3 Latvala      +3.8

There was drama on the following stage for two of the top three. Jari-Matti pulled over in the stage, when his car just stopped and Thierry suffered a puncture. He lost 22.9 seconds and dropped behind Ott but was still in second place overall, with the Estonian now 14.4 seconds ahead. Hayden won the stage, moving into the podium positions, from a resurgent Seb who had now moved ahead of Dani and into fourth overall. Jari-Matti had now dropped right out of the battle for the podium after his car breakdown. In fact, he was now not even in the top ten.

SS16 – Pozezdrze -2 (21.24km)

1 Paddon 10:23.4 (126kph)

2 Ogier            +2.7

3 Sordo          +4.8

Leader, Ott, lost a bundle of time, 8.8 seconds to stage 17 winner Hayden who was really enjoying some quality pace, and with Thierry just half a second slower than his Kiwi teammate, Ott’s lead was now 6.1 seconds. The young Frenchman, Lefebvre came through third fastest.

SS17 – Gołdap -2 (14.75km)

1 Paddon 7:20.8 (120kph)

2 Neuville   +0.5

3️ Lefebvre +3.2

Thierry won the next stage and with Ott 8.6 seconds slower, the Belgian moved back into the lead. Hayden was closing on Ott as well. The Citroen in the hands of Lefebvre was showing some pace as well, with his second consecutive top three time. Further down the leaderboard, Andreas in his C3 had moved ahead of Juho into tenth place.

SS18 – Kruklanki -2 (19.58km)

1 Neuville 10:02.1 (114kph)

2 Paddon      +0.5

3️ Lefebvre    +2.7

Last stage of the day, and it was Elfyn once again who showed that he had this stage figured out. No-one had been faster around this one, with all three going to the welsh wizard. Thierry and Andreas rounded out the top three.

SS19 – Super Special Stage Mikolajki Arena -3 (2.50km)

1 Evans       1:44.4 (120kph)

2 Neuville      +0.2

3️ Mikkelsen +0.4

The biggest loser from the day had to be Jari-Matti, who was right in the hunt for the podium spots, but his car had stopped. Nothing to do with him at all. Hayden had enjoyed a very good afternoon.

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers.

Top Ten Day 2

1    Neuville 2:10:26.3

2    Tanak                +3.1

3    Paddon         +25.5

4    Ogier           +1:32.0

5    Sordo          +1:43.8

6    Suninen     +2:06.2

7️   Lefebvre     +2:20.3

8    Ostberg     +2:45.8

9    Evans           +3:23.1

10 Mikkelsen  +3:34.6

Thierry Neuville (1st) commented:

“It has been a pretty intense day, one way or another. We had a solid morning loop and it was developing into a fun, close battle at the front. We lost the lead in the first stages but gained it back with a big push in SS14 (Kruklanki). It was almost a pointless loop because we held the same lead at the end as we did at the start! We were determined not to give up, so we pushed hard when we could and started the afternoon with a stage win. Unfortunately, we then picked up a rear-left puncture that cost us a lot of seconds in SS16 (Pozezdrze). Ott was also suffering with his own issues, so we had to use that opportunity to make up the lost time. In the penultimate stage, it started to rain a lot on our run and we struggled, we were really unlucky. Thankfully, we still set the fastest time and retook the lead. We don’t have a huge time advantage so we won’t be able to take it easy on Sunday. The win is still very much open and I am sure Ott will be hunting us down.”

Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:

“It’s been an interesting day with a lot of things happening so it’s good to still be in a close battle at the top.

“We lost the rear wing this afternoon and that made things really tough. There’s so much aero on these new cars and they make a really big difference – so when you lose the biggest part I can tell you that it is not easy!

“We tried the best we could and made some set-up changes to make it more comfortable to drive. It was still extremely difficult, but Thierry also had a problem and the battle is still on.

“We need to keep fighting as he has also been very strong this weekend. We’re still in the fight and it looks as though we’re in for a really exciting day tomorrow – with the weather making it interesting as well.”

Ott Tanak, M-Sport Fiesta WRC – PHOTO : @World

Hayden Paddon (3rd) said:

“We have had far better conditions today, especially this morning, and that gave us a more even playing field and more confidence in the car. We could really set about getting down to business and just enjoying the driving. We took a stage win in Goldap and were looking solid in fourth place with big margins ahead and behind us. We were focused only on securing that position, which would be so important for the championship. We added two more stage wins in the afternoon and moved up into third overall after Jari-Matti’s problem. I am sorry for him, but at the same time I am happy to have the chance for a podium here, which would be an unexpected, but very welcome result.”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“Today was not an easy day. We had a lot of things to deal with, but I’m happy to be here at the end of the day and the most important thing is that we are still in with a chance of scoring some good and important points for the championship.”

