Category Archives: Teams

MotoGP World Championship – French Grand Prix

Márquez wins in Le Mans

Deprived of victory since October 2017, Álex Márquez found the road back to success at the Grand Prix de France held on the Bugatti circuit.

“I’m so happy! It tastes wonderful to win again after waiting so long.”

At the finish of the fifth race of the season, Álex Márquez was thrilled. Not having won since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2017, the former Moto3 world champion returned to Le Mans and got right back on the right track thanks to a judicious choice of rear tire on the starting grid.

“A team victory that rewards the work we’ve all been doing since the winter tests,” said Márquez.

Qualified on the first row of the starting grid, the Catalan took control of the race in the fourth lap. And then never let go.

“I had seven good first laps and from then on I managed to stay focused. I tried not to think too much, just to ride well. “

Fifth under the checkered flag, Xavi Vierge was also satisfied with his Grand Prix de France. “We’re making progress each time,” grinned the Spaniard.

“I hope I’ll be riding to win very soon.”

On the Tech 3 side, Marco Bezzecchi and Philipp Oettl were eighteenth and nineteenth, just ahead of Jorge Martin, another KTM rider. Hafizh Syahrin and Miguel Oliveira, Hervé Poncharal’s two MotoGP riders, both scored points, finishing in fourteenth and fifteenth positions. A first this season for the French team.

The Championship

Thanks to his victory in the Sarthe region, Álex Márquez has climbed back to fourth place in the overall standings, just fourteen points behind leader Lorenzo Baldassari, who fell in Le Mans. Xavi Vierge has moved up from fourteenth to eleventh place. In MotoGP, Miguel Oliveira has slipped to eighteenth place while Hafizh Syahrin, who pocketed his first two points of the season, has entered the standings in twenty-first place.

Endurance – Eight Hours of Slovakia Ring

Tough retirement

Three weeks after winning the 24 Heures Motos on the Le Mans circuit, the Kawasaki SRC team was forced to retire in Slovakia. David Checa, Jeremy Guarnoni and Erwan Nigon are now in second place in the EWC Championship.

For the team of Gilles Stafler, the races follow on from each other but they don’t look like. Super winners in the Sarthe region of France, David Checa, Jeremy Guarnoni and Erwan Nigon had to throw in the towel after less than two hours of racing on the Slovakia Ring. In practice, the Kawasaki # 11 qualified for fifth place on the starting grid. “The conditions were very difficult,” explained David Checa. “With rain, cold, and a blacktop that constantly changed from one minute to the next… You had to be on the track with the right tires at the right time.” Starting in the leading group, Jeremy Guarnoni rode a good first relay. “The weather was a lot warmer at the start of the race,” said the Kawasaki rider. “I quickly understood that the first hours would be harder for us than for our direct opponents. So I finished my first relay on a regular pace but without taking any risks. We were determined to bide our time, knowing that we would be much better at mid-race.” That was the plan. Unfortunately, the Kawasaki SRC team never had the time to carry it out. Shortly after taking over the handlebars of number 11 from Jérémy Guarnoni, David Checa had to return to his team’s garage. “We had a problem with the engine that we’ll have to analyze when we return to the workshop,” commented Gilles Stafler. “But that’s racing; you have to know how to accept this kind of setback.” Despite the retirement, the Kawasaki team retains second place in the overall standings just ten points behind the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). Before the final of the EWC Championship in Japan at the end of July, the next race in Germany will be decisive for Gilles Stafler’s staff.

Superbike World Championship – Italy

Rea rides to victory

Regularly beaten by Alvaro Bautista since the start of the season, Jonathan Rea road back to victory in Italy, clocking up his first two wins of the season on the Imola circuit.

Not quite deliverance, but Jonathan Rea made no attempt to hide his joy on the Imola circuit. Tired of finishing behind Alvaro Bautista’s Ducati since the opening of the championship in Australia, the four-time world champion was eager to react in Italy. He did it by brilliantly riding his way to victory, with a first success on Saturday and another on Sunday morning in the ten-lap sprint. “I feel better and better on the bike and we were really on the ball this weekend,” commented Jonathan Rea. “I only regret the third race had to be cancelled, but the weather conditions hardly left any choice to the organizers. I am very happy to have won in Italy.”
As in the Netherlands, the schedule for the weekend had to been shortened, this time because of the rain. Whatever, Imola is definitely a good track for Kawasaki.
In 2010, Tom Sykes won the Japanese brand’s first pole position on this circuit. And since 2013, Kawasaki have chalked up nine victories on their kill count. This year, Toprak Razgatlioglu added his touch by making to the podium on Saturday afternoon before finishing seventh on Sunday morning. Leon Haslam came in fifth and sixth, while in Supersport, Hikari Okubo posted the best result of his career with a well-earned fourth-place finish. In the fight for the podium, Lucas Mahias unfortunately fell after hitting an opponent who had just missed a gear in front of him. The former world champion was nevertheless able to start off again, making it to the finish in eighth place.

