MotoGP World Championship – Australian Grand Prix

Mir returns to the podium

Joan Mir has come to the end of a difficult period and has returned to the podium at the Australian Grand Prix. This second place has brought the MotoGP World Championship back up to fifth position in the Moto2 classification.

The races

In spite of a difficult qualifying round and a modest fourteen position at the starting gate, Joan Mir completed a fantastic race on the Phillip Island circuit where last year he was crowned Moto3 world champion. The Spanish contestant kept the bit between his teeth and gained a strong second place after battling it out in the company of Binder and Vierge. Alex Marquez, still out of sorts after another crash during the practice sessions, finished in seventh position. Franco Morbidelli achieved his best MotoGP performance by crossing the finishing line in eighth position. For the fourth time since the beginning of the year, Tom Lüthi finished just outside the points in sixteenth position.

The championship

Thanks to the twenty points gained in Australia, Joan Mir is now in fifth position in the Moto2 classification just three points behind Lorenzo Baldassari in fourth place. Alex Marquez is now in sixth place after dropping a position to his teammate. Still in fourteenth place in the MotoGP, Franco Morbidelli has confirmed his leading position in the “Rookie of the Year” classification.

History

Australia, which has been represented in the speed world championships since 1989, organised its thirtieth Grand Prix event this year. The first two events were held at Phillip Island before moving to the Eastern Creek circuit near Sydney in the state of New South Wales. They remained there for six years before returning to the state of Victoria. The Phillip Island circuit has seen some particularly memorable contests since 1997. “This track is unique,” explains Franco Morbidelli. In addition to its geographical situation and the amazing view over the ocean, the Phillip Island circuit presents a unique challenge. It is an extremely fast track with very few deceleration points and a lot of highly technical bends which come in quick succession. This is what makes the races so memorable for the spectators.” This is compounded by chaotic weather conditions characterised by wind, showers and very cool austral spring temperatures all of which combine to create a breath-taking spectacle.

Superbike World Championship – Qatar

A final success for Rea

After missing the first round due to rain, the final of the Superbike World Championship in Qatar has enabled Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes to end the season with a final double victory.

The races

It was a pity that the final race of the season had to be cancelled and ironic that rain forced the organisers to refuse to start the race in the middle of the desert… “It stopped me from breaking two new records,” sums up Jonathan Rea. Winner of the first race of the weekend after his victories in the first and last rounds and crossing the finishing line ahead of his teammate, the world champion was hoping to break the all-time record for the number of victories in one season. He had to resign himself to sharing this honour with the American Doug Polen with seventeen successes. He also had to content himself with finishing twelve points away from the all-time record set in that same season. “It will be a challenge for the next season,” responded Rea. Tom Sykes also had a great finish to his adventure with Kawasaki with another Superpole and a place on the last podium. Toprak Razgatlioglu crossed the finishing line in tenth position. Barbera finished seventh in Supersport whilst the Japanese participant Okubo fell in the first round due to a problem with his bike’s transmission chain.

The championship

This is the fourth world championship victory for Jonathan Rea who has ended the season with a total of 545 points. For his final year with Kawasaki, Tom Sykes finished fourth with 314 points. Razgatlioglu has come up to ninth position with 151 points for his first Superbike season. Okubo came thirteenth with 39 points and Barbera seventeenth with 27 points in Supersport.

History

The final round of the Superbike World Championship in Qatar marked a turning point in the history of this championship which pits motorcycles derived from standard models against one another. A new format is to be introduced next year by the FIM and Dorna Sport, the promoter of the championship. Three races will be planned in 2019 over a single weekend. The first, which will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m., will mark the start of the festivities and will maintain the current format. The second, on Sunday morning at 11 a.m., will be in the form of a sprint and the third, in the same format as the first, will start at 2 p.m. “We have been planning to incorporate a third “sprint” race in the format of the WorldSBK for a long time and we are delighted that it is finally happening in 2019,” explains Daniel Carrera, Executive Manager of WorldSBK. “We try each year to guarantee exciting races for the fans and we believe that the addition of a spring race will enrich the WorldSBK experience. We are still working on the final adjustments to ensure that the new format is a definite success.”

