Category Archives: WRC

CITROËN’S FLYING FINNS GRAB SECOND PLACE!

Runners-up at their home round after a high quality performance in their C3 WRC, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm consolidated their pedigree as “Flying Finns”, the local crews who each year add another page to the history of this legendary event! Their performance, Citroën Total World Rally Team’s eighth podium of the season, was supplemented by a fine fifth place for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia who, in spite of the French driver having suffered physically yesterday, were determined to hang in there and claim precious points for the championship.

With the final leg starting with the stage on which they went off last year, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm knew that a tough job lay ahead of them today. Their off in 2018 also meant that they had no experience of driving the second stage of the loop at full speed. Totally in control of proceedings throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC, the Finns nonetheless had to show great steel today. After limiting the time lost on the first runs, whilst also confirming their pace notes, they then moved clear of the third-placed crew on the second pass. They went on to equal their best result so far with the Red Army (runners-up in Sweden) and secured a richly deserved podium at their home round, just rewards for their undeniable improvement!

This second podium of the season for the Lappi-Ferm crew, the sixth of their short WRC career, is also the eighth in nine rounds this season for the Citroën Total World Rally Team.

Esapekka and Janne showed their intentions right from the word go, setting the second fastest time – just a tenth down on the lead time – on the first proper stage (19.34km). They then confirmed their promising start as they made it to the end of the opening leg in third position, just 2.4s off the pace. Full of confidence in the C3 WRC on these roads that leave no room for hesitation, they went even better on Saturday’s leg. Two more stage wins (SS16 & SS18) amidst the four-way battle for the lead took them up to second place, with handy lead of 12.4s over the third-placed crew. An advantage that they managed masterfully on today’s short final leg, like a couple of seasoned campaigners!

Second on the road on Friday and therefore obliged to sweep the fine layer of loose gravel off the roads, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia managed to limit the time lost, ending day in seventh position, just 12.9s off the podium. Unfortunately, Sébastien then suffered a disrupted night’s sleep after falling ill and was forced to reset his sights for Saturday’s leg. He nonetheless showed great persistence and determination to fight against the exhaustion he felt and move up to fifth overall, within striking distance of fourth place. Having enjoyed a better night’s sleep, he went back on the offensive on Sunday with the same tenacity, but missed out on fourth place by just 2.7s. The points scored at this rally, including two bonus points earned in the Power Stage thanks to setting the fourth fastest time, mean he still lies second in the drivers’ championship and in contention for a seventh consecutive world title.

REACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

“It was a tough weekend for us. To be honest, I had higher expectations at the start. As always, I gave it absolutely everything. For sure, Saturday’s leg – when I was really low on energy – didn’t help matters, but even today, when I felt better, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do more.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

“I’m very pleased for the team – they deserve this result for having been patient and supportive during the first part of the season, when things were difficult. We worked really hard – and well – together so that the C3 WRC suited my driving style more effectively, especially on the front diffs and I really felt full of confidence driving the car this weekend. I literally felt like I could do what I liked in it! From the first run in the shakedown, I knew that things were looking good. I now hope to keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

What can you say about Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm’s performance this weekend?

Obviously, we are delighted to see them back near the top after an up-and-down first half of the season, when they struggled to turn their undeniable potential into results.We knew that they were extremely fast and we never doubted their ability to get back to where they belong. They just needed a bit of time to adjust to the car and get the most out of it. We have also tried to support them in managing this situation as best we could, and the relaxed attitude we’ve seen in them this weekend makes me think that the hard work done is beginning to pay dividends. It’s richly deserved for the commitment and trust they have placed in the team, day in, day out. But it’s also satisfying for everyone in the team, who continue to work relentlessly, without counting the hours… I have high hopes that they can keep up the momentum at the next few rounds.

Once again showing their incredible fighting spirit, Sébastien and Julien leave Finland with precious points in the battle for the drivers’ and co-drivers’ title…

Yes, even though they were definitely hoping for a better outcome, and so were we. But they didn’t have an easy job in second position in the running order here, where there is a lot of loose gravel on the roads. And the very disrupted night between Friday and Saturday really knocked the stuffing out of Sébastien, just when he intended to try and make up lost ground. Despite all of this, they once again showed their legendary grit and tenacity, limiting the damage and remaining in with a very good chance of winning the championship. Sometimes, championships are won by making it to the end of difficult weekends like this one without suffering too much damage. In any case, we’ll be redoubling our efforts to ensure our crews have an even more competitive C3 WRC at the forthcoming rounds.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Christophe Witschi, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm’s race engineer, witnessed first-hand the race craft and assurance with which the Finns built their podium finish, particularly on Sunday morning when they put paid to Jari-Matti Latvala’s hopes of snatching second. He recalls the experience…

