A missed opportunity

Rally d’Argentine (27-30 avril 2017)

Frustrating on many levels, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s weekend in Argentina ended with both cars retiring. The team remains confident in its potential and must now turn its attention to the next few events where, as ever, it will be looking to get back to winning ways.

The story of the race

On Thursday evening, Rally Argentina began with a city centre stage, held in the streets of Córdoba. After spending a night in parc ferme, the cars set off on Friday for a long leg, featuring eight speed tests.

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle immediately challenged for the lead. After SS3, the no.7 Citroën C3 WRC was second overall, less than ten seconds behind the leader. But on Santa Rosa – San Agustin, the British driver was caught out by a compression: the car was launched into the air, landing on a bank and rolling off the road. He managed to finish SS4, losing several minutes in the process.

Craig Breen also finished this stage at a crawl: on the same compression as his team-mate, the Irishman landed heavily and was unable to avoid the underbody hitting an exposed bedrock. The gearbox was damaged by the impact and became stuck in fifth gear.

Both cars were forced to retire for the day on the road section as the damage suffered was too substantial to allow them to complete the loop. In an attempt to ensure their crews could rejoin the race under Rally2 rules, Citroën Racing’s mechanics and engineers undertook some very extensive mechanical repairs.

On Saturday, both C3 WRCs drove out of parc ferme, but the mechanics spotted an oil leak on Craig Breen’s car in service. In order to avoid damaging the engine, the Irishman did not take part in the second leg. That meant the team had enough time to remove the powertrain so that a part damaged in the previous day’s impact could be replaced.

After checking that his car was working properly on the opening speed test of the day, Kris Meeke was back on the pace again: he grabbed two stage wins (SS11 and SS12) before the mid-leg service. Unfortunately, the second pass on the stages ended with the Northern Irishman going off the road again. After hitting a bank at high speed on SS14, the Citroën rolled an incredible eight times! This time, Kris’ rally was well and truly over.

On Sunday, Craig Breen was therefore the team’s sole representative for the final leg. On his first appearance at the rally, the Irishman was pleased to be able to get some experience on such a specific event. Fourth fastest on El Condor – Copina and third on Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare, he showed his ability to adapt and progress quickly. At the final service, the team nonetheless decided to retire the car, in order to have the full quota of spare parts allowed by the regulations for the next few rallies.

Pace not converted into results

Obviously, the actual result is decidedly short of the expectations of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, a ten-time winner of Rally Argentina. “We have the capacity to achieve our target, i.e. win the rally”, commented Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Kris recorded a series of fastest and second fastest times, which illustrates that the C3 WRC has the necessary pace. Similarly, Craig’s times on Sunday’s leg – right in the middle of the fight for the overall win – provide further confirmation of this. And yet, we haven’t managed to turn that pace into a good result here. Since the start of the season, we’ve paid a very heavy price each time there have been obstacles in our path. We are going to keep working hard and not give up, because we are convinced that our efforts will eventually start paying off. Our approach will remain aggressive: rather than aiming for a result in the World Championship, we want to win rallies and that means a certain level of risk-taking.”

Among the few pleasing aspects of the weekend, the great job done by the mechanics came top of the list. The repairs done to Kris Meeke’s C3 WRC after his off on Friday will go down as one of the great feats of the Red Army’s technical team. “Our mechanics have undoubtedly formed the best rally team for the last fifteen years,” emphasised Yves Matton. “They worked tirelessly to repair the car, which was obviously back in perfect condition since Kris scored two stage wins on Saturday. So it’s sad that their commitment and hard work weren’t more generously rewarded. It’s always a shame to lose a car that has restarted under Rally2 rules to another off.”

Next stop: Portugal

As soon as it returns from South America, the team will begin preparations for the next few rallies. A test session, scheduled to be held in Italy, will be used to prepare for Rally de Portugal and Rally Italia Sardegna. At the next round (18-21 May), four Citroën C3 WRCs will be entered for Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin, Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson.