Sébastien Loeb secures win for Citroën !

Sun, 28/10/2018 – 17:15

A bold and inspired tyre choice, followed by a majestic performance on the final four stages of Rally Catalunya saw Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena sweep to the seventy-ninth victory of their incredible WRC career. They also claimed Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s first win of the year in the process and its 99thin the WRC. Their victory equally means the team remains unbeaten in Catalonia for the second year running! Meanwhile, Craig Breen and Scott Martin finished ninth overall after finding some confidence behind the wheel again whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson enjoyed their final of racing to the full, ending the rally in twenty-first place.

As the rain continued to fall in the service park this morning, the clear temptation was to play it safe and opt for soft Michelin slicks for the opening loop of today’s final leg (61.70km over four stages).

But Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT once again showed its expertise in analysing the weather conditions. In contrast to its rivals, the team correctly predicted that the road surface would dry out: in conjunction with the Michelin technician working with the team, Sébastien Loeb was therefore the only driver to go with hard compound slicks. The French legend then let his driving do the talking, making perfect use of his hard tyres to claim two consecutive stage wins and reach the mid-leg service in the overall lead, 7.1s ahead of the second-placed driver! A stall as Loeb drove around the famous Riudecanyes roundabout (SS17) nonetheless enabled Sébastien Ogier to close the gap to just 3.6s with only the final test to go. But the nine-time world champion held on to claim the seventy-ninth win of his WRC career, more than five years after his last victory (Argentina 2013), 2.9s ahead of his nearest rival. It is the team’s first win of the season, after three podiums (2ndin Sweden, 3rdin Mexico and 2ndin Finland).

With no chance of moving up the standings without benefiting from a racing incident, Craig Breen focused on building his confidence back up after yesterday’s misfortunes, ending the rally in ninth place.

Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi made the most of the more consistent road conditions to enjoy himself as much as possible behind the wheel. He concluded his final rally of the year in twenty-first position, pleased to have kept out of trouble throughout the event.

WHAT THEY SAID

Sébastien Loeb

“It was an almighty scrap, right to the bitter end. When I saw that I had won on the display at the end of the final stage, it was a truly incredible feeling! It’s really nice to have managed to be on the pace again after all these years, because the guys haven’t stood still whilst I’ve been away and they really pushed hard every inch of the way. I couldn’t afford to drag my heels in getting my bearings back on the gravel on Friday, or on the wet tarmac yesterday either. We were quick this morning after making the right call on tyres and then we held on, despite a minor error on the penultimate stage. Right now, given how the rally panned out, I’d be tempted to say it’s perhaps my greatest win and I’m delighted to secure what is a richly-deserved result for the team.”

Craig Breen

“It was a difficult weekend for us, even though we had great speed at times, especially on the gravel. But we lost a lot of time with our spins. We had nothing to play for today, but we enjoyed ourselves behind the wheel and that was the aim, so we can head for Australia in the best possible frame of mind.”

Khalid Al Qassimi

“With the unpredictable weather, it wasn’t an easy race for me. We improved gradually on gravel, on tarmac, I wasn’t comfortable on the wet roads yesterday, but I had more confidence today.”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

1 – Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 3h12’08’’0
2 – Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2’’9
3 – Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +16’’5
4 – Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +17’’0
5 – Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +18’’6
6 – Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1’03’’9
7 – Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1’16’’6
8 – Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1’26’’4
9 – Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +2’07’’0
10 – Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2’48’’2
21 – Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +21’28’’6

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Sébastien Ogier – 204 points
Thierry Neuville – 201 points
Ott Tänak – 181 points
Esapekka Lappi – 110 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 102 points
Andreas Mikkelsen – 84 points
Dani Sordo – 71 points
Elfyn Evans – 70 points
Craig Breen – 61 points
Hayden Paddon – 55 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Toyota Gazoo Racing – 331 points
Hyundai WRT – 319 points
M-Sport Ford WRT – 306 points
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 216 points