“Esapekka was very relaxed this morning and very clear about how he intended to manage his 12.4s lead today. He clearly said that on the first run on the first stage, he was going to ease off slightly on the corner where he went off last year, in order to avoid making the same mistake and that’s obviously what he did. The second stage of the loop was changed a bit last year so his off in 2018 was quite a disadvantage, as he had not driven it at full racing speed. Latvala, on the other hand, has driven this stage many times before, given that it has been used previously as the shakedown stage. But once again, Esapekka and Janne managed to deal with this handicap perfectly, before reminding their fellow countryman that he wasn’t going to catch them on the repeat of Laukaa! It was undoubtedly at least as impressive as their performance on Saturday afternoon when they moved ahead of Latvala.”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2h30’40’’3

2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +25’’6

3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +33’’2

4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53’’4

5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +56’’1

6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1’32’’4

7. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1’38’’2

8. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2’33’’8

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Ott Tänak – 180 points

2. Sébastien Ogier – 158 points

3. Thierry Neuville – 155 points

4. Elfyn Evans – 78 points

5. Andreas Mikkelsen – 71 points

6. Teemu Suninen – 66 points

7. Kris Meeke – 60 points

8. Esapekka Lappi – 58 points

9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 56 points

10. Dani Sordo – 50 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Hyundai WRT – 262 points

2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 236 points

3. Citroën Total WRT – 198 points

4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 158 points

CITROËN FIGHTS TO SECURE PRECIOUS POINTS WITH THE C3 WRC IN SARDINIA

Although Citroën Total World Rally Team’s chances of a good overall result were compromised on day one, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia confirmed once again that they remain fierce competitors on the Power Stage, grabbing the second fastest time and four bonus points. Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm made it to the finish in seventh overall, having managed the last two legs admirably.

After making a mistake on day one (SS5) as they attempted to minimise the major disadvantage of running first on Sardinia’s technical and very loose gravel roads, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – having rejoined under Rally 2 rules on Saturday’s leg – were solely focused on attempting to grab a few bonus points on the Sassari – Argentiera Power Stage during today’s short final leg (41.90km). Once again showing their incredible fighting spirit, the French six-time world champions claimed four points, which means they now lie second in the world championship standings, four points behind the new leader.

Whilst it falls short of Citroën Total World Rally Team’s hopes for this round, the result means that when the championship resumes after the summer break, they will tackle roads in Finland (1-4 August) that have already been cleaned by a competitor. The forthcoming break will undoubtedly be used by the Red Army to redouble its efforts in preparation for the second half of the season.

On gravel, the first leg tends to be decisive because it determines the running order for the rest of the rally, and Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm unfortunately experienced this first hand. They were running in sixth overall and were gradually getting their bearings when they dropped almost 40s when one of their tyres came loose (SS4). They put in a lot of hard work in the C3 WRC to move back up the leaderboard (stage win on SS5, second on SS9, just 0.1s off the pace), but were unable to finish the opening leg any higher than eighth, after also suffering a sensor issue (SS6). In spite of a less than ideal position in the running order on Saturday, they managed to produce a consistent, error-free performance on day two, as they continued to get to grips with the C3 WRC on gravel and regained seventh position when one of the other crews suffered a puncture. They ended the final leg in the same place. This race, which they managed intelligently once they were no longer able to fully express themselves, will undoubtedly help them to begin the next event, their home round in Finland, in the best possible shape.

REACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

“Sometimes in motorsport, you have a weekend where  things just don’t go your way and this weekend was clearly one of those. We’ll put it behind us and focus on the future. In running first on the road, the best we could have realistically hoped for would have been to finish around fifth, so my mistakes cost us a few points. But it is still incredibly close in the championship, even though I’m not the kind of person to take any pleasure from the misfortune of others, especially when it’s Ott. I’m now going to have a holiday and recharge my batteries. We’ll be back in Finland and try to do a lot better.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the result that we were hoping for. The problems we had on the first leg went a long way to determining the rest of our weekend. We weren’t able to perform at our true level given our position in the running order. It was pretty much impossible to make up ground on these roads, where the grip increases so much with each passing car. We also weren’t helped by making the wrong call on tyres on Saturday morning. But at least we made it to the finish. We’ll now get back to work so that we’re in better form for our home round in Finland.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL


What is your analysis of this weekend’s race in Sardinia?

Obviously, this isn’t the result we were hoping for, although we knew that running first on the road here, where the roads clean so much, Sébastien and Julien were bound to have their work cut out. We certainly can’t blame them for their mistakes, because such errors are so highly uncharacteristic. And they did a great job on the Power Stage, showing their incredible fighting spirit once again. Esapekka and Janne had a slightly disappointing first half of day one and unfortunately, this had a knock-on effect on the rest of their weekend, forcing them to carve out the racing line for the rest of the field. In Sardinia, it’s a disadvantage that is almost impossible to overcome. However, they managed to cope intelligently with the frustration involved, getting more miles under their belt in the C3 WRC and making it to the finish. They will now look get their season back on track in Finland, where we know they definitely have the potential to do very well.