MotoGP, Grand Prix of the Americas

Hat-Trick for Morbidelli

After Doha and Termas de Rio Hondo, now Austin. With three wins in three races, Franco Morbidelli looks untouchable at the top of the Moto2 world championship. In MotoGP, Miller and Rabat scored more points on the Americas circuit.

The Races

On a circuit he has always found difficult, Franco Morbidelli overcame the jinx by scoring another success, the third in a row after the events in Qatar and Argentina. Taking the lead early on in the race, the rider of the team Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS managed to hold off Tom Lüthi’s comeback before switching into high gear to cross the finish line more than two seconds ahead of his Swiss opponent. After leading for the first lap, Alex Marquez made a small mistake that made him lose contact with the leading pack. Fighting it out with Nakagami, Morbidelli’s team-mate finally finished at the foot of the podium.

My biggest problem was that I had cramps in my forearms,

regretted the Spaniard, who was celebrating his 21st birthday.

In MotoGP, Miller made it once again to the top ten and finished hot on the heels of Jorge Lorenzo. Rabat also scored new points by finishing in the thirteenth place between the Ducati’s of Redding and Barbera. In the Moto3 category, the two riders of the Peugeot MC Saxoprint team finished behind the twentieth place. Kornfeil ranked twenty-third and Pulkkinen thirtieth.

The Championship

With seventy-five points in three races, Morbidelli is returning to Europe with his bags full. The Italian is the leader in the championship, nineteen points ahead of Lüthi. Marquez has moved up to sixth place in the Moto2 overall standings. In MotoGP, Miller finished the overseas leg of the championship in tenth place while Rabat is eighteenth with eight points. In Moto3, Kornfeil and Pulkkinen have yet to open the score.

The Background

Benchmarks in the world of motorsports, this year once again Elf fuels are driving the engines of most of the motorcycles in the MotoGP category.

We are the suppliers for the entire lineup, except for the Ducati riders and the two Honda factory bikes

Romain Aubry,
one of the Elf engineers involved in motorsports.

The manufacturers do not all use the same fuel. The KTM and Aprilia teams use a product from the range without any on-going development.

These two manufacturers who have recently joined the MotoGP championship need to work primarily on the performance and reliability of their engines, On the other hand, Yamaha and Suzuki and the independent Honda teams (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS and LCR), use fuels developed to spec.

The priority for Yamaha is on consumption levels. Suzuki ask us for performance, while the Honda teams insist on reliability.

For each of the brand’s customers, Elf engineers therefore work to define each specification in conjunction with the engine manufacturers.

We determine each engine’s appetite and select a corresponding range of chemical molecules. Based on that analysis, we propose three candidate fuels.

Developed in the laboratories of the Solaize research centre, the fuels are then sent to Japan and checked on the test bench before being tried and tested on the circuit.

Moto Endurance – The Le Mans 24 hrs

Another podium in the Sarthe region

Like the Bol d’Or in September, the Kawasaki SRC team once again made it to the podium at the finish of the 24 Hours Motorcycles organized on the Le Mans circuit.

 

For their second and final race of the 2016/2017 season, the Kawasaki SRC team once again played the leading role. Having entered only for the two 24-hour events of the Endurance World Championship – the Bol d’Or and the 24 Hours Motos – Gilles Staffler’s team took third place at Le Mans after finishing second on the Paul Ricard circuit. Two podiums that now mean the SRC holds second place in the overall standings only three points behind the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team. Victorious last year in the Sarthe region, this time the Kawasaki #11 came up against the two Yamahas of the GMT 94 and YART teams. Lead by Randy de Puniet, Fabien Foret and Mathieu Gines, the SRC’s ZX-RR had nevertheless won the pole position during the practice test sessions, thanks to the best time ever of Randy de Puniet in 1’35″73. Leading at the end of his first stint, the former Grand Prix rider unfortunately had a slight fall just before nightfall.