Strong performance for DS Techeetah in first outing as a new team

Press Release – Versailles, le 19th October 2018

DS TECHEETAH has today completed the first official ABB FIA Formula E test of Season Five at the Ricardo Tomo circuit in Valencia, Spain, with all eleven Formula E teams participating.
Testing started out with two days of sunshine and new lap records from the Gen2 cars, running nearly 5 seconds quicker than it’s previous generation. The final day offered ABB FIA Formula E’s first wet testing since it’s inception.
Testing in Valencia has been full of firsts, seeing both DS E-TENSE FE19 cars running together on a track, and together with all of the Season Five ABB FIA Formula E Gen2 cars.
With 1172 km driven by the DS TECHEETAH Drivers, Jean-Éric Vergne and André Lotterer, the team leave Valencia with a positive feeling for the first race of Season Five, the Ad Diriyah E-Prix on 15 December, 2018.

“It’s been a good week for the team. We’ve taken a step further in our team building, we’ve had good reliability and performance with the car and the drivers are happy with the progress. It’s been particularly helpful to have both cars on track at the same time as our drivers and engineers have been able to compare times and situations simultaneously.
“Friday was very interesting as we had a proper wet test in the morning, allowing us to test further settings of the car and it was great to see that we completed this without any issues. Coming into testing this year has been a different experience compared to last year when the official Formula E test was the only testing we had as a customer team. This year with DS Automobiles onboard, we have had the benefit of the 15 manufacturer testing days and we’re feeling the benefits.
“It’s been a busy time for the team as we’ve merged with DS over summer and it’s been great to see the team coming together so quickly. We’ve been at the track in full force together for the first time and it’s been really nice to see how well everyone has worked together and made the most out of every opportunity,” said
DS TECHEETAH Team Principal, Mark Preston.

“The DS E-TENSE FE19 has been consistently at the front over the three-day test and we know that we are in the game now. The days here have helped us take another positive step in the right direction for the first race. Even if it’s too early to establish a precise hierarchy of performance amongst the teams, we feel confident that the testing we have done so far will give us trust and serenity to allow us to perform effectively,” said DS Performance Director, Xavier Mestelan Pinon.

“We’ve had a good week in Valencia together as a full works team for the first time. The DS E-TENSE FE19 has felt good on track and we’ve been able to complete everything that we wanted. It’s been good to see how we measured up against the other teams at this circuit and we can tell that we are in the mix, but it’s too soon to tell where we will be once we go racing as it’s under completely different circumstances,” said DS TECHEETAH Driver, Jean-Éric Vergne

“It’s been nice to have a couple of more days in the car and to test it in the wet for the first time, which was a lot of fun to drive. The development work we’ve done over the summer has yielded and we were able to complete the sessions we wanted here. I’m really excited about the season and eager for it start. I think it’s fair to expect some surprises in the first couple of races as it’s a completely new racing format and a new generation car, but we’re relishing the challenge and can’t wait to go racing together,” said DS TECHEETAH Driver, André Lotterer

MotoGP World Championship – Grand Prix of Japan

Master Morbidelli

Eleventh in Japan, Morbidelli finished his fourth race in a row in the top 15. And has consolidated his position as leader in the rankings for the best rookie rider in the MotoGP category.

The Races

Despite serious tune-up problems during the practice test sessions, Franco Morbidelli managed to clamber back from the seventeenth position he occupied on the starting grid to eleventh place under the checkered flag in the Grand Prix of Japan. After a sever crash during the practice test sessions, the Italian managed to put things back on an even keel in the race. “On a circuit that was difficult for us, I managed to keep a good pace and get closer to the top ten,” he said. Overall the weekend was fairly satisfactory.” Lacking grip with the back wheel and feeling with his bike, Tom Lüthi finished in twentieth position. In Moto2, Alex Marquez was heroic, finishing fourth after having a really bad crash during the practice test sessions, miraculously escaping any injury. Joan Mir finished the Japanese event in eleventh position.

The Championship

Another place won for Morbidelli. The Italian is now 14th in the overall MotoGP rankings with 38 points. At the same time he has consolidated his first place in the ranking of the “Rookie of the Year”. In Moto2, Marquez and Mir remain fifth and sixth in the provisional championship with one hundred and thirty-nine and one hundred and twenty-nine points.