With the championship so tight, it looks like the summer break may be more work than play…

Yes, Sébastien and Julien’s never say die attitude, combined with the dramatic end to the rally, means that the championship remains wide open. It doesn’t change the way in which we approach our WRC campaign at all, however. We are going to continue to deploy all our forces in the battle! We’re testing next week and one thing’s for sure, we will be redoubling our efforts to try and provide our drivers with the best weapons possible for the second half of the season.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Described by many observers as being more suited to a cross-country rally given the roughness of the road, the Sassari – Argentiera Power Stage (6.89km) once again saw Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produce another majestic performance, despite being the first WRC crew to contest the stage.

Sébastien Ogier had predicted that the Power Stage would be very tough, given the extent to which the rough, gravel roads clean and provide more grip to those further down the running order. On these sorts of sandy roads, where ruts can form quickly, the ability to take risks could make all the difference. Sébastien and Julien produced an extremely committed performance, clearly shown in the utter concentration displayed on their faces in the on-board camera footage. Their driving, usually so clean and tidy, was extraordinarily aggressive, but their approach paid dividends at the finish! Only Andreas Mikkelsen, who started five places further down the running order, managed to go faster by just over two seconds. These hard-fought four points may yet prove decisive at the end of the season…

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3h32’27’’2
2- Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13’’7
3- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +32’’6
4- Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33’’5
5- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1’30’’1
6- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2’06’’7
7- Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2’59’’6
8- Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4’40’’1
42- Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1h22’58’’5

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1- Ott Tänak – 150 points
2- Sébastien Ogier – 146 points
3- Thierry Neuville – 143 points
4- Elfyn Evans – 78 points
5- Teemu Suninen – 62 points
6- Kris Meeke – 60 points
7- Andreas Mikkelsen – 56 points
8- Dani Sordo – 52 points
9- Esapekka Lappi – 40 points
10- Jari-Matti Latvala – 40 points
*Subject to publication of the standings by the FIA

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1- Hyundai WRT – 242 points
2- Toyota Gazoo Racing – 198 points
3- Citroën Total WRT – 170 points
4- M-Sport Ford WRT – 152 points
* Subject to publication of the standings by the FIA

CITROËN POCKET YET ANOTHER PODIUM!

With their chances of pushing for the win compromised by their successive road positions, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia nonetheless refused to give up. Their never-say-die attitude was justly rewarded with their sixth podium of the season, the Citroën Total World Rally Team’s seventh top-three finish in as many rounds. Equally deserving of a good result, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were unfortunately caught out in the closing stages with the finish in sight.

With today’s final leg covering just fifty-two kilometres and held on stages well known to all the crews, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s chances of making up the 11.8s gap to the podium were slim. Citroën Total WRT’s standard bearer focused on the Power Stage, and the bonus points available, whilst remaining ready to pounce if a rival crew should make a mistake under pressure. And that is exactly what happened on the final stage, enabling the French crew to move up to third position. They therefore secured their sixth podium of the season – and Citroën Total WRT’s seventh – after yet another very intelligently crafted performance. With the five extra points earned for winning the Power Stage, Sébastien and Julien continue to lead the world championship.

Leaders coming into the Portugal round, and therefore forced to run first on the road, the six-time world champions feared they would suffer here, given the very loose, dry conditions seen in recce. They managed nonetheless to produce a heroic performance on day one, reaching the end of day service in fifth place, just 3s off the podium, having in particular successfully gambled on tyre choice. However, the difference in road position compared to the other podium contenders was so significant on Saturday that it prevented Sébastien and Julien from fighting in even conditions. They therefore began today’s final leg 11.8s behind the third-placed crew.

Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm, who were just 2.3s off fourth place after SS2, had also made a good start to the rally. Unfortunately, one of their tyres came loose on landing a jump (SS3) and the pair found themselves down in eighth overall by the end of day one. They then produced an impressive performance on Saturday’s leg to climb to fifth overall, including three fourth fastest times, despite having spent two thirds of the day running in a very tough second position on the road. Unfortunately, a minor error at the start of Sunday’s leg (SS16) proved to be extremely costly. The pair turned slightly too sharply into a right-hand hairpin and ended up spinning and then rolling their C3 WRC. As they attempted to defend their fifth place on the next stage, they clipped a bank, damaged the rear left-hand suspension and had to retire within sight of the finish.

REACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver “I didn’t think we could score twenty points this weekend. Although we never had a chance of winning the rally with our position in the running order, we gave it absolutely everything, regardless of the situation. So, to that extent, this result is just rewards. In truth, I was hoping not to be first on the road in Sardinia, but every point counts at the end of the season. I’m pleased to see that we were competitive on the Power Stage, which was more or less the only stage of the weekend where we had the same grip conditions as our rivals. That means we have also progressed in terms of performance although it was difficult to show it, given the circumstances.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver “After our roll, the car wasn’t too badly damaged, it was just missing the rear spoiler. I thought I had a good rhythm on the following stage but I was slightly too optimistic on a right hander over a crest and I hit a bank, which caused a puncture and then damaged the suspension. There were too many kilometres left to cover with our makeshift repairs. I’m really very sorry for the whole team, who deserved better.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia once again showed superb race management this weekend…

Yes, absolutely! Given, their road position on day one, but also throughout the weekend, they clearly did a great job on these roads, where cleaning is such a major factor. Despite not being able to fight on even terms, they managed to maintain the pressure and remain ready to seize any opportunities that came their way. Their determination and resilience were rewarded with another podium finish and a handsome tally of points for the championship. They had a good feeling in the C3 WRC, which also confirms that we have made significant progress with the car and are moving in the right direction. We’re going to keep working even harder because we’ll have to deal with the disadvantage of cleaning the road again in Sardinia.