The Championship

Regularly present on the podium since the first race at Phillip Island, Jonathan Rea is still in second place overall and has even benefited from his first two wins of the season to reduce Alvaro Bautista’s lead to forty-three points. Leon Haslam stays in fifth place while Toprak Razgatlioglu has moved up to eighth place. In Supersport, Hikari Okubo has also wins a place, and is now fourth with fifty points while Lucas Mahias remains seventh with forty points.

MotoGP World Championship – Spanish Grand Prix

Vierge in the top six

Unlucky since the beginning of the season, in Jerez, Xavi Vierge clocked up his best result since joining the team Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS. Sixth to take the checkered flag, the Spaniard was delighted to have finally started his season.

Victim of a mechanical problem during the warm-up lap in Argentina, snared at the start of the Grand Prix of the Americas by a competitor, until this weekend Xavi Vierge had only completed the first race held in Qatar. “The lack of track time has made us fall behind on the development and understanding of the bike,” laments the Catalan. In Jerez, Vierge finally managed to finish a race on a second weekend without any hitches. Twelfth on the grid, he made a nice comeback in the race to finish sixth. “It’s not the kind of result we’re riding for, but given what we’ve been through in the last two GPs, I’m pretty happy with that result. We’re moving in the right direction, we just have to keep on working as we are doing now to make up for lost time.” While he was hoping to win after qualifying in second place, Álex Márquez fell coming out of the first bend when Remy Gardner fell in front of him. Although he had time to bring his motorcycle back to the garage for the mechanics to get it back into working order before the second start, the Spaniard had to leave from the pit lane with no hope of success. “I rode to the finish for the team and the fans,” he confided after finishing twenty-fourth. “I am very disappointed because we deserved a lot better. But that’s part of racing, we just have to accept it.” Marco Bezzecchi was also one of the collateral victims of Gardner’s downfall. The Italian, however, was able to restart from the grid and finished twenty-second ahead of teammate Philipp Oettl. In MotoGP, Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin in Jerez had new chassis parts provided by the KTM factory. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough time to measure their impact and finished eighteenth and nineteenth, respectively.

The Championship

Unable to make it to the points, Álex Márquez slipped to sixth place in the Moto2 championship on the evening of the Spanish Grand Prix and is now thirty-nine points behind the leader Lorenzo Baldassari. Xavi Vierge has moved up four places. He is now fourteenth with sixteen points on the scoreboard. In MotoGP, Miguel Oliveira has dropped back to seventeenth place.

A FIFTH CONSECUTIVE PODIUM FOR THE C3 WRC AS OGIERINGRASSIA FINISH THIRD IN ARGENTINA!

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produced another heroic performance to claim their fourth podium of the season and Citroën Total World Rally Team’s fifth in 2019, after a nail-biting finish on the final stage!

After a ten-second penalty was handed to their direct rivals for the final podium place by the rally organisers late last night for failing to follow the racing route on one of Saturday’s stages, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia went into today’s final leg in third position. They held a slim 6.0s lead as they prepared to tackle the very rough stages of El Condor and Giulio Cesare. Displaying their famous neversay-die attitude, the six-time world champions put up a determined fight in the C3 WRC, whilst not forgetting the importance of ensuring they secured big points for the championship. Their efforts were rewarded in the end: victory on the Power Stage, their third stage win of the weekend, saw them hang onto the final podium spot by just 1.4s!

Sébastien and Julien’s third position, combined with the five bonus points earned on the Power Stage, means they consolidated their hold on second place in the world championship, ten points behind the leaders. This is their fourth podium this year, after winning in Monte-Carlo and Mexico, and finishing as runners-up in Corsica. It is also the fifth time in as many events this season that Citroën Total World Rally Team has finished in the top three.