I was able to quickly get back on because the bike only had a broken lever, But it still cost us three laps.

Randy de Puniet

Fighting hard to get back to first place, the Kawasaki riders were once again delayed by lighting problems and a speed selector that had to be replaced.

But what handicapped us most was not having suitable tyres for the new track surface. Especially during the night, we weren’t able to keep the pace we could have. We were there to win but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.

Gilles Staffler

The next appointment for the Kawasaki SRC team is on 16 and 17 September at the Paul Ricard circuit for a new edition of the Bol d’Or.

The new PEUGEOT 208 WRX to break cover in Barcelona

Ahead of the opening round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship this weekend, Sébastien
Loeb and Timmy Hansen are to take the wraps off the all-new, 2017-configuration PEUGEOT
208 WRX which proudly boasts a bold new livery and a strikingly aggressive look. Kevin Hansen,
meanwhile, is fired-up to start his maiden full campaign at the pinnacle of the sport behind the
wheel of his ‘2016 plus’-specification 208.

The 2017 PEUGEOT 208 WRX has evolved in several ways in relation to its predecessor. Every aspect of the car has been re-evaluated, but the major changes have taken place underneath the bonnet, with the introduction of a one-piece engine sump. The 208 WRX is now at the maximum permissable width, with revised bodywork that incorporates various new aerodynamic elements. Particularly close attention has naturally been paid to the suspension and dampers, as well.

The fast-approaching 2017 season promises to be competitive and thrilling in equal measure, with Audi and Volkswagen pledging manufacturer backing, joining Peugeot and Ford who are both already officially committed to the championship. Sébastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen have been tasked with scoring points for Team Peugeot Hansen at each of the 12 rounds on the calendar, which will visit three different continents and wind up in South Africa in mid-November.

Alongside this dream team, reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion Kevin Hansen will contest the complete World Championship for the first time. Having been crowned ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2016 by the FIA, the 18-year-old is eager to continue his rallycross apprenticeship in the top flight in his ‘2016 plus’ specification 208.

Paddock gossip…

Kenneth Hansen, Team Principal
“We have worked tirelessly all winter to make sure that the 2017-spec PEUGEOT 208 WRX is the best yet. We are in the fortunate position of having three of the championship’s best drivers in our team and, as long as we provide them with a car that inspires confidence, we know they are capable of producing extraordinary performances. Nonetheless, it is impossible to predict the World Rallycross pecking order ahead of the first round of the season, because our rivals will certainly not have stood still. The calibre looks set to be higher than ever this year, with four manufacturers now officially represented on the grid. Our approach will be to take each race weekend at a time, with the ultimate objective of fighting for both titles. Barcelona is a track where we have been competitive in the past and one that all of our drivers enjoy, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the action unfolds.”

Sébastien Loeb (PEUGEOT 208 WRX #9)
“Barcelona is a great place to start the season, and hopefully the weather will be kinder to us than it was in the 2016 curtain-raiser at Montalegre in Portugal when, on my full-time championship debut, I was ‘welcomed’ to the fray by a relentless downpour! I like Barcelona as it always brings back many happy memories for me, having driven a variety of different cars there including Red Bull’s F1 car and the PEUGEOT 908 sportscar several years ago. I’m excited to be back to find out how our new PEUGEOT 208 WRX shapes up against the World Rallycross opposition. The team has put in a tremendous effort over the off-season and, following our most recent test at Lydden Hill, I feel confident that the car has taken a step forward in practically every area, from the engine and chassis to the gearing and damping. Essentially, it is a more competitive proposition all-round, and it should be more adaptable and quicker than before on lower-grip circuits. Barcelona won’t unduly challenge us in that respect, but it will nonetheless be a fascinating weekend as it will mark our first direct comparison with our rivals, all of whom have similarly stepped it up a notch over the winter
months.”