Despite their retirement today, there some promising signs in the performance of Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm…

We’re obviously disappointed they didn’t make it to the end of the rally after two mistakes, especially after such a fine day yesterday. After very good pre-event testing, during which we identified the differential set-up that suits them the best, they were really on their way towards putting together a decent performance, so I hope they can build on this in Sardinia. We are now going to work together and support them so that they can manage this kind of situation better in the future.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Thomas Breton, race engineer to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, looks back on the crew’s incredible performance during the first leg, which they ended in a somewhat unexpected fifth place…

“Given the extent to which we expected the road to clean this weekend, we had focused on maximising the balance of the car in low-grip conditions during pre-event testing. Apart from on Friday’s opening stage, where they were probably getting a feel for the loose conditions, Seb and Julien were genuinely incredible. It is also worth mentioning that on the first stage, Seb had accidentally switched to road mode and by the time he realised this, he had probably lost a couple of seconds. The afternoon loop went particularly well, since they were only two tenths per kilometre off the stage-winning times. Tyre choice undoubtedly also played a role in their performance. Due to running first on the road, and also the fact that Seb is a driver who really looks after his tyres, we opted for a different strategy to the other drivers in the afternoon. We kept two Michelin mediums, despite the high temperatures, where all the other crews went with five hard tyres. Having the right strategy is one thing, of course, but you still have to deliver! And that’s precisely what he did. The data shows that Seb just doesn’t overdo it when there’s no need and his approach paid dividends in the times.”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1 -Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3h20’22’’8
2 -Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +15’’9 
3 -Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +57’’1
4 -Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2’41’’5
5 -Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 7’08’’3
6 -Rovanperä / Haltunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 10’34’’2
7 -Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 11’28’’2
8 -Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 11’41’’9

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1 -Sébastien Ogier – 142 points
2 -Thierry Neuville – 132 points
3 -Elfyn Evans – 65 points
4 -Kris Meeke – 56 points
5 -Teemu Suninen – 44 points
6 -Sébastien Loeb – 39 points
7 -Jari-Matti Latvala – 38 points
8 -Andreas Mikkelsen – 36 points
9 -Esapekka Lappi – 34 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1 -Hyundai WRT – 202 points
2 -Toyota Gazoo Racing – 182 points
3 -Citroën Total WRT – 158 points
4 -M-Sport Ford WRT – 122 points

THE C3 WRC SECURES ITS SIXTH CONSECUTIVE PODIUM AS OGIERINGRASSIA FINISH AS RUNNERS-UP!

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.

REACTIONS FROM…

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.”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:15:53.8
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +23.1
3. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30.2
4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:36.7
5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:15.6
6. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +3:45.4
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:39.0
8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 7:33.4
9. Rovanperä / Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 7:52.5
10.Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +8:16.1

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Sébastien Ogier – 122 points
2. Ott Tänak – 112 points
3. Thierry Neuville – 110 points
4. Kris Meeke – 59 points
5. Elfyn Evans – 55 points
6. Sébastien Loeb – 39 points
7. Andreas Mikkelsen – 36 points
8. Esapekka Lappi – 34 points
9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 32 points
10. Teemu Suninen – 30 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Hyundai WRT – 178 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 149 points
3. Citroën Total WRT – 143 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 100 points

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

A FOURTH CONSECUTIVE PODIUM FOR THE C3 WRC AS OGIER-INGRASSIA FINISH AS RUNNERS-UP IN CORSICA!

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s stubborn, never-say-die attitude helped them secure their third podium of season in Corsica and the fourth top-three finish in as many races this year for Citroën Total World Rally Team. Their hard-earned second place took them to within two points of the top of the drivers’ world championship.Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm finished seventh overall, both helping to consolidate Citroën’s second place in the manufacturers’ standings and racking up important miles in the C3 WRC at an all-asphalt event.

Beginning the day with just a 5.1s lead over their closest challengers, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia immediately secured third place by extending their advantage to almost thirty seconds by the end of SS13, the first and longest stage (31.85km) of the day. On the Power Stage, contested in the idyllic setting of Fango valley, with the crystal blue water of the Mediterranean forming a magnificent backdrop, the French crew once again showcased their fighting spirit to grab the fifth fastest time and collect a bonus point, whilst an unexpected final-stage incident resulted in them being promoted to second position. They therefore closed to within just two points of the world championship leader, meaning they won’t be opening the road at the next round of the WRC, in Argentina (25-28 April). 