Despite the difficult, changeable grip conditions, particularly on the opening day after the heavy rain that fell prior to the event, the French crew made an excellent start, consistently among the frontrunners to end the leg second overall, just 11.9s behind the leaders. Day two proved to be trickier. Confused about which route to take on the morning loop (SS11) by a gate left open – whereas the roadbook indicated it was meant to be closed – Sébastien and Julien hesitated and ended up damaging the power steering of their C3 WRC when they hit the gate. They therefore dropped back to sixth position, 21.8s adrift of the podium. They then fought back like the champions they are on the second loop, claiming two stage wins on their way to fourth overall, keeping them in with a good chance of finishing on the podium going into the final day.

After making a decent start with a fifth fastest time on the rally’s first proper stage (SS2), Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were unfortunately then held up by a puncture immediately afterwards (SS4) when they hit a bank following a crest. The Finnish pair were gradually upping their pace on what was only their second appearance in Argentina – as could be seen in their promising split times – when a tyre came loose following a puncture, rolling the car (SS8) and forcing them to retire from the rally on the opening leg.

Competing in the WRC2 Pro class in a C3 R5, Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen claimed their second consecutive category win after Rally Sweden, whilst also amassing a handsome tally of ten stage wins from the overall total of seventeen contested. Yet further evidence of the competitiveness of Citroën Racing’s flagship customer racing product on the very demanding Argentinian roads, where the C3 R5 was competing for the first time.

REACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver “It’s a pretty good result in terms of points, but we can’t be pleased with our out-and-out performance level. There are some conditions, like those we saw in Mexico or here on the second runs, where we are fairly competitive. But we have to improve when there is less grip or when the road is more technical. I’m pleased to see our persistence rewarded, because once again this weekend we pushed as hard as possible right to the end.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver “Despite not knowing the roads here particularly well, I was obviously hoping for a better outcome from this round. But after we had picked up a puncture, I was caught out when the tyre suddenly came loose. Thiscaused the car to understeer, we hit a bank at the side of the road and rolled the car. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but after a few days’ rest with my family, Janne and I will back raring to go and have the best Rally Chile possible, where we’ll all be on an equal footing in terms of experience.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

How do you assess your performance in Argentina?

It was clearly a tough weekend, one that we can’t be satisfied with. The points for third place and from the Power Stage are fairly positive as regards the championship, but we lacked pace on these roads. The result is down in large part to Sébastien and Julien’s relentless commitment and persistence. Meanwhile, Esapekka and Janne deserved at least to make it to the end of the rally, in order to keep adding to their experience. Perhaps in future they will need to manage a puncture differently, but we are still 200% behind them so that they can finally get back on the right track in Chile.

How are you intending to tackle the transition to Rally Chile?

First of all, we’ll be shipping the backup C3 WRC out to Chile for Esapekka and Janne, so that they will have a completely new car for the event. Although we have relatively little time, we are also going to get to work on improving the C3 WRC as much as possible in clearly identified conditions, and define the best set-up for the rally. It’s a new event for everyone, and will also be fairly different to what we experienced this weekend. In any case, we are all fired up to keep fighting as hard as possible for the championship.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Jean-Luc Gaucher, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s Chief mechanic, was the man in charge of coordinating Saturday’s mid-leg service, during which the Citroën mechanics repaired the stricken number 1 C3 WRC. He told us about how they took just forty minutes to repair the car’s power steering, broken by the French crew in a minor impact.

“Actually, we had a whole load of parts to replace. The entire power steering, of course, but also the gearbox, the hydraulic unit and the clutch. Generally speaking, these sorts of repairs need careful planning beforehand, so that everyone knows precisely what order to do things in and so that everything goes smoothly once you get started. Given that we only had one car left in the race at that point, we could have all eight of our mechanics involved, but on the other hand, we were limited by the physical space to four people working on the front on the car, in the critical area. Although we train for this kind of situation, it’s always satisfying to see things work out when it’s for real. It was important to get the car working again as quickly as possible, because when you work on the hydraulics, the start-up procedure takes quite a bit of time, but that’s precisely what we managed to do. After a long, difficult service like this, there’s always a niggling fear that you might have missed something, so it was nice – and reassuring – for all of us to see Sébastien and Julien grab two consecutive stage wins straight afterwards!”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:20:54.6
2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +48.4
3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:04.8
4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:06.2
5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:21.1
6. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:26.7
7. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:57.3
8. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14:24.8
9. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +14:28.5

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Thierry Neuville – 110 points
2. Sébastien Ogier – 100 points
3. Ott Tänak – 82 points 4. Kris Meeke – 54 points
5. Elfyn Evans – 43 points
6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 30 points
7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 28 points
8. Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
9. Dani Sordo – 26 points
10. Sébastien Loeb – 22 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Hyundai WRT – 157 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 120 points
3. Citroën Total WRT – 117 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 78 points

Superbike World Championship – Netherlands

Kawasaki leads Honda

Thanks to second and third place finishes by Jonathan Rea in the Netherlands, Kawasaki has passed Honda in the number of rostrums recorded in the Superbike World Championship.