Timmy Hansen (PEUGEOT 208 WRX #21)
“We have enjoyed a positive series of tests with the 2017 version of the PEUGEOT 208 WRX, and we have resolved the few issues that held us back on occasion last year. We can really push this new car to the limit, and it truly rewards an assertive and attacking driving style. I can’t wait to line up on the starting grid in Barcelona, especially as the 208 now has an awesome new livery and a variety of aerodynamic appendages that make it look even more aggressive! Barcelona as a circuit should suit us well. Last year, I was on pole position there in the semi-final and finished second in the final. I’m looking forward to starting the new season there.”

Kevin Hansen (pilote de la PEUGEOT 208 WRX #71)
“The 2016-spec PEUGEOT 208 WRX that I will be racing this season is a step-up on the car that I drove last year. It’s fantastic to be kicking things off in Barcelona behind the wheel of a car in which I really feel at home. The 208 was already on the pace in Spain six months ago, and it has undergone considerable further development since then. On a personal note, Barcelona will always hold a very special place in my heart, since it is where I became the youngest driver ever to win the European title. Having trained hard with my brother Timmy all winter on both my driving and physical fitness, I feel better-prepared than ever as I embark upon my first full campaign at World Championship level.”

Download the media guide PEUGEOT WRX 2017 (PDF)

Enregistrer

Enregistrer

MotoGP, Grand Prix of Argentina

Big Boss Morbidelli

By winning a second time in a row in Argentina, Franco Morbidelli has consolidated his leading position in the Moto2 class. The Italian can believe in his chances of taking the world title more than ever.

The Races

Second fastest time in the free practice sessions, Franco Morbidelli once again showed he was unbeatable on the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. Leading from the first to the last lap, he only had to resist a brief assault from his teammate a few kilometres from the finish.

I pushed a little harder in the last laps when I saw that Alex was getting closer, but when I crossed the finish line, he was no longer behind me.”

Franco Morbidelli

 Marquez fell on the last lap, depriving Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS of an historic twin-win. Although he managed to get back on his bike, the Spaniard only crossed the finish line in twenty-first position. Both riders being determined to score points in MotoGP, Jack Miller and Tito Rabat made their mission possible. The Australian made it to the top ten for the second time this season, finishing in ninth places hot on Redding’s heels while the Spaniard took the lead over a trio of Barbera, Espargaro and Smith to finish twelfth. In Moto3, the two riders of the Peugeot MC Saxoprint team were unfortunately unable to keep up with the leaders. Jakub Kornfeil finished eighteenth, twenty seconds behind the winner, while Patrik Pulkkinen crossed the finish line in twenty-sixth position.

The Championship

With its victory, Morbidelli has consolidated his leadership of the Moto2 World Championship. The Italian is now fourteen points ahead of Tom Lüthi. Marquez is in ninth place with eleven points. In MotoGP, Miller has climbed to seventh position, just five points from the rider in third place, Andrea Dovizioso. Rabat is nineteenth, tying with Jorge Lorenzo. On the other hand, the two Moto3 riders of the Peugeot MC Saxoprint team have yet to score any points.

The Background

Located in the heart of the Santiago del Estero province in north-western Argentina, the little town of Termas de Rio Hondo has hosted the Argentine Grand Prix for the past three years. With a population of 44,000, this town is better known for its spa than for its speed circuit. So why organize a MotoGP Grand Prix in a small town more than a thousand kilometres from Buenos Aires and which requires travelling more than twenty-four hours to get there from a capital in Europe? Not just because Argentina in 1961 was 14the first country outside Europe to host a leg of the World Speed Championships. At the time, the Grand Prix was organized in Buenos Aires. It was held there nine times, the last being in 1999. No, if Termas de Rio Hondo has hosted the Argentine Grand Prix for the last three years, it is because the MotoGP championship is not just a show. It also means a guaranteed inflow of tens of thousands of spectators and worldwide media exposure. During the three days of the Argentine Grand Prix, the province of Santiago del Estero rakes in more than ten percent of its annual revenues from tourism. Which is why the Government supports the site for the race body and soul with a contract which runs until 2019.