Having struggled with some set-up issues on the opening leg, and unable to make proper corrections due to there being no mid-leg service, the six-time world champions made the best of the situation by ending the day sixth overall, just 10.2s adrift of fourth place. They then produced a heroic effort the next day on both runs on the brand new Castagniccia stage. They used all of their attacking instincts on the dirty, worn roads and their ability to have good pace notes for the first pass at full speed, managing to grab the third fastest time on the first run and then the second fastest time on the repeat. These two performances in particular enabled them to move onto the podium with just the short final stage to go.

In finishing as runners-up in the C3 WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claimed their third podium this year from four races. Citroën Total World Rally Team has now finished on one of the top two steps of the podium in all four events this season, with wins at Monte-Carlo and Mexico (Ogier-Ingrassia), and second places in Sweden (Lappi-Ferm) and Corsica. The Satory team has thus consolidated its second place in the manufacturers’ world championship standings. 

Also struggling with the set-up of their C3 WRC, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm quickly found themselves in a situation where their hopes of making up ground were remote. They therefore decided to use the remaining kilometres to run through a range of set-up options on the C3 WRC and add to their experience in the car on tarmac. Their persistence was nonetheless rewarded with a seventh place finish, which also provided a worthwhile contribution to the overall team result.

REACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

“In terms of points, it’s a good result, scoring nineteen points at a difficult round. On the other hand, we really suffered in terms of pure performance. We need to understand why, so that we don’t have the same problem again on this surface, on which the C3 WRC had performed well previously. In any case, I’m pleased to have managed to get the most out of the car I had and also that I don’t have to open the road on gravel in Argentina.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

“We all had high hopes coming into this round, so obviously we can’t be satisfied with this result. We were short on performance and suffered quite a lot of understeer throughout the weekend. We’re going to work hard to put things right for the next rounds on tarmac, in Germany and then in Spain. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting back on gravel in Argentina.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

How would you assess this Tour de Corse?

In terms of points, it was a good result, as we have consolidated second position in the standings for both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships. However, obviously, we can’t be satisfied with our performance level this weekend. We were missing something, somewhere, throughout the weekend. We’ll now analyse everything in detail so that we get to the bottom of this drop in form and ensure we return to the level of competitiveness we had previously on tarmac at the rounds in Germany and Spain. I would nonetheless like to pay tribute to the reaction of my team in this difficult situation. They never let up, working hard to try and find every possible solution for our crews. We improved during the weekend and it’s by maintaining this attitude that we’ll keep making progress and coming back even stronger. 

How would you describe the performance of your crews?

The sign of a true champion is managing to produce performances even when some of the ingredients you need to be competitive are missing. Securing a result like this at a difficult weekend is how you win championships and Sébastien and Julien know this all too well. Once again, they showed their remarkable ability and never-say-die attitude. This podium is above all down to them. They really nailed it with their performances on Castagniccia, whilst remaining incredibly consistent on the other stages. Esapekka and Janne have nothing to be ashamed of either, but for the time being they just lack experience in this kind of situation. I’m convinced, however, that as soon as we give them a good car, they will start producing the kind of speed that we know that they are capable of. 

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Former WRC driver and safety crew driver for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Simon Jean-Joseph looked back at the French crew’s performances on the two runs on the Castagniccia stage during Saturday’s leg.

“For us, as safety crew, the two runs on Castagniccia were really the only two tests this weekend where we had quite a lot of corrections to make. Apart from their obvious talent, combined with the fighting spirit and determination of Seb and Julien, I think one of their real strengths comes from their incredibly precise system of pace notes. In dirty and tricky conditions like these, they have very subtle variations in describing the road, which gives them a sense of security and enables them to show off their full potential. For the safety crews, it’s then a question of having a good feeling for things, adding corrections in the right place without overloading the notes. But it’s then a real feat for Julien to manage to convey all the subtle differences, given the speed at which they run through the stages, and for Seb to manage to take it all in.” 

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3h22’59’’0
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +40’’3
3. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1’06’’6
4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1’18’’4
5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1’24’’6
6. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1’40’’0
7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2’09’’1
8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3’39’’2
9. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5’06’’3
10. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6’44’’6

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Thierry Neuville – 82 points
2. Sébastien Ogier – 80 points
3. Ott Tänak – 77 points
4. Elfyn Evans – 43 points
5. Kris Meeke – 42 points
6. Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
7. Sébastien Loeb – 22 points
8. Dani Sordo – 16 points
9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 15 points
10. Teemu Suninen – 14 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Hyundai WRT – 114 points
2. Citroën Total WRT – 102 points
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 98 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 70 points

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)


Citroën secures its second win of the season with Ogier-Ingrassia!

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produced an incredibly calm and collected performance on Sunday’s final leg to claim their second win from three events in 2019, the C3 WRC retaining its record of finishing on the podium at every round since the start of the season in Monte-Carlo! Citroën Racing thus extended the record it holds for the most wins at Rally Mexico to eight.