The Background

Everyone knew that Alex Marquez was hard to hurt, but no one imagined quite so much. In Motegi, the former Moto3 world champion had a really bad crash in the final minutes of the second Moto2 free practice session. “I made a mistake,” he admitted. “The track was not completely dry yet and I rode over a rumble strip at full speed. I had no need at that time to take such a risk.” Thrown several meters into the air, Marquez fell heavily on the shoulders and back. “I did not break anything, but I ended the weekend with pains everywhere. I really had to grit my teeth to start the race.” The Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS rider was rewarded for his efforts. Sixth on the starting grid, he crossed the finish line in fourth place, 12 seconds behind the winner, trapped between the two KTMs of Oliveira and Binder. “After my crash on Friday, I’m really happy with the result,” he said. “And I thank the team for helping me regain my confidence after my fall.”

Pierre Sancinéna wins the title in a dramatic finale!

The final round of the Alpine Elf Europa Cup lived up to all its promise. Despite the efforts of Nicolas Milan (Milan Compétition), who won both races at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, Pierre Sancinéna (CMR) has won the first edition of the Alpine Elf Europa Cup!

The Alpine Elf Europa Cup made its way to Catalunya for the season finale where 19 avid drivers concluded the year in style behind the wheel of their Alpine A110 Cups.

RACE 1: FIRST WIN FOR MILAN

Following free-practice run in dry conditions, the track was wet for qualifying. On his last attempt, Nicolas Milan edged Marc Guillot (Milan Compétition) and Jean-Baptiste Méla (Autosport GP) for the pole.

At the start, Nicolas Milan stayed on the inside at turn one to maintain the lead, but Marc Guillot moved ahead at the next corner only to see the pole winner immediately re-take the position. Behind them, Jean-Baptiste Méla dropped down the order and Sylvain Noël (Racing Technology), Laurent Hurgon (Autosport GP) and Julien Neveu (Autosport GP) took advantage to close right up to the leading duo.

The safety car was called out on lap two to allow for the removal of the Alpine A110 Cup of Pierre Macchi (Autosport GP) from the gravel trap. When the race resumed, Nicolas Milan contained Marc Guillot, while Laurent Hurgon slipped past Sylvain Noël for third place. A little bit further back, Vincent Beltoise (CMR) saw his slim title hopes vanish when he was forced to retire.

The chase group was led by Gaël Castelli (Milan Compétition), Pierre Sancinéna and Julien Neveu. For several laps, the three put on a splendid battle for fifth place. Laurent Hurgon dropped out with three laps remaining and Gaël Castelli went on to overtake Sylvain Noël for third place.

Marc Guillot tried to find an opening on race leader Nicolas Milan, but the veteran held on to score his maiden victory in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup by a narrow 0.142s. Gaël Castelli completed the all Milan Compétition podium, which is the first sweep of the top three in the history of the category.

Fourth place went to Julien Neveu ahead of Sylvain Noël, who clinched the Gentleman category title. Sixth place finisher Pierre Sancinéna was followed by Junior driver Marc De Fulgencio (Team VRT), who was ineligible to score points. Mathieu Blaise (Racing Technology), Jean-Baptiste Méla and Thomas Padovani (Milan Compétition) completed the top ten.

RACE 2: DAGGERS DRAWN FOR THE FINALE

On Sunday morning, three drivers were still in contention for the title: Pierre Sancinéna (128 points), Nicolas Milan (117 points) and Sylvain Noël (113 points).

In qualifying, Laurent Hurgon edged out Marc Guillot for the pole by just 0.01s. Among the contenders, Nicolas Milan was fourth, just ahead of Pierre Sancinéna, who had set the best time only for it to be disallowed for not respecting the track limits. Tenth on the grid, Sylvain Noël knew he would now need a miracle in the race to win the championship.

At the start, Laurent Hurgon was immediately overtaken by Nicolas Milan, Marc Guillot and Gaël Castelli. Pierre Sancinéna remained in fifth place, which would not be good enough for the title if Nicolas Milan won the race!