The Citroën C3 WRC confirms its speed on all surfaces

Tour de Corse (6-9 april 2017)

Contested in glorious sunshine throughout, the Tour de Corse provided yet further evidence of how evenly matched the 2017 World Rally Championship field is, with victory secured by a different manufacturer for the fourth consecutive rally! Between Kris Meeke’s spectacular start and the growing confidence – and pace – of Craig Breen, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT confirmed the level of performance of the C3 WRC on tarmac.

The story of the race: (twists and) turns of the tour

Since its return to the WRC calendar, the Tour de Corse has become a genuine tour of the island once again. On Friday, the opening leg was held on roads around Ajaccio. Kris Meeke started in scintillating form, winning the morning’s first two stages to grab the early lead ahead of Sébastien Ogier. Craig Breen was sixth at that point, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre was ninth on his return to the event.

Kris Meeke extended his lead on the second loop, heading back to Bastia with a lead of around ten seconds over Ogier. Craig Breen moved up to fourth place, after getting the better of Dani Sordo. Stéphane Lefebvre’s performance was in keeping with his level of experience on these roads, as he improved to eighth.

After the brilliant opening leg, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT was then hit by two body blows on Saturday morning. On SS5, Stéphane Lefebvre broke part of the suspension when he hit a low wall. Despite managing to perform makeshift repairs, he was forced to retire after exceeding the time limit to check in at the start of the next stage. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke coasted across the finishing line of SS6. The leader’s engine had suffered damage, spelling the end of the rally for the Northern Irishman.

From that point onwards, the hopes of the team rested with Craig Breen. The Irishman had also experienced his fair share of bad luck, since he had been forced to drive SS6 blind, having lost the intercom with Scott Martin! Fighting with Jari-Matti Latvala throughout the afternoon, Craig ended the leg held around Bastia in fifth place overall, around fifteen seconds adrift of third position.

On Sunday, the Tour de Corse concluded in the south of the island. On the longest stage of the rally, Craig reclaimed fourth place from Jari-Matti Latvala. However, despite grabbing the third fastest time on the Power Stage, he had to settle for fifth, losing out on fourth overall by just a tenth of a second!

Stéphane Lefebvre continued to improve on his return to action under Rally2 rules, ending the event within 7/10ths of a second per kilometre of the pace of the leading drivers. He secured the team an additional six points for the Manufacturers World Championship.

No doubt that Citroën C3 WRC is a well-designed car!

With Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s win in Mexico, Citroën Racing sensed that its C3 WRC had serious potential on gravel. This feeling has been further confirmed after the performances recorded at the Tour de Corse, on a drastically different surface. “We have the potential to win,” asserted Yves Matton. “We didn’t do so on this occasion, but it augurs well for the rest of the season, in terms of the targets we have set ourselves. There can be no doubt that the Citroën C3 WRC is a well-designed car.”

“Before he retired, Kris Meeke was completely relaxed behind the wheel. His confidence in the car was such that he was in total control,” continued the Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Obviously, the black mark is that he had to retire due to an engine issue. We know that it was caused by a leak from the oil lubrication system. But we’ll need to wait until the car is completely dismantled to determine the root cause of the problem.”

“Craig Breen had a very good race,” commented further Yves Matton. “After altering his driving style, especially as regards braking, he made another good step forward this weekend. Throughout the rally, he worked with the engineers to improve the set-up, to the point whereby he had a car on Sunday that he described as ‘perfect’. He also set some very good times when fighting with Ogier, Sordo and Latvala. The situation is frustrating for Stéphane Lefebvre. Once again, it was a small mistake that has cost him the chance to rack up the miles and reduce his lack of experience. In any case, he’s more determined than ever to prove his value. And he made a very genuine contribution on this rally, since he made sure we scored points with both cars. That meant we moved a bit closer to our nearest rival in the standings.”