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

“It’s been another positive day and we’ve learnt a lot, but I need to learn how to improve my driving through the ruts. I’m really enjoying it, but I want to keep improving. I know that we can be fast in certain stages and in certain sections, but I need to learn more so that we can get the consistency and be competitive all weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (5th) said:

“We were able to stretch our legs a bit today with improved stage conditions and more confidence in the car. We were able to push flat out in some stages. It was fun being in close competition with Ogier. We managed to get past him towards the end of the morning loop, and did all we could to defend the position. The final two stages were not as good. I made a big mistake in a hairpin in SS17 (Goldap), which cost us time, and then towards the end of SS18 (Kruklanki) we picked up a puncture. We were lucky it was at the end of the stage, really. There is still everything to play for on Sunday.”

Dani Sordo, Marc Martí, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre (7th) said:

“I think I had a good day today – it was certainly my best day in the Citroën C3 WRC. It wasn’t easy to find the right pace or the right set-up as we went from one stage to another but all in all, everything went well and I was able to push without taking any major risks. I’ll remained focused and ready to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to move further up the overall standings. There are still four stages to go!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th) said:

“I’m pleased with our performance on today’s leg. From the word go, on the opening stage, the car seemed quick in these conditions. Of course, we continued to work in order to keep improving. I held back slightly on the second pass, because I didn’t want to risk a puncture in the ruts.”

Craig Breen ( 13th) said:

“I felt a lot more comfortable in the C3 WRC today. I was able to start building my confidence as we got through the stages. It wasn’t easy given that I was running first on the road. I had to cope with the changes in grip and I ended up making a few mistakes. I hope the experience acquired this weekend will be useful for me in Finland.”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (8th) said:

“We are still learning and I`m really surprised how sensitive this car is when it comes to set-up adjustments. I must admit we have gone a bit wrong on set-up during the test before the rally. The front diff was adjusted yesterday that and cured some of the understeering problems. But we have also been too soft on damping and we have been working with that today. Now the car actually works quite well and we are much more competitive.”

“As it is now we are in a bit of a vacuum and it will be difficult to improve our position during the short Sunday. We will continue working with the car, but it’s a pity that this is how the car should have been when I started the rally. Then we could have been much more competitive”

 

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:

“It’s not been a perfect day, but it’s certainly been better. The drier conditions improved things for us today. The stages were still pretty slippery this morning but I think we found a benefit in some sections this afternoon.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be wet again tomorrow so another difficult day for us out on the stages. We’ll just focus on getting through cleanly and perfecting the notes for the next time.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (Ret) said:

“I’m very disappointed that we had to retire for the day. On SS16 I had to stop due to technical reasons. So that was it for the day for us. Up to then my feeling with the car was good. We’ve lost a valuable opportunity to score points that would have been important for the championship. Still, the only thing we can do is fight back now, because we never give up, and I’m looking forward to returning to action tomorrow.”

Juho Hänninen (11th) said:

“This was quite a frustrating day for us but the most important thing is that we are still here at the end of it and of course with the problems for our team mates now it’s important that we get to the finish and try to score some points. To drive around the turbo boost problem, I had to keep the engine revs high, but it was OK: we knew what to do. The afternoon was OK, but then we had the slow puncture that cost us some time. On the last stages of the day the ruts were really deep: it was a real struggle to put the power down. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.”

 

SUNDAY 2 JULY

6.40am: Service G (Mikolajki – 18 mins)

8.10am: SS20 – Orzysz 1 (11.15km)

9.08am: SS21 – Paprotki 1 (18.68km)

10.45am: SS22 – Orzysz 2 (11.15km)

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

1.40pm: Service H (Mikolajki – 13 mins)

2.30pm: Podium (Mikolajki)

 

Sunday morning dawned, and we had three stages left. Who would win? It was raining again as well. Ott started well, winning stage 20 and retaking the lead. After last year’s disappointment with the puncture, he wasn’t going to let this go. Re-joining under Rally2 rules, Jari-Matti showed how good the combination of him, Miika and the Yaris have been this year. Such a shame they dropped out with the technical problem. Further down, Mads closed the gap a little to Lefebvre who was the Norwegians target.