The vagaries of the weather somewhat disrupted the fourth round of the Superbike World Championship at the Assen circuit in the Netherlands. The snow and a chill wind forced the organizers to postpone the first race scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The Sprint of the Superpole was cancelled and the starts of both races were given on Sunday, the grid for both heats being based on the classification after the free practice sessions. Qualified in eighth place, Jonathan Rea only took two laps to climb back to third place in the first race. He kept it until the chequered flag by fighting it out with Michael Van der Mark. In the second race, the Kawasaki rider completed five laps in the lead before being overtaken by Alvaro Bautista. Second at the finish, Rea gave Kawasaki their 393th rostrum, allowing the Japanese brand to pass in front of Honda and climb to the second place in the manufacturers’ championship having recorded the greatest number of rostrums in the Superbike World Championship. “With both races organized on Sunday, we had an old-fashioned weekend,” grinned the quadruple world champion.I had a good bike and I was able to fight on to the end of both races. I had a good grip despite the cold; it was only in the last laps that the bike became a little more difficult to ride.” Fifth in the free practice sessions, Leon Haslam was fifth in the first race after a grand fight with Alex Lowes. A tire problem in the second race then forced him to settle for eighth place. Despite a heavy fall during the practice test sessions, Toprak Razgatlioglu managed to finish ninth in both races. In Supersport, Lucas Mahias was fifth and Hikari Okubo seventh.

The Championship

Of the eleven races since the start of the season, Jonathan Rea has finished ten in second place and one in third place. Well anchored in second place in the MotoGP Championship, the Kawasaki rider is now fifty-five points behind leader Alvaro Bautista. Fifth overall, Leon Haslam has so far scored 93 points. Toprak Razgatlioglu has gained a position, climbing to eleventh place overall. In Supersport, Hikari Okubo has slipped into fifth place while Lucas Mahias has climbed to seventh place.

Superbike World Championship – Spain

No Rest for Rea

As in Australia and Thailand, Jonathan Rea was unable to beat Alvaro Bautista as the championship returned to Europe. The Kawasaki rider nevertheless won three second places, keeping in touch with the leader in the standings.

The races link up and look alike for the two strongmen in this start of the season, the transfer from MotoGP Alavaro Bautista, and Jonathan Rea the quadruple Superbike world champion and titleholder. Behind the handlebars of a Kawasaki currently under-performing compared with the brand-new Ducati Panigale V4, the Brit still has hopes for the future. For the first event held on European soil, he also clocked up three second places despite some complications in the free practice sessions and a start on Saturday afternoon from the fourth row of the grid. Although he never crossed swords with Bautista, the Kawasaki rider battled hard with Chaz Davies on the other Ducati and Alex Lowes on his Yamaha. “Once again we couldn’t hope for more this weekend,” sighed Rea. “Apart from the small mistake I made during the practice test sessions that forced me to start way back, we did the best we could with the bike. On Saturday afternoon, I even managed to come back to second place after only four laps.” For the record, that day, the Brit became the fifth rider in World Superbike history to reach the milestone of two hundred and fifty starts. “On Sunday morning the sprint was not easy because it was cool and we missed grip in the last few laps,” he continued. “That’s what made me cautious for Sunday afternoon’s race. I spared my tires in the first kilometres to be able to attack in the last laps.” And once again take the lead over Chaz Davies and Alex Lowes. Leon Haslam had trouble in Spain adjusting his bike for the braking phases. Ninth on Saturday, the Kawasaki rider set the record straight the next day with a seventh and fourth place finish. Toprak Razgatlioglu was seventh and tenth before being forced to retire on Sunday afternoon. In Supersport, Lucas Mahias and Hikari Okubo scored a hat trick taking seventh and eighth places.

