WRC – TOUR DE CORSE
Whilst Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who rejoined under Rally 2 rules today and won three out of the leg's six stages, performed superbly on behalf of Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle suffered an unfortunate end to their day when they went off the road on the final stage when running in second overall.
Crossing the inland scenery of the Cap Corse from east to west, the day’s completely new and very fast opening stage (35.61km) promised to be a real challenge. The same could also be said for the next stage, also brand new, held in the Désert des Agriates to the south-west of Saint Florent, on more sweeping, circuit-style roads.
These two demanding speed tests provided Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who rejoined under Rally 2 rules this morning after their misfortune yesterday, with the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of their immense talent, as the pair won the day’s first two stages. The nine-time world rally champions even claimed a third stage win in the afternoon, therefore winning half of the six tests contested today, taking their personal tally to the impressive figure of nine hundred and twelve stage wins in the WRC! The crew’s times showed they are still very competitive and confirmed the high performance level of the C3 WRC in Corsica.
Also in good form on the day’s opening stage – as seen in his third fastest time, just 1.9s behind his famous team-mate over the 35km stage – Kris Meeke then had a more up and down morning, but still managed to hold onto third place. The midday service enabled the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT to fine-tune the set-up of his C3 WRC for the afternoon loop. Kris had just drawn level with Neuville in second overall when a pace note mistake meant he carried too much speed into a corner and ended up going off on the final stage of the day.
Another formidable Tour de Corse challenge awaits the drivers in tomorrow’s final leg, as the crews tackle the rally’s longest stage. A marathon 55.17 kilometres between Vero, Sarrola and Carcopino, 48.21km of which are completely new, like the Power Stage which follows it.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“The highlight of the leg for me was obviously the three stage wins secured by Sébastien and Daniel, who proved once again just how competitive our C3 WRC is, even if the gaps were narrower today with our rivals. Their misfortune yesterday is therefore all the more regrettable. In any case, it is the mark of all truly great champions to manage to come back after such an incident re-motivated and then produce the kind of performance they did this morning. Obviously, we’re disappointed about Kris and Paul’s mistake, because it is a very costly one and means we miss out on a potential podium at a rally where we had serious hopes of a strong result.”
“We were fighting for second and pushing really hard, absolutely on the limit. Unfortunately, something happened that has never happened before between Paul and me. He got the pace notes a bit mixed up, but that’s rallying. It’s the very first time that this has happened. We’ve gone off several times together in the past when it’s been my fault and not his. Look, we win together and we lose together. I’m sure we’ll bounce back from this very quickly.”
“It was a very good day for us – better than yesterday, in any case! I pushed like I know I can when I feel comfortable and I had plenty of confidence behind the wheel of my C3 WRC today. It’s really enjoyable to drive it on this surface. It is a balanced car, the engine works really well and I’m delighted to have set some really good times in the car throughout the leg.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2 :43 :07.7
2. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 44.5
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 44.6
4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 54.9
5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:46.7
6. Evans / Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:49.8
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:13.5
16. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) + 20:52.6
The Tour de Corse drew to a close in style, featuring the longest stage of the rally (55.17 kilometres) to the north of Ajaccio, followed by the Power Stage, contested in the south of the island, between Pénitencier de Coti and Chiavari.
However, the day’s challenge had started before the stages for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s technical team. Having recovered Kris Meeke’s C3 WRC after yesterday’s final stage, the team’s mechanics did a great job to repair the car in time for the Nothern Irishman to rejoin the action this morning under Rally 2 rules.
Kris Meeke did them proud in return. Without taking any unnecessary risks, he fought with the podium contenders to set the second fastest time on the opening stage, suggesting that there were no after effects from last night’s off in his close partnership with co-driver Paul Nagle. He then confirmed his good form in tying for third on the Power Stage, securing him two bonus points and finishing ninth overall, a position that did not reflect his speed throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC. He deserved to finish on the podium.
Sébastien Loeb was also in fine form on the final day, grabbing the second fastest time on the Power Stage just 2.2s off the stage-winning time. He therefore ended the weekend tied for second best performer, with three stage wins. A result that proves, following on from his majestic performance in Mexico, that he has lost none of his talent on tarmac!
WHAT THEY SAID
“Obviously, it’s frustrating to have dropped out of contention yesterday when a top three place was clearly within our reach, but we had to get back at it today and I think we have proven our ability to do just that. We are already looking ahead and we’ll be trying and get back on the podium and turn our speed into good results at the next few races.”
“It’s a real shame that we went off on Friday. We would have undoubtedly been right in the mix otherwise. In any case, I’m delighted to have been on the pace again this weekend for our second one-off appearance of the season. I prefer to focus on the enjoyment we have had throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC. It is a really formidable car on tarmac and I really enjoyed driving it on these magnificent Corsican roads. It was also very nice to feel all the love and support from the French fans at our home event.”
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:26:52.7
2. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 36.1
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:07.5
4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:02.6
5. Evans / Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:06.1
6. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2:33.5
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:43.4
9. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 10:40.5
14. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) + 20:58.0
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Sébastien Ogier – 84 points
Thierry Neuville – 67 points
Ott Tänak – 45 points
Andreas Mikkelsen – 41 points
Kris Meeke – 36 points
Esapekka Lappi – 36 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 31 points
Dani Sordo – 30 points
Craig Breen – 20 points
Elfyn Evans – 18 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 111 points
M-Sport Ford WRT – 107 points
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 93 points
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 81 points