SS20 – Orzysz -1 (11.15km)

1 Tanak   6:10.3 (110kph)

2 Neuville +4.9

3 Latvala +13.3

Ott’s big push came to nought unfortunately in stage 21. He hit something on the side of the road with the rear of the car and the car spun, putting the front into a tree. He finished the stage, but the damage was too great to continue. Andreas and Lefebvre also had their own problems, with the Norwegian overshooting a junction and for some reason the young Frenchman ended up with a tool under his feet and he hit a fence because of that. Juho Hanninen benefitted from Andreas’ mistake, moving into the top ten. The Hyundai team were now looking at a one-two finish, as Hayden took up second position.

SS21 – Paprotki -1 (18.68km)

1 Neuville    8:58.1 (135kph)

2 Latvala        +8.8

3️ Lefebvre  +18.7

Thierry was now in the lead, with a gap of just over a minute to his Kiwi teammate. Seb had now moved into a podium position with the demise of his teammate, and Andreas had moved into tenth place.

SS22 – Orzysz -2 (11.15km)

1 Neuville  6:02.6 (110kph)

2 Latvala       +0.5

3️ Mikkelsen +2.2

The final stage then and Jari-Matti flew through it to win the maximum 5 points from the stage, with Seb in second and Andreas third, all former Volkswagen WRC drivers. Frenchman, Stephane in his C3 was fourth through here, meaning that on the overall leaderboard he’d demoted Teemu in the M-Sport Fiesta into sixth place. Andreas had also demoted Juho from ninth to tenth after going through the stage 15 seconds faster.

 

SS23 – Paprotki -2 (Power Stage) (18.68km)

1 Latvala    8:57.5 (135kph)

2 Ogier           +4.9

3️ Mikkelsen +5.3

4  Lefebvre  +6.3

5  Neuville    +6.4

 

Overall after SS23

1   Neuville  2:40:46.1

2   Paddon      +1:23.9

3   Ogier           +2:20.8

4   Sordo          +2:47.4

5️  Lefebvre      +3:11.8

6   Suninen      +3:16.8

7   Ostberg     +3:39.6

8   Evans           +4:39.1

9️  Mikkelsen  +4:43.5

10 Hanninen  +4:53.7

Well, Thierry now has three victories this year and is only 11 points behind Seb in the championship fight. Big shame for Ott, who was right in the fight for victory. Hayden drove a well measured rally to secure his first podium of the year and with it Seb Marshall’s first WRC podium as well. Seb Ogier should count himself lucky that he scored a podium here, because he was well off the pace. You can’t argue with his consistency though.

Let’s hear then from all the drivers starting with the podium.

Thierry Neuville (1st) commented:

“What a great result for the whole team! I am really delighted for everyone involved. It was a closely fought battle this weekend, as it seems to have been for the past few events. It was certainly a relief to retake the lead after Ott’s retirement this morning, as it allowed us some breathing space in the final stages. We could take it easy and relax – not too much – but enough to finish the rally calmly and to secure this great result. Our goal for the weekend was to outscore Séb, which we did, and we have closed the gap in the championship for the second rally in a row. We have to continue in this way but for now we can enjoy our third win of the season, and celebrate with the team who have worked so hard for this result.”

Hayden Paddon (2nd) said:

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am with this result. It feels like a win after the season we have had so far. We have had some really difficult moments so to finish second as part of a fantastic team result is very special. It’s like a weight has been lifted. This morning’s final stages have required a lot of commitment to drive slowly and cleanly in tough conditions. We were focused on third place, but to take second, of course as a result of Ott’s misfortune, is an added bonus. We still have some speed to find compared to the guys at the front, but it sets us up nicely for Finland – and beyond. Finally, a word of thanks to Seb for a job well done this weekend, and congratulations to him for his first WRC podium.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:

“This weekend was really tough for us so to come away with a podium is more than we expected.

“Of course, I’m sorry for Ott – he had really good speed this weekend and deserved to be on the podium, but that is the way it goes sometimes.

“We had a lot to contend with and it’s fair to say that the good luck hasn’t really been on our side. But we made the most of it and secured some good points which is really important for the championship.

“Now I can enjoy my holiday and come back ready for what is sure to be another exciting battle at Rally Finland.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th) said:

“It has been a difficult weekend with some tricky conditions but overall it has been positive. I am really pleased for the team, as we’ve collected a lot of points for the championship. Fourth place is not bad, but I am always aiming to perform better and to be competing for the podium in each event. I will try to do better in Finland, but for now I think we can be satisfied with our Poland weekend, and consider it a job well done for the team.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre (5th) said:

“It’s a morale-boosting result for everyone after such a difficult start to the season. I’d like to thank the team, who have never stopped supporting me, and my engineer, who helped me to put together the best rally of my career so far. Whenever there was enough grip, I felt sufficiently confident to push. I won’t be competing in the next two rallies, but I can head off on holiday in good spirits!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th) said:

“The stages were more enjoyable on the second pass, because the grip was better. We pushed and I’m pleased to finish the rally like this, with a good time on the Power Stage. I’m looking forward to testing the C3 WRC on tarmac in preparation for Rally Deutschland.”