The Championship

With three second places, Jonathan Rea scored another 49 points in Spain. Now in solid second place in the championship, the four-time world champion is only 39 points behind Alvaro Bautista. Behind them, Leon Haslam has moved up a place. The English rider is now fifth with 74 points. Toprak Razgatlioglu has slipped back to twelfth place. No change in Supersport: Lucas Mahias and Hikari Okubo are in fifth and ninth place respectively.

MotoGP World Championship – Argentine Grand Prix

First podium for Márquez

In finishing third in the Argentine Grand Prix, Álex Márquez gave the Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS team their first podium of the season. On his side, Miguel Oliveira scored his first points in MotoGP.

With experience, Álex Márquez has learned not to be too greedy.
“Not so long ago, I might have tried to do too much,” said the former Moto3 world champion. “This time, when I saw that Baldassari was getting away at the end of the race, I didn’t try to catch him, I preferred to make sure we scored the points for third place. I know that I still have to change the way I ride to properly use our new bike. With the Triumph engine, the trajectories and tire management are different from what they were last year. We’ll build up power from race to race.”

For his team-mate Xavi Virgo, the race at Termas de Rio Honda unfortunately ended before it started. Just when he had made pole position, the second of his career in Grand Prix, Xavi Virgin was the victim of an electrical problem in the warm-up lap that prevented him from taking the start. On the side of the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 team, Miguel Oliveira caused a sensation by scoring his first points in MotoGP with a well-earned eleventh place finish, on the heels of Pol Espargaro, the official rider of the Austrian brand. Hafizh Syahrin finished 16th just short of the points, as did Marc Bezzecchi in Moto2. Phillip Oettl passed the finish line in nineteenth place.

The Championship

With sixteen points on the third step of the podium, Álex Márquez is fourth in the Moto2 world championship. Xavi Virgin has dropped back to fourteenth position. In MotoGP, with his first five points Miguel Oliveira is in the standings in fifteenth place, just two points behind Jorge Lorenzo.

C3 WRC SETS SAIL FOR CORSICA

62nd Tour de Corse (28-31 March) – Preview

The first rally to be contested on clean tarmac this season, round four of the 2019 WRC is also Citroën Total World Rally Team’s home event. Hopes are therefore high for the French outfit’s crews, Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi – Janne Ferm, especially as the major changes made to the route may well suit them.

Having won last year’s rally after leading from start to finish, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia spearhead the challenge of the Citroën Total World Rally Team on the Mediterranean island this season with the firm intention of claiming a third win in four races, following victories in Monte-Carlo and Mexico. The French crew, who also won the 2016 Tour de Corse on a route that had already undergone substantial changes, have shown in the past their ability to take good pace notes on the two runs allowed in recce, before then really going for it on the increasingly wide roads used on the island rally. Sunday’s leg in Monte-Carlo, contested on dry tarmac, equally confirmed that they were full of confidence when driving the C3 WRC on this surface.

Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm also stood out at the 2017 Tour de Corse, finishing as top performers with four stage wins (one tied), including the Power Stage, as the battle among the championship contenders for bonus points raged around them. They were even in contention for third place before a puncture put paid to their challenge on the penultimate stage. So the young Finnish driver comes into this round with genuine hopes of a strong result on a surface where he feels particularly at home, having competed in karting races between the ages of six and sixteen.

Long-time leader in 2017 and winner of three stages during last year’s rally, the C3 WRC has always been very competitive at this round, where its celebrated predecessors (Xsara Kit-Car, Xsara WRC and C4 WRC) have won the event a total of six times in the past. The new Citroën crews each had two days of testing in the car on the Corsican roads last week to review and fine-tune the set-up options.

REACTIONS FROM…

Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal

“Obviously, the French round of the WRC is a special event for us and in front of our home crowd, we’re determined to finish on the podium for the fourth time in as many races. Nevertheless, we know just how unforgiving these roads can be, especially as this year’s itinerary focuses on endurance. And at this time of year, the weather can also be fairly unpredictable. In any case, Sébastien and Esapekka have both shown undeniable speed on these types of road, as has the C3 WRC, and preparations in Corsica last week mean that we come into the rally in good shape.”

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

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

Number of appearances at the event: 5
Number of wins: 2 (2016 and 2018)


Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

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

Number of appearances at the event: 3
Best result: 6th (2018)

KEY FIGURES

14 timed stages covering a total of 347.51 km
133.34 :the number of kilometres this year where crews will need to take new pace notes
47.18 km for Castigniccia, the weekend’s longest stage, held twice on Saturday’s leg
6 overall wins secured by Citroën at the Tour de Corse in the WRC: 1 with Xsara Kit-Car (1999), 3 with Xsara WRC (2001, 2005 and 2006), 2 with C4 WRC (2007 and 2008)
2: for the second year running, Citroën France is the lead official partner of the Tour de Corse.

