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.
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.
Spa-Francorchamps, 12 May 2019 – A challenging first visit to Spa-Francorchamps for the World RX of Belgium gave mixed emotions for Team Hansen MJP. While Kevin Hansen missed out on a berth in the Final by less than a tenth of a second – colliding with Liam Doran mid-air while crossing the finish line – Timmy turned in a brillaint recovery drive in his Semi Final to make the Final and finish fourth overall.
A repeat of Barcelona, where a Hansen car topped every session on the way to a one-two finish in the Final, was always unlikely to be reproduced, though Timmy and Kevin’s pace was still very much on show. Timmy won his heat in Q1 but ultimately was only sixth quickest, while Kevin bogged down off the line and finished 10th. It was then 8th and 10th for Kevin and Timmy respectively in Q2, as trademark Ardennes rainfall made conditions very tricky.
Both Kevin and Timmy ended up in the same heat for Q3, with Kevin showing some great speed after a slow launch to go second fastest, even passing Timmy at the end of the second lap. Meanwhile, Timmy had spent the early part of Q3 in an intense battle with eventual Final winner Timur Timerzyanov, falling to fifth place after taking his Joker and going 10th fastest.
A brillaint Q4 performance from Timmy helped him rebound, going fastest to jump to fourth in the combined qualifying standings, while Kevin earned a second row slot for the first Semi Final by placing seventh in the aggregate qualifying standings.
Kevin started fourth in his Semi Final and was immediately battling Liam Doran, who took an early joker lap. Kevin’s strategy was the opposite, pulling off on the very last lap and coming out of the joker side-by-side with the Audi. With the two on different lines they collided in mid-air, Doran beating Kevin to third place by the narrowest of margins and pitching Kevin into the wall.
Timmy had started his Semi Final from second but was pushed wide into the wall at turn one by Janis Baumanis, dropping to fifth and forcing Timmy to do what he does best: mount an epic comeback. He passed Anton Marklund and Cyril Raymond when they took their jokers on consecutive laps, followed later by Baumanis, then turned in the fastest lap of the race to ensure he came out ahead of the Renaults and book a place in the Final.
Fourth place was Timmy’s reward in the Final, passing Doran after he crashed at the Raidillon hairpin and then taking Baumanis for fourth down the inside of the long final left hander on the penultimate lap. Though not able to finish on the podium, Timmy jumped from third to second in the World RX drivers’ championship, nine points behind Kevin who still leads. And while Team Hansen MJP was outscored by its main rival, it still leads the teams’ championship by one point, keeping them atop both championships after three rounds.
SPA WORLD RX OF BELGIUM RESULTS
4th – Timmy Hansen
Qualifying 1 – 6st Qualifying 2 – 10st Qualifying 3 – 10th Qualifying 4 – 1st Semi-Final – 3rd Final – 4th
7th – Kevin Hansen
Qualifying 1 – 10th Qualifying 2 – 8th Qualifying 3 – 2nd Qualifying 4 – 8th Semi-Final – 4th Final
Team Hansen MJP might not have got the result it wanted at Spa-Francorchamps but the brand new RX track has become an instant favourite for drivers and fans alike.
Though a podium in the Final eluded both Kevin and Timmy, they’re now one-two in the drivers’ championship after Spa-Francorchamps!
While the team’s closest rival scored a 1-3 finish in Belgium, thanks to strong performances in Abu Dhabi and Barcelona Team Hansen MJP is still atop the teams’ standings.
The big number
The margin of victory for Timmy Hansen in his dominant Qualifying 4 performance, with his 2m14.772s also the fastest qualifying time of the entire weekend.
“It was a tough race in Belgium, but I think we’ve caught up now after my accident on the first round of the season, as we’re up to second in the drivers’ championship. Our potential was really good all weekend – as we saw in Q4, which was the only opportunity I had to drive in clear air – but we didn’t completely maximise on it. But that can happen in rallycross sometimes; after the high of Spain, where we had a perfect weekend, it’s back to the real world now! The overall feeling is still great: we know that we’ve got the pace and a really quick car so we just need to make sure we take every opportunity. Finally, I’d like to congratulate Timur for his first win: it’s really deserved and I’m very happy for him.”