Starting the day with a 27.0s lead over the second-placed crew, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia held their nerve despite the pressure applied by those behind. The pair’s controlled final day performance saw them secure victory with an extended winning margin after the final sixty or so final kilometres. They also collected five bonus points on the Power Stage with a seventh stage win, making them the weekend’s top performers. It was an excellent weekend in terms of points, as they climbed to second place in the world championship, just four points behind the leader. 

The six-time world champions had taken the lead on the second pass on El Chocolate (31.57km), the most technical stage on day one, before finishing the first leg with four stage wins and overall lead of 14.8s, despite running third on the road. Although they were briefly unseated from top spot the next day when SS10 was red flagged and they were awarded a notional time that took account of the slow puncture collected during the stage, the French pair – despite no longer having a spare tyre – went back on the attack and managed to retake the lead on the next test, Otates, with the second fastest time just 1.2s off the pace. They then went one better, finishing first on the final stage of the morning loop. The afternoon saw them claim their sixth stage win of the weekend, despite the handicap of being the only crew to carry two spares. Their performance enabled them to build up a substantial lead, allowing them to manage the final leg with the kind of control they are famous for.

Eleven years after making their world championship debut here in a Citroën C2 Super 1600, Sébastien and Julien completed their fifth win in Mexico, after those secured in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018. It’s also their second win of the season, after Monte-Carlo, and the third time in as many rounds in 2019 that Citroën Total World Rally Team has finished on one of the top two steps of the podium. Confirmation, if any was needed, of its competitiveness. 

In taking the honours for the second time in Central America after its maiden win in 2017, the C3 WRC has also made it mark at this event, despite its reputation as a particularly demanding rally due to the high temperatures and extreme altitudes, whilst Citroën Racing extended its record at this round to eight wins.

On only their second appearance in Mexico, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm quickly showed their undeniable potential. With a fourth fastest time, 6.2s behind their team-mates on El Chocolate (31.57km), and then a second fastest time (SS7), a mere two tenths off the stage-winning time on Friday afternoon, they ended the opening leg in a promising fifth position, just 2s behind fourth place. The pace set at the start of the next day confirmed that they were at one with their C3 WRC, but unfortunately a sudden change in grip caught them out and left them stranded by the side of the road. The final leg, during which they were first on the road, provided them with an opportunity to add to their experience, whilst preparing for the next few events on gravel. The point scored on the Power Stage, somewhat against the odds and as the championship contenders also battled for bonus points, served as a timely reminded that they will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season!

RÉACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

“Mexico is definitely a special place for me and I’m especially pleased to secure this fifth win here and take maximum points for the championship! That was what we came for, and although it wasn’t a trouble-free weekend, we managed it well from start to finish. The potential I saw in the C3 WRC continues to be borne out. It enabled us to be top performers this weekend. It’s now up to us to keep working hard because the championship looks set to be even closer than ever before. In the meantime, I would like to thank the team for the great job done this weekend! We’ll now head for Corsica looking for a similar outcome.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

“I’m pleased to have learned how to drive on this specific surface with my C3 WRC and to have equally made progress in understanding the tyre strategy for these stages. We’re now going to concentrate on the Tour de Corse, with the intention of getting back among the frontrunners.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

What can you say about Citroën Racing’s eighth win in Mexico, and the second this season?
We’re delighted with it, because it is the result of an excellent team effort! Winning here is no easy feat. The combination of high altitude and hot temperatures make it the ultimate challenge for man and machine alike. But everyone was on the ball throughout the weekend and this win is just deserts for our hard work. This event remains unusual, but it’s also always positive to win the championship’s first round on gravel because it’s the surface on which the majority of the rallies are held and although we can’t afford to rest on our laurels, it is confirmation that we are right in the mix with the C3 WRC. Three podiums in as many races – we really couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the season with our two new crews. Obviously, all of this wouldn’t have been possible without a magnificent performance by Sébastien and Julien. Every day, they showed off their full array of qualities: speed, race craft, ability to react and management skills too. We knew it already, but they really do have it all!

What did you make of Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm’s race?
They made a minor error that proved very costly, but I prefer to focus on the way in which they got to grips with the difficulties of the Mexican roads. They haven’t fully mastered them yet, but they gradually upped their game and managed to set a very respectable pace. They had a very good feeling in the C3 WRC on gravel and that augurs well for the rest of the championship.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Thomas Breton, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s race engineer, looks back on the opening leg of the rally, perfectly negotiated by his crew.