Eagerly-awaited next few rallies

As the championship returns to gravel, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT is very much looking forward to the next few rounds. And with good reason – Rally Argentina and Rally de Portugal are two events that Kris Meeke has already won! “After the first two rallies, where results didn’t really meet our expectations, I must congratulate the team for the work they have put in,” concluded Yves Matton. “The hard work done during testing and the rallies has helped us to understand the reactions of the car more effectively. We have identified the influence of the various parameters on overall performance, noting that the relationships between these aspects could differ from our previous World Rally Cars. The areas in which we need to improve have been clearly identified and we are not going to take our foot off the pedal, because the competition is closer than ever!”

Superbike World Championship, Spain

Rea Races Right On

With five wins in six races, Jonathan Rea stands head and shoulders as leader of the pack this season. The twin world champion took over the first race in the European leg of the season held in Spain, while in Supersport Kenan Sofuoglu was unlucky in his return to competition.

The Races

Although he didn’t notch up a third twin-win in a row, Jonathan Rea was once again the man to beat of the Superbike weekend on the Aragon circuit. On Saturday afternoon, the Kawasaki rider won the first race after pressurizing Chaz Davies into making a mistake, despite the latter’s feel for the Spanish track. The next day, the two men crossed swords again right up until the checkered flag, but this time the Ducati rider took the lead. With his second place, Rea nevertheless made it the podium to consolidate his lead in the overall standings. Tom Sykes finished in third and fourth place respectively, both very good results for the Brit who was suffering from a viral infection all weekend. It prevented him from eating, and Sykes showed great courage in damage control. Randy Krummenacher scored points twice by finishing both races in fourteenth place. In Supersport, Kenan Sofuoglu was unsuccessful for his return to competition. After being absent in Australia and Thailand because of the hand injury he suffered during a fall in training at the start of the year, the world champion was hot on the leaders’ wheels until Caricasulo fell in front of him.

Unable to avoid his opponent’s bike, the Turkish rider fell heavily. Despite being severely hurt in his back, fortunately he did not aggravate the injuries to the right thumb. Canducci signed the best performance of the Kawasaki Pucetti team by taking the checkered flag in fifth place. Kyle Ride finished eighth.

The Championship

Jonathan Rea has been the most effective competitor but also the most regular rider since the start of the world championship, and now has a fifty-point lead over his opponents after only three events. Tom Sykes slipped into third position but is only three points behind Chaz Davies. Having chalked up 14 points, Randy Krummenacher is sixteenth in the championship. In Supersport, Sofuoglu has still to score his first points while Ryde and Canducci are now respectively in fourth and fifteenth positions.

The Background

As an Endurance rider for the Kawasaki SRC team, former Supersport world champion Fabien Foret has become a centrepiece of the system set up by Jonathan Rea this year. On each race of the Superbike World Championship, the French rider advises the Brit. The two men know each other well. Not only are they former teammates, another feature they have in common is that they are both married to Australian girls. For that reason, during the winter they began to train together in Melbourne. After putting an end to his career in Supersport, Fabien Foret first helped Christophe Ponson before Jonathan Rea naturally asked him for a helping hand… Like all the coaches, Fabien works on the edge of the track. He does not hesitate to use the video to back up his remarks: “With Johnny, I also have a psychological role because I know him well, I know what he needs and I know how to talk to him. Compared to what I was doing with Ponson, we don’t talk about general issues but focus more on details. I don’t need to tell him how to train or what to eat.” This year, Foret is also working with Randy Krummenacher. Now in the Superbike category, the Swiss rider asked for Fabien’s help at the end of the 2016 season. “We did a test in Jerez and it went well,”  explained the Frenchman. Rea agreed “I could share my services, which allows me to supplement my budget.”