“The highlight of my weekend was definitely Q3, which was our strongest session. We had two really fast laps at the end, which I’m going to take away as a fantastic experience. Apart from that it wasn’t an especially good round for us: we didn’t quite have the performance and we made some small mistakes as well, especially with the tyre choice on Saturday. There were times perhaps where we should have been a bit braver, but it’s very easy to be wise after the event. In the end, I’ve kept the lead of the drivers’ championship so it was a good damage limitation exercise. We just need to learn from this now and try to make sure that we don’t create more situations where we are running in the pack and a bit vulnerable. Like they say, you make your own luck!”
THE BOSS – KENNETH HANSEN
“On a weekend that wasn’t especially strong for us, we still took away some good points and that’s the most positive thing about this weekend. We made some wrong decisions with tyre choice on Saturday, which meant that we had a lot of catching up to do on Sunday, and we also had a couple of bits of bad luck. But if you think that we were 10th and 11th on Saturday night, to end up where we did is quite good. And of course Kevin and Timmy are first and second in the drivers’ championship now, which is great. The track was a proper rallycross course: very challenging, and the organisers have a really positive attitude; there are already some things that they are learning for next year. I think that Spa is here to stay!”
NEXT ROUND: WORLD RX OF GREAT BRITAIN
The fourth stop on the FIA World Rallycross Championship tour is Great Britain, which takes centre stage at Silverstone’s SpeedMachine festival on May 25-26.
Making its debut on the calendar last year as a replacement for Lydden Hill, it’s an almost entirely flat circuit, bar a large jump early in the lap acting as the track’s centrepiece. That’s no surprise when you consider Silverstone was an airfield before being repurposed as a race track!
But it’s a good track for Team Hansen MJP, as Timmy holds the lap record and Sébastien Loeb scored a podium here last year.
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.
Once again among the leaders on their debut outing in Chile, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia continued their impressive series of podiums to finish as runners-up after an incredibly intense battle in their C3 WRC, following the improvements made to the car by Citroën Total World Rally Team since Argentina. This result sees them reclaim the championship lead. Increasingly comfortable as the rally progressed, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm ended sixth overall, completing a fine all-round performance by the team.
With more narrow and fast stages to experience for the first time at full pace, today’s final leg was not short on difficulties, but it was made even more taxing by the fine drizzle that had fallen overnight, leaving roads significantly damp. In these testing conditions, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia saw the third-placed crew trim their advantage to just 1.1s on the opening stage. The six-time world champions then produced the kind of performance of which they alone are capable. They pushed throughout the full 18.06 kilometres of Lircay, the rally’s narrowest stage, to claim their second stage win of the weekend, 4.2s ahead of their rival for second place. The French crew then managed the gap to the end, finishing second overall and thus securing their fifth podium in six rounds, following wins at Monte-Carlo and in Mexico, second place in Corsica and third in Argentina.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia also collected four bonus points in the Power Stage, meaning they head back to Europe from Chile with a ten-point lead in the championship standings. This sixth podium finish in as many rounds this season, combined with the sixth position of Lappi-Ferm, also means the Citroën Total World Rally Team stays within touch of second place in the manufacturers’ standings.
On stages in the wooded sections, left damp by rain before the start, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia immediately settled into second position on day one. And although the morning of day two proved more difficult, they were able – in conjunction with the team – to respond perfectly in the afternoon loop, grabbing a stage win and a third fastest time on their way to doubling their advantage over the third-placed crew. Unfortunately, they were hampered by the late arrival of fog and rain on the final stage of the day, allowing their rivals back into the mix ahead of the short final leg.
After a cautious, focused start to the race, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm had closed to within 10.3s of fifth place with the third fastest time on yesterday’s final stage. They confirmed their growing confidence and improved form today, grabbing a fifth and a fourth fastest time. Their splits on the Power Stage were also very promising until a minor error dashed their hopes of any bonus points. They nonetheless finished sixth overall. They can take heart from an encouraging result, one which they will hope to build on, so they can start the next round in Portugal in the better shape.
Engaged in a close fight for the WRC2 Pro class win until a minor brake issue cost them time on Saturday morning’s loop, Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen had to settle for second place in the end. The Norwegians nonetheless claimed twelve stage wins out a total of sixteen, demonstrating the competitiveness of the C3 R5 once again.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver“This podium further confirms our very good start to the season. We have been very consistent and the points are good for the championship. It wasn’t an easy weekend, however, even though things moved in the right direction after Saturday’s mid-leg service. We got the best out of the C3 WRC once again. We now need to develop the car even more so that we can be more competitive in low-grip situations.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver“We had a difficult start, but we managed to make progress bit by bit. We also managed to improve the set-up of the C3 WRC with the team and our pace started to be pretty decent today. I really hope that we can keep going forward like this in our forthcoming tests. In any case, it ended up being a positive weekend in terms of my confidence.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
What is your assessment of this sixth round?