On lap three, the retirement of Pierre Combot (Autosport GP) brought out the safety car. When the race went green, the order remained intact, but the group of leaders was tightly bunched at the mid-way point of the race with six seconds covering the top 12. Julien Neveu moved up to sixth place after contact between Vincent Beltoise and Sylvain Noël.

The last laps were full of twists and turns. First, Pierre Sancinéna re-took control of his fate by surprising Laurent Hurgon, but Julien Neveu got around straight after. Meanwhile, Gaël Castelli dropped out and lost any hope of third place.

Nicolas Milan went on for his second win of the weekend ahead of Marc Guillot. Julien Neveu was third, ahead of Pierre Sancinéna, who won the title for just one point. Fifth place was taken by Junior class winner Jean-Baptiste Méla, while sixth place overall Sylvain Noël took top honours among the Gentleman. Thomas Padovani, Marc De Fulgencio, Laurent Hurgon and Matthieu Blaise rounded out the top ten.

Quotes

Pierre Sancinéna (Winner of the 2018 Alpine Elf Europa Cup)

“I am at a loss for words…It was both hard and fantastic, but the conclusion is simply amazing. When Alpine announced the creation of this competition, I didn’t hesitate for a second due to my past history with the brand. I have family in Dieppe and my first engineering apprenticeship took place at the factory in Dieppe. I have a lot of affection for Alpine and thus I am tremendously proud to become the first Alpine Elf Europa Cup champion with the flash on my chest. I knew the finale was going to be stressful and that I had to avoid taking the slightest risk. I was aware that fifth place wouldn’t be enough on Sunday, but I was never in doubt. The last two laps were very long… This title is the reward for a magnificent season. I really want to thank everyone who contributed to this victory: my family, my sponsors, the CMR team and of course Alpine!”

Nicolas Milan (2nd in the general classification, winner races 1 and 2)

“I am very happy to have won my first two races in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup. I wasn’t fast enough at the start of the year, and then wasn’t very lucky and these wins have come a little too late, but there was very little in it for the title. Second place is still a very satisfying result, in as much as it was far from a given because I was fourth coming into this weekend. Fortunately, I could count on the performances of my team mate Marc Guillot. We did a good job preparing the settings for this meeting and it paid off. This is encouraging for next year and we can never under-estimate our rivals. In any case, it has been a fine season and I’ve had a lot of fun driving this car.”

Sylvain Noël (3rd in the general classification, Gentlemen category champion)

“I was here three weeks ago in the French FFSA GT Championship and I thought that would be enough. We may have underestimated this meeting, because we couldn’t make up the deficit to our rivals who were better prepared. We did though reach our start of the season objective of wining the Gentleman category, but I am sure we could have aimed higher had we put in a little more resources and if we had a little more luck at certain times. After a six-year break, I am nevertheless very satisfied with my return to competition!”

Esapekka Lappi joins Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT!

Press release

Keen for its line-up to feature two leading crews next year, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT is delighted to confirm that Esapekka Lappi and his co-driver Janne Ferm will join its works team in 2019, alongside Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia.

True to its tradition of putting its faith in young drivers and supporting them to the top of the sport, Citroën Racing has chosen the most promising youngster in the WRC in Esapekka Lappi. The 27 year-old Finn has emerged in the last few seasons as a future champion and already has an impressive competitive record for someone with such limited experience (40 starts in the world championship, 19 of which in a WRC). It was in 2012, at Rally Finland, that Esapekka first made his mark on the world scene when, for long periods, he more than held his own against a certain Sébastien Ogier in the same class. After claiming the Finnish Rally Championship that year, winning all seven rounds, he continued his gradual improvement, becoming European champion in 2014 and securing the WRC2 title in 2016. Since the 2017 Rally de Portugal, where he made his WRC debut, Esapekka has continued to impress, also establishing himself as a “Flying Finn”, yet another talented driver from a country that has long punched above its weight in the world of rallying. His maiden win at his home round in Finland last year, in only his fourth outing in a WRC, further cemented his growing reputation. This season, he has once again confirmed his undoubted pace, showing consistency and speed on all surfaces (3rd in Sardinia, Germany and Wales). In fact, he currently lies fourth in the championship, behind three drivers who are fighting it out in one of the most closely-contested title races in years. All of which suggests that with Janne Ferm, his co-driver since 2010, the pair will be perfectly complementary to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, the first crew announced for next year’s line-up. A powerful combination of experience and youth, the Ogier-Lappi pairing is unquestionably impressive and will be tasked with winning on all surfaces from 2019.