TOUR DE CORSE SCHEDULE
(GMT+1 until 30/03, GMT+2 from 31/03)

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

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

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

THURSDAY 28 MARCH

9.00am: Shakedown (Sorbo Ocagnano)

FRIDAY 29 MARCH

7.00am: Start Day 1 (Porto-Vecchio)
7.05am: Tyre fitting zone (Porto-Vecchio – 15 mins)
8.29am: SS 1 – Bavella 1 (17,60 km)
9.24am: SS 2 – Valinco 1 (25,94 km)
10.32am: SS 3 – Alta-Rocca 1 (17,37 km)
12.41pm: Tyre fitting zone (Porto-Vecchio – 15 mins)
2.05pm: SS 4 – Bavella 2 (17,60 km)
3.00pm: SS 5 – Valinco 2 (25,94 km)
4.08pm: SS 6 – Alta-Rocca 2 (17,37 km)
7.38pm: Flexi service A (Bastia airport– 45 mins)

SATURDAY 30 MARCH

6.05am: Start Day 2 & service B (Bastia airport – 15 mins)
7.38am: SS 7 – Cap Corse 1 (25,62 km)
9.08am: SS 8 – Désert des Agriates 1 (14,45 km)
10.14am: SS 9 – Castagniccia 1 (47,18 km)
12.32pm: Service C (Bastia airport – 40 mins)
2.38pm: SS 10 – Cap Corse 2 (25,62 km)
4.08pm: SS 11 – Désert des Agriates 2 (14,45 km)
5.14pm: SS 12 – Castagniccia 2 (47,18 km)
6.34pm: Flexi service D (Bastia airport – 45 mins)
8.24pm: Parc ferme (Place Saint Nicolas – Bastia)

SUNDAY 31 MARCH

7.30am: Parc ferme out (Place Saint Nicolas – Bastia)
8.10am: Service E (Bastia airport – 15 mins)
9.45am: SS 13 – Eaux de Zilia (31,85 km)
12.18pm: SS 14 – Calvi Power Stage (19,34 km)
1.18pm: Finish (Citadelle de Calvi)
3.00pm: Podium (Citadelle de Calvi)


Superbike World Championship – Thailand

Rea stays in reach

Facing a Bautista/Ducati tandem in great shape, Jonathan Rea managed to clock up three second places on the Buriram circuit. Results that allow the Kawasaki rider to keep the championship leader within reach.

Four-time world champion Jonathan Rea wasn’t born yesterday. With the arrival this year of the new Ducati Panigale and that of Alvaro Bautista behind the handlebars of the Italian bike, the Kawasaki rider knew he would have to grin and bear it at the start of the season. While waiting for the performance of the different machines to be rebalanced, Rea has had to limit the damage. That’s just what he did very well in Thailand, making it three times to the second step of the podium.

“It’s the best I could hope for this weekend,” said the Brit. “I stayed in Alvaro’s wake as long as I could, but as soon as I lost his slipstream I could do nothing else but let him go. Aside from a small stability problem on braking, I had a very good bike this weekend. The team, once again, did a great job.”

Suffering from a pinched nerve in his back, and lacking feeling with the big brake discs that the riders had to use this weekend in Buriram, Leon Haslam had to settle for three fifth places.

Toprak Razgatlioglu finished tenth on Saturday, thirteenth and ninth on Sunday. In Supersport, Hikari Okubo finished sixth, as he had done at Phillip Island for the opening of the championship.

“The difference is that this time I fought it out for a long time in the top three and I finished within five seconds from the winner,” said the Japanese. Having to start from the back of the grid because of low tire pressure during the practice test sessions, Lucas Mahias managed to take the checkered flag in eighth place.

The Championship

No change in the overall Superbike ranking for the two Kawasaki official riders. As in Australia, Jonathan Rea scored 49 points in Thailand, consolidating his second place, now 26 points behind Alvaro Bautista. Leon Haslam keeps his sixth position with 51 points on the clock. Toprak Razgatlioglu has gained two places, and is now ninth with 24 points. In Supersport, Hikari Okubo has climbed to fifth place with 20 points while Lucas Mahias is in ninth place with 12 points.