“They really impressed me on Friday. Obviously, our road position was better than that of Tänak and Neuville, but there were others who tackled the stages on even cleaner roads. It’s also true that these sorts of conditions are always difficult to work on and reproduce in testing. We gave them an easy car to drive and they made very good use of it! They have this incredible ability to adapt their rhythm to the circumstances, to push a bit more whenever it’s necessary and to control their pace when it’s not the right moment to take any unnecessary risks.”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:37:08.0
2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +30.2
3. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +49.9
4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:27.0
5. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6:06.2
6. Guerra / Zapata (Skoda Fabia R5) +15:35.5
7. Bulacia Wilkinson / Cretu (Skoda Fabia R5) +18:51.5
8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +18:55.9
9. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 22:44.1
14. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1h03’40”5

DRIVER’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Ott Tänak – 65 points
2. Sébastien Ogier – 61 points
3. Thierry Neuville – 55 points
4. Kris Meeke – 35 points
5.Elfyn Evans – 28 points
6. Esapekka Lappi – 20 points
7. Sébastien Loeb – 18 points
8. Jari-Matti Latvala – 14 points
9. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 86 points
2. Citroën Total WRT – 78 points
3. Hyundai WRT – 77 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 45 points

The Mexico notebook by… Sébastien Ogier

After coming onto the scene at a time when the French were often seen as tarmac specialists, the six-time world champion very quickly forged a reputation as an all-round driver. He answered a few question about his first experiences on gravel and his relationship with Rally Mexico.

When did you drive on gravel for the first time?

“In rallying, I think it was in the ‘Rallye Jeunes’ (Young Drivers) programme just before the start of the 2006 season, because at the time, the Peugeot 206 Cup started on gravel at the Terre de l’Auxerrois rally. Before that, when I was about eight years old, my dad got a hold of a little off-road go-kart and I had the chance to race in it on the Saint-Laurent-du-Cros track, not far from where we lived.”

What did you think of the feeling on this surface at the time?

“Well, it’s true that for many years, tarmac tended to be the preferred surface in France, but for as far as I’m concerned, the feeling on gravel came very quickly. I almost got used to it more quickly than tarmac. Perhaps it’s the sense of sliding, which is quite similar to skiing. In any case, I was lucky in that right from the start of my career I was able to compete in a mixed surface championship. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer specialists on one surface or another. The Nordic drivers have become just as fast on tarmac, which also makes for even more competitive races, regardless of the rally.”

What is your best memory of Rally Mexico?

“Definitely the 2008 rally. It was my very first appearance in a WRC event and I ended up with a class win in the Junior world championship. Making your debut in this environment and it going so well straight away was like experiencing something of a waking dream!”

After hosting the ceremonial start in the centre of Mexico, on the famous Zócalo square in 2017, the organisation returned to the traditional start in Guanajuato last year. What do you think?

“It was an amazing, one-off experience to go to the centre of Mexico, even though it was a bit more complicated from a logistics point of view, but Guanajuato is a special place and one that we really enjoy coming back to every year. The atmosphere is truly unique and it’s the only ceremonial start where you get such huge, passionate crowds!”

What have you done with the cowboy boots usually given to the winner?

“I must admit that I haven’t worn them since the podium ceremony, other than on the motorbike to the airport immediately after winning last year ! But I have kept them as souvenirs, as I have kept all of my trophies. Funnily enough, the only exception to that is one from Rally Mexico, which was perhaps too beautiful and unfortunately went missing when travelling. I don’t as yet have a dedicated space for all these items in my home but it’s something I’m planning on doing at a later date. I hope to add a few more trophies to my collection, however, so I’m waiting to have a better idea of how much space I’ll need!”

CITROËN SECRETS

Spotted by Citroën during the 2007 season, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia joined the Junior World Championship a year later, after just two seasons in France. Julien recalls the crew’s first appearance in the WRC at the 2008 Rally Mexico:

“Emotionally, it really was something else to find ourselves on the other side of the world for our first international race! Especially as it is one of the most exotic, unusual rounds of the championship. So, I think it’s fair to say we were pretty stressed… Given the extensive support we had from Citroën and the FFSA, there was expectation and a bit of pressure on our shoulders. At the time, I only knew a few words in English and Seb knew even less. And we were also switching from a fairly basic 206 Cup to C2 Super 1600, which was a real racing car with a more powerful, expressive engine and a semi-automatic sequential gearbox. I can still see Seb on our first test run, forcing himself to get used to braking with his left foot, which was also completely new for him. In the end, it all worked out very well. We won the opening stage by quite a decent margin and went on to lead the race from start to finish. It was the perfect way to start our campaign. Obviously, we both have very fond memories of that weekend!”

Citroën secure second consecutive podium as Lappi-Ferm finish as runners-up!

A highly combative performance on Sunday’s final leg in their C3 WRC saw Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm hold off the attacks of their fiercely competitive rivals to secure second place overall, their first podium for Citroën Total World Rally Team. Recent winners of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia meanwhile used all of their talent and determination to grab two bonus points on the Power Stage, despite the disappointment of retiring earlier in the rally.

It seems that Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm really do feel at home on Sunday’s final leg at Rally Sweden! Like last year, the Finnish crew remained impressively relaxed throughout the final leg, this time securing a fine second place with control and authority. This runner-up spot was their first podium finish since joining Citroën. It was also their best result at this rally in only their third appearance here and took him up to fifth place in the championship standings.