Craig Breen (11th) said:

“This weekend has been one of the most difficult of my career and I’m just glad to make it to the end. We all worked hard to improve the car, but I never managed to feel really confident. We’re going to do some testing before Finland, so that will help me to prepare well for the rally where I scored my first podium last year.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

“It’s disappointing to lose a place on the last stage with a small mistake, but okay, that’s the way it goes sometimes and I think that it has still been a good weekend for us.

“We’ve learnt a lot and it was nice to get a fastest stage time on Friday. I think we’ve shown good speed through certain sections, but there remains work to do to keep that speed up for the whole weekend.

“I want to improve and now I’m looking forward to my home rally in Finland where we can hopefully take another step forward.”

Ott Tänak (DNF) said:

“What can I say? Obviously, it’s really disappointing to have finished the rally like this and I am just so sorry for the team and all of the fans who came here to support us.

“We were ready for the fight and had a really good run through the first stage this morning. We were pushing hard, but it was a clean run and I would say almost a perfect stage for us.

“Then on the next stage, there was just one really slippery place in the forest. We touched the bank with the rear of the car and that pulled the front into a spin and into the trees. There was too much damage to continue, and that is where our Rally Poland came to an end.

“It was one of those things, and we’ll be back stronger. This one wasn’t to be, but we know that we have the performance and now it’s all focus on Finland.”

Jipocar WRT

The goal for Mads and his privateer team was to get through the event without any technical problems, and they certainly did that.

Mads Østberg (7th) said

“That was actually the goal before this event, to finish without the technical problems that has hampered us earlier this year. The set-up wasn`t ideal when we started the rally, but we have worked through all three days and made it much better. This will give us a good base for the next rally in Finland, which is also on superfast gravel roads.”

They wanted a good base level for Rally Finland, as this is the next rally.

“We have been struggling a bit more on the narrow and slippery stuff, but we have worked hard to get a good set-up for the really wide and fast parts. And of course, Rally Finland is for most parts run on wider roads, so we can bring with us a good base for the set-up from Poland. It also gives us a positive feeling from a rally where I have struggled a bit before. It can only be better in Finland.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:

“It’s been a tough weekend. We were hoping for a dry rally but we got the opposite and I think it’s fair to say that we struggled in the extreme conditions.

“We kept our heads down and focused on delivering a clean rally. Three stage wins and eighth place isn’t bad considering, and let’s hope the sun is shining next time out in Finland.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (20th) said:

“Of course, it was disappointing to retire on Saturday but it was important that we came back and managed to win the Power Stage. I was focusing a lot before the stage, going through all the corners and the braking points in my mind, and it paid off. We scored five more points and it gives me the confidence again that our car is very fast and we can challenge our rivals in the rallies that are coming up. Thanks to the team for the work to prepare my car to restart today and ensure we could get these five points. They could still be very valuable in the championship.”

Juho Hänninen (10th) said:

“It has been a challenging weekend. The conditions were very difficult. When it was really slippery, on the harder ground, we actually had decent pace, but in the softer ground with the deep ruts we were losing quite a bit of time and it was frustrating. We will try to improve this for the future. Luckily, Rally Finland is next and I am sure this will be better, as we will have a good test beforehand.”

So, it’s the big one next! Rally Finland! Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will return in their number 7 C3 WRC, to the place that they won so amazingly last year. What chance another victory to re-start their season? Hayden and Seb had a very good Rally Poland, getting their first podium together. Teemu Suninen will also take part in Finland, and just like Esapekka Lappi, has a good chance of making a long career at the top of the rally world.

Seb will want to get back to winning ways in Finland as well, so the battle for the championship will continue between him and Thierry.

Here’s the full championship standings for the drivers and teams.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round eight:

1 Sebastien Ogier    160

2 Thierry Neuville    149

3 Jari-Matti Latvala 112

4 Ott Tanak                 108

5 Dani Sordo                82

6 Elfyn Evans               57

7 Hayden Paddon      51

8 Craig Breen              43

9 Juho Hänninen        30

10 Kris Meeke             27

13 Esapekka Lappi   20

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round eight:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team                                 259

2 Hyundai Motorsport                                              237

3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT                          153

4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 117

 

Warren Nel

7th July 2017

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