WHAT THEY SAID

Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal

“We were keen to sign up two very competitive crews for next year and the arrival of Esapekka is therefore excellent news! Putting faith in young drivers has long been hard-wired in the DNA of our brand and Esapekka certainly has the ideal profile. Talented, determined and focused, he should form both a complementary – and formidable – pair with Sébastien. We feel there is still more to come from him, so we’ll be doing what we can to get him in the best possible shape to help him continue his impressive rise through the ranks.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Obviously, I’m delighted to be joining the team and to be the future team-mate of Sébastien. It’s a good opportunity for me to keep developing. After having learned many things from Jari-Matti Latvala last year, and from Ott Tänak this year, I’ll have everything it takes to be even better if I also manage to draw inspiration from Seb! I’m convinced that the car has a lot of potential, as does the team, which has a long history and lot of experience in the WRC. The fact that Pierre clearly wanted to recruit me also counted a lot when it came to making my decision. It’s also going to be a great challenge, trying to win together.”

Superbike World Championship – Argentina

A new title for Kawasaki

By winning in Argentina, Jonathan Rea has allowed Kawasaki to win a new manufacturer’s world championship title. Another highly successful season for Guim Roda’s team.

The Races

Untouchable at the end of the season, Jonathan Rea added two new wins to his track record in Argentina. The Kawasaki rider has now had ten wins in a row. “The weekend was once again perfect,” said the quadruple world champion. “My bike was fantastic and I can only thank all my team for allowing me to become the first winner of this new event in South America.” In trouble with the many changes in direction of the San Juan circuit, Tom Sykes ranked sixth Saturday, and fifth Sunday. Toprak Razgatlioglu took the podium of the first race before finishing seventh the next day. In Supersport, Okubo and Barbera crossed the finish line in eighth and ninth place.

The Championship

The riders’ world championship title being acquired since the previous event at Magny-Cours, all that Kawasaki needed was to win the manufacturers’ title. Jonathan Rea took charge of that in Argentina by winning on Saturday afternoon. A new success for the Greens which obviously delighted Guim Roda, the KRT team manager: “This title means a lot to us because this year the technical regulations were very restrictive, and the reversal of the starting grid for the second race often reduced the advantage that we naturally obtained. Being once again world champions means we have done a very good job.” On the riders side, Tom Sykes remains in fourth place overall, with only one event remaining. Razgatlioglu is in eighth position while Supersport Okubo is now twelfth. Barbera retains nineteenth place in the championship.

The Background

After Thailand in 2015, this year was Argentina’s turn to join the calendar of the Superbike World Championship. The new event, organized on the new circuit of San Juan Villicum, allows the competition to return to the South American continent to the delight of Jonathan Rea. “It was my first visit to South America and I really loved the welcome we received,” commented the fresh four-time world champion, received with great fanfare by Sergio Unac and Jorge Chica, respectively Governor and Secretary of Sports of the Province of San Juan. “The organization by the local authorities was impeccable and the public were wildly enthusiastic, warm and welcoming. And this new circuit also lived up to our expectations. Technical, with variations in the terrain… A great place to ride.” Argentina is the twenty-fourth country to figure in the World Superbike calendar and San Juan Villicum is the forty-eighth circuit to host an event. Note also that three Argentine riders have raced to date in Superbike: Nestor Amoroso at Monza in 1993, Leonardo Esteban at Misnao in 1994, and Leandro Mercado who has been competing in the world championship since 2012.

Four in a row for Signatech Alpine Matmut

  • With the third place finish of Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet, Signatech Alpine Matmut finishes on the podium for the fourth consecutive time at Fuji Speedway in Japan.

  • With four podiums in as many races this season the Alpine A470 maintains its lead in the World Endurance Championship LMP2 category before the Shanghai round on November 16-18.