After winning in Monte-Carlo, it’s also the second podium finish this season in as many events for Citroën Total World Rally Team, following a race during which the C3 WRC stood out for both its competitiveness (three stage wins) and its exemplary reliability.

Lappi’s highly promising performance on only his second competitive outing in the C3 WRC came following a race during which he gradually upped his pace. Fifth at the end of day one, including a spin that left him having to deal with a damaged aerodynamic package, Esapekka then upped his pace on Saturday’s leg. He gained three places, taking him into joint second position, before displaying even more convincing form today. Joint second this morning, with another driver just 2.3s behind, the 28 year-old driver landed a telling blow on the first pass on Likenäs (21.19km). On this ultra fast stage, on which you really need to be perfectly at one with your car, his third fastest time put paid to the threat posed by the first of his rivals whilst adding two tenths to his advantage over the second one. However, he was far from finished! On the second run on the stage, he finished within just six tenths of the stage-winning time to give him a 4.4s lead over the third-placed driver going into the Torsby Power Stage (8.93km). He held onto second overall on the final test, whilst also grabbing the final bonus point!

Despite the clear disadvantage of running first on the road, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made a fine start to the rally, ending day one just outside the podium places (fifth overall, 14.4s off the pace). However, first to come up against the water-filled ruts left by the historic cars completing the stages between the morning and afternoon loops, the six-time world champions were unfortunately caught out on SS6.They became stuck in a snow bank and had to retire for the day. They rejoined on Saturday looking to run in-competition tests and work on the set-up of their C3 WRC. However, they refused to be discouraged and maintained their commitment, managing to claim three stage wins (SS10, SS11 and SS14). Focused today on trying to secure a few points on the Power Stage, they set the fourth fastest time to come away with two bonus points. Now lying third in the championship standings, they head for the next round knowing they will have a decent starting position in Mexico.

REACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

“Obviously, I had hoped for a better result, but it’s always difficult to do well when you open the road here. A lot of the crews hit the snow banks, including us. We were also a bit unlucky in that we got stuck in one of the rare spots where there were no spectators. We did our very best on the Power Stage, even though once again the conditions were far from ideal for us. I’m already focused on Mexico.“

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

“I knew after testing that we had worked well and that was confirmed during this rally, which I really enjoy. The conditions this weekend were nonetheless quite a bit different so we gradually worked on improving the set-up of our C3 WRC, which helped us to feel increasingly confident in the car and to up our pace as we completed more of the stages. I’m delighted with this result. It kick starts our season and augurs really well for the rest of the year!”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

How would you describe the performance of Esapekka and Janne?

Surprising! Obviously, we knew that they were capable of producing performances like this one, but I think they impressed us again with their relaxed, controlled approach, gradually upping their rhythm after their spin on day one. Little by little, they pushed more without making any other mistakes. It’s really satisfying to see them obtain the second best result of their career WRC in only their second race in the C3 WRC, especially as they’re both really easy going and nice lads, with whom it is a huge pleasure to work.

Sébastien and Julien, on the other hand, were very unlucky…

We knew how tough it would be for them to open the road here, where grip levels on the stages tend to increase as more cars complete. Sure enough, that’s how it was working out, although they were doing very well up until they made their minor mistake. They nonetheless reacted well, refusing to be discouraged and working with the team on getting to know the C3 WRC. Indeed, their unwavering determination was rewarded on the Power Stage. Like Esapekka and Janne, they also proved – with three stage wins – that our car, having finished second here last year, is definitely at ease on these stages. And yet it is a tough event to get to grips with, given that we don’t race on ice and snow very often at all. We are encouraged to continue with our efforts and keep our good form going in Mexico, where we can expect the fight at the front to be at least as intense as it was here.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND, BY JANNE FERM

A key player in and first-hand witness of the improving form of Esapekka Lappi during the weekend, Janne Ferm told us all about today’s sprint finish!

“Throughout the weekend, the atmosphere in the cockpit of our C3 WRC was one of calm relaxation, concentration and determination, and this morning was no different! I was convinced that we were capable of finishing second, but I’m also too familiar with the world of rallying to know it’s never over until it’s over… We pushed all the way, tackling each stage in turn without getting ahead of ourselves. Each time we reached the end of the Likenas stage, even before I had seen the time, I was pleased because I felt that we had given everything and the times reflected that. It’s a test where you have to literally let it all go and I knew that Esapekka had been totally committed and pushed to the max!“ 

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:30.0

2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +53.7

3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 56.7

4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:05.4

5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:08.2

6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:38.8

7. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:49.7

8. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:37.7

      29. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +24:19.0

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Ott Tänak – 47 points

2. Thierry Neuville – 40 points

3. Sébastien Ogier – 31 points

4. Kris Meeke – 21 points

5. Esapekka Lappi – 19 points

6. Sébastien Loeb – 18 points

7. Elfyn Evans – 13 points

8. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points

9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 10 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing – 58 points

2. Hyundai WRT – 57 points

3. Citroën Total WRT – 47 points

4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 30 points