Clearly, it was a positive weekend, with the fine second place secured by Sébastien and Julien. They produced another attacking performance, on these totally new stages, which needed quite a bit of getting used to. Their perseverance was rewarded with a good result that sees them back at the top of the standings. The other cause for satisfaction is the feeling that Esapekka and Janne have found again. They put together a smart, mature performance to finish the race, after gradually building their pace. It certainly augurs well for the rest of the year, especially as we now start a run of events that they know better. I think we also showed that we were able to react and introduce a few minor upgrades, which worked, in the fairly narrow window available between Argentina and Chile. Having said that, we are fully aware that these changes are not enough as yet to fight with the fastest crews in all conditions, and we are going to step up our efforts in order to keep improving.
What did you think of this first edition of Rally Chile in the WRC?
I think the event has been a successful addition to the championship! Having driven on the stages in recce, I have to say they really are very attractive. The roads are fast, undulating but also highly varied. We have also been very warmly welcomed by the local fans. They were especially noisy and enthusiastic at the ceremonial start and at the finish, but were also out in big numbers on the stages and in the service park.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND
In finishing 4.2s ahead and all but securing second place on Sunday morning on Lircay (SS14), the narrowest stage of the rally, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia once again showed their ability to take incredibly precise pace notes, as well as their talent for striking at just the right moment. The number 1 C3 WRC driver explained… “Obviously, with Julien, we give our all on every stage, that goes without saying. Although we’re not always able to compete with the fastest crews on technical stages and in low-grip conditions, I knew that SS14 and SS15 were the kind of stages that suited us best. They were fast – in fact, the average speeds were above 100kph for the first time this weekend – and we know that the C3 WRC performs well in conditions like this so we couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity! Especially as we had just dropped four seconds on the opening stage of the day. We had to hit back and that’s exactly what we did.”
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.
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.
After securing pole position in the ninth round of the ABB FIA Formula E 2018/2019 Championship, DS TECHEETAH driver Jean-Éric Vergne lead from the start to take the win at the chequered flag in Monte Carlo today.
The DS TECHEETAH is now the first team in championship history to secure the top two positions in the Drivers’ Standings with Jean-Éric taking hold of the lead with teammate André Lotterer in second. The team also extended its championship lead with valuable points from both drivers in today’s E-Prix.
André Lotterer remains the leader of the voestalpine European races and Jean-Éric is the first driver to win twice this season.
Mark Preston, DS TECHEETAH Team Principal: “Jean-Éric delivered another incredible drive today to win the Monaco E-Prix and I think we all enjoyed watching André’s fight from the back into the points. It’s very neat be the first team in championship history to have a 1-2 in the Drivers’ Standings and to lead the Teams’ Standings too with only four races to go. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we’ll put our feet up now, rather the opposite. We saw how close it was at the season finale last year and we’re very keen to keep our lead all the way in the to bitter end this time –in both championships.”
Xavier Mestelan Pinon, DS Performance Director: “The drivers knew from the beginning of the season that they have the car and the team to enable them to win the titles. At the end of this 9th race, we are leading the championship thanks to both of our great drivers and the exceptional work of the entire team. The championship remains very tight and New York is still far away but where we are is already a great result and we take great pride in this.”
Jean-Éric Vergne, P1: “What a day! I couldn’t be any happier to get my first win in Monaco. I want to thank the team because they really did give me a fantastic car today and I think we made the best out if it. Now we’re leading the championships and André is second in the Drivers’ championship too. Everything is looking good, we need to keep pushing, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
André Lotterer, P7: “Congratulations to Jean-Éric first of all and to the team, we achieved some great team points today. I messed up qualifying a little, but I managed to limit the damage and get some points. It was a crazy race out there, but I was able to pass some cars around the start. Then I saw that it was becoming more difficult to pass, so I was patient and I passed one or two guys, and then I benefited from the drama around me. It’s always good to recover well and I wish I had qualified better, but I ended up finishing 7th with a couple of points in the bag and we have a good car, so we can head to the next races with better performance.”