  • This weekend, Signatech Alpine Matmut received its 24 Hours of Le Mans winner’s trophy.

There was a rather unique ceremony on Friday. 10 days after being officially and definitively declared the winners of their category in edition 86 of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Signatech Alpine Matmut and its drivers received their trophy from ACO President, Pierre Fillon.

On the track, the cloudy skies remained clement for the first two free-practice sessions. Despite frequent interruptions due to the loose yellow kerbs, the team worked flat out and finished with the best time in session two.

Following the final session where priority was given to tyre strategy, qualifying was confided to André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet. The session was extremely competitive with the duo placing the Alpine A470 fourth in LMP2.

On Sunday, the race began on a wet track. In these difficult conditions, Nicolas Lapierre got off to a perfect start to move up to second place before taking the lead in the opening half hour of the race. The circuit began to dry but still remained rather slippery. After a restart, Nicolas Lapierre was caught out by the continually changing track conditions and dropped five positions at the end of the hour one.

The team reacted immediately by switching to slick tyres for the end of his triple stint. Just before half distance, the n°36 Alpine returned to the provisional top three. Pierre Thiriet took over and his two strong stints allowed him to pull away from those behind and close the gap to the n°38 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry.

André Negrão also fulfilled his part of the job during his double stint, running a solid third prior to handing over to Nicolas Lapierre in the final hour. The Brazilian driver was back in the car for the last 30 minutes of the race with Ho-Pin Tung in his sights. While he managed to reduce the gap, he ran out of time and had to settle for third place.

Quotes

Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Matmut
“There is a little disappointment, but there are several positives to remember. Our level of performance has improved since Silverstone. Everyone has gotten better, whether it is the team during the stops, the adjustments and preparation of the car, or the drivers, like Pierre, who had a great race. This allowed us to retake the lead rather quickly and we led three times thanks to the pit stop cycle. Despite an unfortunate race incident due to the conditions, we reacted well in making up a large portion of the minute lost. We still lead the championship and that is most important for staying mobilized and focused. There is still a long way to go in the championship. We have only completed half of it. We must always run up front and that is what we have done since the beginning of the year.”

Régis Fricotté, Alpine Sales and Competition Director
“This result is a fine way to end the weekend in which the Alpine network and the Japanese customers had the opportunity to test drive the Alpine A110 on the Fuji circuit while also getting the chance to discover Alpine’s racing programme. Although we always aim for the win, this third place finish sees us stay atop the general classification and this is what is most important to recapturing the world title.”

Nicolas Lapierre
“I have mixed feeling about this result. We clearly had the speed for the win, but we were a little unlucky and my spin on my second stint probably cost us the victory. Thanks to the work of everyone in the team, we had a fast car all weekend and this allowed us to return to the podium. The goal at Shanghai will be to leave there with the championship lead, so we will do what it takes to make that happen!”

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André Negrão
“We did a good job. The pace was there throughout the weekend and the set-ups were ideal, no matter the conditions. The victory was within our grasp, but sometimes in motor racing that’s the way it goes. We are still leading the general classification, for sure by just one point, but it’s the position that counts. We will continue our efforts at Shanghai to keep the momentum going just until the end of the Super-Season!”

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Pierre Thiriet
“Even though the result isn’t what we were hoping for, I prefer to remember the positives and there were many more than the negatives. I am delighted with the pace we had in the race. We have made a lot of progress since Silverstone, which bodes well for the rest of the season. I am sure that we will arrive in Shanghai with a fast car and the motivation to go for the win.”

6 Hours of Fuji – LMP2

1-Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 217 laps
2-Jackie Chan DC Racing n°38 +26.087s
3-Signatech Alpine Matmut n°36 +44.398s
4-TDS Racing n°28 + 1 lap
5-Larbre Competition n°50 + 6 laps
6-DragonSpeed n°31 + 12 laps
7-Racing Team Nederland n°29 + 13 laps

FIA LMP2 Teams Trophy

1-Signatech Alpine Matmut n°36 – 87 points
2-Jackie Chan DC Racing n°38 – 86 points
3-Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 – 86 points
4-DragonSpeed n°31 – 55 points
5-Larbre Competition n°50 – 38 points
6-Racing Team Nederland n°29 – 37 points
7-TDS Racing n°28 – 30 points

On the pace of the leaders

After Craig Breen spent long periods fighting for a podium spot, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT come away from Wales with the satisfaction of having seen the C3 WRC prove it is competitive once again, on a surface where you need to adapt to the constantly changing levels of grip.

THE STORY OF THE RACE

Wales Rally GB is fairly unusual for a gravel event: for once, due to the saturated state of the ground, it is invariably preferable to start high up the running order before the roads turn into a mudbath. Running tenth and eleventh on the road respectively throughout Friday, i.e. the last of the WRCs, Mads Østberg and Craig Breen were therefore by no means at an advantage. However, armed with confidence from the traction and handling of his C3 WRC, Breen managed nonetheless to pull off the impressive feat of staying in touch with the leaders, ending the day within 13s of the fourth-placed driver. Østberg, who struggled slightly more with the conditions, finished day one eighth overall. Craig Breen confirmed his very good form on Saturday by closing to within two seconds of the podium by the end of the leg, after having set a couple of second fastest times in the afternoon (SS15 and SS18). Mads Østberg completed a strong team performance as he also fought back strongly to end the day in fifth place, claiming a stage win and setting an impressive series of three consecutive second fastest times (SS12, SS13 and SS14) in the process. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT drivers were clearly determined to get – and stay – among the frontrunners right to the end! They therefore went on the attack early on Sunday morning, with the roads still incredibly slippery. Unfortunately, a minor mistake meant Breen dropped out of contention for a podium finish, but he held on to secure a strong fourth place. Mads Østberg, who also had a spin in his C3 WRC, had to settle for eighth overall.

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

What is your analysis of this year’s Wales Rally GB?

Above all, I’d like to highlight the performance of our team, who once again did a fantastic job, and our car. Not only was it perfectly reliable, especially on Saturday’s leg where the crews had to complete more than 150 kilometres of timed stages with no midday service, but it was also very competitive on these roads, which are always really difficult to read. On day two, for example, out of a total of nine stages, at least one of our C3 WRCs – if not both – finished in the top three on six occasions, winning one of the tests. Whilst our rivals fight it out for the titles at the end of this season, that shows that we are right in the mix, regardless of the racing conditions. The fact is the level of grip was pretty low on Saturday morning, before the roads dried out more in the afternoon, so it’s really pleasing we were so competitive.

You were very close to the podium this weekend…

Yes, having closed to just 1.7s of third placed on Saturday, we had to roll the dice and go for it on the final day and that is precisely what Craig did. The truth is that when you are pushing and committed at that level, it’s easy to make a minor mistake, especially on such a slippery road surface. In any case, I’m pleased that our crews showed a lot of fighting spirit throughout the weekend, never giving up despite having a road position on day one that could easily have ruined their chances of a good result. We’ll now focus on Spain, driven by this fighting spirit. We’ll work harder again to do even better there.

HIGHLIGHTS

Having witnessed Craig Breen’s performance at first hand this weekend, Thomas Breton, his race engineer, analysed the way in which the Irishman managed to stay in touch with the leaders on Friday (sixth, 48.8s off the pace), despite a less than ideal road position (11th), before going on the attack on Saturday…

“Craig was very motived and relaxed at the start of the rally, focused purely on driving. Pretty quickly, he found that he was relatively close to the pace, without forcing it. He therefore realised that if he picked up his speed a little bit, he could really do something here. It’s a rally that he knows better than some of the others and to be honest, he’s just pretty good when the conditions are consistent like they were here, even if they’re very tricky! He never lost faith either, even when he set a time that wasn’t quite so good, because he tended to know why. Having said that, he has been stronger mentally for the last few rounds, but unfortunately that hasn’t been reflected in his results, because there’s always been something that has derailed his weekend. I think it’ll have done him the world of good to have been involved in a rally where he was fighting at the front. Since Rally Sweden, his hopes of achieving a strong points finish have often been dashed by minor incidents and disappointments on the Friday leg. This time, he can head for Spain in a more confident and relaxed mood!”