New Vantage GTE takes second win of the FIA WEC Super Season
Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin record first victory for Aston Martin Racing
GTE Am championship contenders TF Sport finish second with V8 Vantage
Saturday 4 May, Spa-Francorchamps: The new Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE recorded its second FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro class victory in one of the most dramatic, unique and snow-affected sportscar races ever to be held at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
Driving the #97 Vantage GTE, Maxime Martin (BEL) and Alex Lynn (GB), delivered a perfectly judged win in a race that featured everything, including four safety car periods and frequent heavy snow showers. The last of these caused the red-flag that halted the race ten minutes early while Martin was holding a slender lead in incredibly difficult conditions. This was the first win for the #97 car since the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours and marked a maiden win for Martin and Lynn as Aston Martin Racing drivers on the first anniversary of the Vantage GTE’s debut.
The #97 crew were in contention from the start and the team made a sequence of prescient strategy calls allowing them to stay ahead of both the unseasonal weather and the changing order in a highly competitive race. Martin, who survived early contact from a rival at the start, delivered a strong first stint to manage the early snow storms and hand the car over to Lynn in third.
The Briton forged his way to the front of the field, with a charge that included a brilliant pass around the outside of Blanchimont on the leading Porsche, before handing back to Martin. The Belgian then managed his tyres and his fuel intelligently through a lengthy final Safety Car period and found himself defending his lead from his closest rival as the race went back to green with 15 minutes to go. Martin called upon all of his vast experience and knowledge of Spa to build a small gap before the organisers threw out the red flag once and for all as conditions deteriorated.
“This was amazing,” said Martin, who drove for an extraordinary three hours and 41 minutes. “We’ve not always been lucky so far in this campaign, but to get to the end of the season with a win like this, at my home race at Spa, is the best way to capture my first win for Aston Martin. We were really competitive but the conditions were really hard. Strategy played a big part in this result and sometimes it was a bit of a gamble. This race had everything, which made it even better to win it. The team did an amazing job, we were quick in the pitstops, we were quick in both conditions and Alex did a fantastic job too, so in the end it was a proper team win.
” Lynn added: “This was a very emotional win for our crew. We’ve had a lot of opportunities to get some good results this year and fate has not played in our favour. This weekend, honestly, the car has been really fast and to win today is such a special feeling. The whole crew managed a flawless race and it’s amazing to get my first win for Aston Martin Racing.”
The sister #95 Vantage GTE, driven by Danish duo Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen, finished seventh having run competitively early on in the race. Misfortune befell the car mid-race, but Thiim was charging back through the order when the red flag called an early halt to the race.
In GTE Am, Aston Martin Racing partner team TF Sport recorded a brilliant second place with Salih Yoluc (TUR), AMR Junior driver Charlie Eastwood (GB) and Euan Hankey on the venerable V8 Vantage GTE having started from the class pole. The reigning world champions Paul Dalla Lana (CDN), Pedro Lamy (GB) and Mathias Lauda (A) finished in sixth position in the #98 Aston Martin V8 Vantage having led for various portions of the race. Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw said: “This was a very tough race today, but probably one of our best ever team performances. This was a great time to do it just before Le Mans and also this victory means that both the #95 and #97 crews have delivered a victory with the Aston Martin Vantage GTE in its first year. If we’d said at the start of the year that both cars would have won a race before we went to Le Mans we would have been very happy. The #97 car has been on it all weekend and the guys have deserved this win. The #95 car was unlucky not to have been on the podium as well, but we split the strategies through the race to maximise our chance of victory, which we might not have done if we were fighting for a championship. But this is the perfect preparation for Le Mans.”
The final round of the championship, the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, takes place on Sunday, 16 June, 2019
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.
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.
Signatech Alpine Matmut takes its seventh consecutive podium in the LMP2 category of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
André Negrão, Pierre Thiriet and Nicolas Lapierre finished third in apocalyptic conditions at Spa-Francorchamps.
The no.36 Alpine A470 takes command of the championship heading into the 24 Hours of Le Mans finale (June 15-16).
Beginning on Thursday, the Signatech Alpine Matmut team and the entire field was welcomed to Spa-Francorchamps by extremely difficult and unpredictable weather.
Following a first session focused on set-up, the no.36 Alpine A470 was caught out by the rain in the afternoon. The French squad still managed to gather a trove of information in the final session before André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet went on to qualifying fifth in LMP2.
The race began under threatening skies at 13:30 on Saturday. First in the car, André Negrão immediately picked up a place, but it began to rain at the end of lap two.
Very quickly, the conditions became hellish as light snow began to fall and the temperature dropped to 1°C. The Brazilian came in for Michelin rain tyres, then the team adapted its strategy thanks to a lightning pit-stop at the end of the first safety car period.
Alpine’s rivals switched to slicks during a break in the weather as well as the second neutralization, and Andre Negrão emerged in the overall lead before handing over to Pierre Thiriet as the third hour began.
On a dry track surface, the French driver put in a solid double-stint by combining speed and consistency at half-distance, but Ho-Pin Tung managed to surprise him just before the storms returned.
Nicolas Lapierre took over to pour the pressure on the Chinese driver. While hail pelted Spa-Francorchamps, the Platinum driver made his stop a lap earlier than his competitor to retake the lead.
The advantage that he quickly built was reduced to zero by another safety car intervention. Pastor Maldonado made the most of it as the race entered the final hour. Following another pause in the action, Nicolas Lapierre continued his triple-stint being third with 15 minutes remaining while the two cars in front of him still had to stop.
The torrential conditions and sometimes-precarious visibility forced the race stewards to wave the red flag 11 minutes from the chequers. Despite an error-free effort from the drivers on the track and the team with the strategy, the Alpine A470 had to settle for third place, which runs its series of consecutive podium finishes to seven and gains the upper hand from the championship rivals.
The final round of the reconquest will take place next month at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Matmut
“In my 29 years in this sport, I have never been involved in a race where it snowed! it was hard to get the right tyres and operating window in these hellish conditions, especially as we are still learning the Michelins. Nevertheless, we did a very good job because our undercut strategy saw us take the lead in LMP2 and overall after a relative sub-par qualifying run. We led for more than half of the race, the drivers made no mistakes and the team was fantastic in being by far the fastest in the pits. However, I am a bit bitter because victory was within our grasp if not for the last two safety cars… The field regrouped, one team did not have to stop and another did not reach the minimum driving time of its Silver driver, which became inconsequential with the red flag. The team deserved better, but the most important thing is that we reached our main target. We will head to Le Mans with the lead in both championships. As we have always said, the titles will be decided at the 24 Hours and we cannot wait to be there!”
“We did the most important as we wanted to keep the lead of the Drivers’ championship while taking control of the Teams’ classification. We also learned a lot about the Michelins in all conditions, but there is still a little disappointment because the two cars ahead of us would have had to make another stop to finish the race. The entire team did an excellent job on the strategy, and we didn’t turn a wheel wrong. This was our race to win if not for the red flag, but we are already looking ahead to Le Mans, where we will arrive more serene and in a position of strength.”
“The race was very tricky with snow, rain and clear skies from start to finish. There were a lot of highs and lows, but we made no mistakes. We all worked very well and we will battle for the title just until the end. I am very happy with our performance and our result, even though it could have been better without the red flag. Motorsport is sometimes like that and now it’s time to focus on Le Mans!”
“I am very pleased, because I had a lot of fun in my double-stint. I was confident and the car was fast. We did a fantastic job as a team, especially with the strategy and in the pits. Our risks paid off and my two team-mates managed to get the very most out of the car in extremely tough conditions. We deserved to be better rewarded, but there are still a lot of positives to take from the race and just one team ahead of us was eligible to score points. It will be all to play for at Le Mans and we will arrive in the best conditions.”
Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – LMP2 1. DragonSpeed n°31 129 laps 2. G-Drive Racing n°26 +3.955s 3. Signatech Alpine Matmut n°36 +4.432s 4. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°38 +8.627s 5. TDS Racing n°28 + 1 lap 6. Racing Team Nederland n°29 + 2 laps 7. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 + 2 laps 8. Larbre Competition n°50 + 3laps
FIA Trophy LMP2 Drivers 1. Nicolas Lapierre / André Negrão / Pierre Thiriet – 143 points 2. Gabriel Aubry / Stéphane Richelmi / Ho-Pin Tung – 139 points 3. Roberto Gonzalez / Pastor Maldonado – 117 points 4. Jazeman Jaafar / Nabil Jeffri / Weiron Tan – 98 points 5. Anthony Davidson – 83 points
FIA Trophy LMP2 Teams 1. Signatech Alpine Matmut n°36 – 143 points 2. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°38 – 139 points 3. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 – 138 points 4. DragonSpeed n°31 – 117 points 5. Racing Team Nederland n°29 – 70 points 6. Larbre Competition n°50 – 67 points 7. TDS Racing n°28 – 42 points
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.
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!”