The weekend in Misano was a sunny one for the Kawasaki riders, especially Jonathan Rea, who won two races on the Italian track. The four-time world champion has thus considerably reduced Alvaro Bautista’s lead in the overall standings.
On Sunday afternoon, the Kawasaki brand wrote a page of history thanks to Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam. The two Brits and the Turk were all together on the last podium of the Superbike World Championship weekend organized on the Misano circuit. A magnificent hat trick, something the Japanese manufacturer had not achieved since 1993 on the Sugo circuit, ending a very productive weekend, especially for the reigning quadruple world champion. On Saturday, Jonathan Rea had already started to shine by signing his third Superpole of the season before winning on the finish line of the first race of the weekend more than three seconds ahead of Tom Sykes, his former teammate. A difficult race, run in the rain. “It was the first time of the season that I was riding on a wet track,” says Rea. “The track was tricky because the water level varied from one lap to another. I fought it out for a long time with Alex Lowes, until his fall that made my job easier. The bike was very stable, which helped me a lot in such difficult conditions.” Fifth in the Sunday Sprint after a small crash that robbed him of the podium, Rea won again in the last race, this time ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam. “A great weekend for Kawasaki,” summed up the Brit. Leon Haslam was already on the podium at the finish of the Sprint, and he could have done the same the day before if he had not fallen after thirteen laps. Before finishing second on Sunday afternoon, Razgatlioglu also fell on Saturday when he was seventh. The Turk redeemed himself the next day by chalking up a fourth place and a well-earned second place. In Supersport, Lucas Mahias also clinched his first podium with Kawasaki by placing third after an encouraging pole position. Hikari Okubo crossed the finish line in fifth position.
Thanks to his first twin-win of the season, Jonathan Rea has considerably reduced the gap with the championship leader. The Brit is now only sixteen points from Alvaro Bautista. Still fifth, Leon Haslam is only eleven points away from Alex Lowes. Toprak Razgatlioglu has climbed to sixth place overall. In Supersport, Hikari Okubo has kept his fourth place while Lucas Mahias has dropped back back to fifth position, four points behind his Japanese teammate.
Jean-Éric Vergne delivered an outstanding performance in today’s Swiss E-Prix to claim pole position, the race win and the voestalpine European races trophy. In addition to this, the Frenchman also became the first ABB FIA Formula E driver to hit pole position from Qualifying Group One and to win three times this season.
Team-mate André Lotterer just missed out on a super pole appearance and started P8 on the grid from where he fought his way up to fourth position with some nail-biting action. Unfortunately, a miscommunication between driver and team led to a post-race penalty that saw the German finish the E-Prix in P14.
Mark Preston, DS TECHEETAH Team Principal: “Jean-Éric truly was on fire today. Vergne the king of Bern, and how well deserved. But I must also take this opportunity to give a lot of kudos to the team for this incredible performance. We find ourselves in a very familiar situation going into New York for the final two races now, leading both Drivers’ and Teams’ championships. We may have extended both with 32 and 43 respectively, but even though it may seem much, it’s not a comfortable lead in Formula E. There’s two more races to go in the double-header finale and there’s everything left to play for.”
Xavier Mestalan Pinon, DS Performance Director: “Congratulations to JEV and DS TECHEETAH team for this incredible third victory which brings us a little closer to both of the Season 5 titles. The latest improvements have paid off and have had a real advantage for this race. I would like to once again thank the whole team for the impressive efforts that have been made!”
André Lotterer, P14: “It was a shame to receive such a hard penalty in the end after having fought so hard together with my engineers to climb up the pack, it has for sure put a downer on things as the points for fourth would have been invaluable for my title hunt. Nevertheless, now we keep our heads down and prepare New York for a comeback and to end the season on a high.”
Jean-Éric Vergne, P1: “The team worked so well, and it couldn’t have been a better day today. At the end with the rain it was really stressful. I had to be careful because I’d rather finish second than in the wall for the championship, so I was of course trying to win the race, but also being extra cautious. All in all a fantastic weekend for the team, pole position, victory and extending the lead in both championships. It went perfectly well and I’m very pleased with the work that we have done.”
At the end of a challenging edition, the Signatech Alpine Matmut team has won the LMP2 category of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the third time in four years.
With eight podium results in as many races, Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet have taken the second crown for Alpine in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
This resounding victory concludes a week that included the presentation of the new Alpine A110S.
Sticking to tradition, the 87th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans began at 15:00 on Saturday and Nicolas Lapierre immediately picked up one position to move up to second place in the LMP2 category.
Staying out longer that his most serious rivals, the Frenchman was in the lead on the eighth lap. Once his first double-stint was done, the Signatech Alpine Matmut driver completed a triple-stint while trying to contain the n°26 G-Drive, whose return was eased by a more aggressive strategy.
This duel continued when the driving duties were handed over to Pierre Thiriet, then André Negrão, who got into the car at the beginning of hour six.
As the sun set, the yellow flags, slow zones and neutralizations multiplied as it began to sprinkle at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The Brazilian drove brilliantly in the tricky conditions to put the Alpine A470 into the lead again before his rival answered back, on fresher tyres.
Following a pit stop affected by another LMP2 competitor at the one-third mark of the race, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet took over to chase down the leaders.
The French had his share of misadventures during the night as two neutralizations in his first two stints radically changed the physiognomy of the race. The safety car intervened between the n°26 and n°36 Alpine A470 costing Les Bleus a minute in the first intervention, then precious seconds in the second safety car period.
Relegated to two and a half minutes from the leaders, Pierre Thiriet completed his triple-stint before letting André Negrão and Nicolas Lapierre go on the attack before dawn. While they made up a minute in the early hours of Sunday morning, their efforts were annihilated by the accident of the n°31 Dragonspeed, which brought the safety car out yet again.
In the aftermath, the team adjusted its strategy by sending Pierre Thiriet out seven hours from the finish. The team’s determination and perseverance finally paid dividends when the leaders remained in the pits just after 9:00. The Alpine A470 moved into the lead with a one lap advantage from its closest rival and last challenger still in the title fight.
From then on, the trio continued to set competitive times while managing their lead and equipment.
After the last stint of André Negrão, Pierre Thiriet went back out to reach his minimum time in the car before Nicolas Lapierre got back in to finish the race.
In his final race with Alpine, Nico took the chequered flag to take his third win at Le Mans in four participations with the French brand.
This victory is also the third for Signatech Alpine Matmut at Le Mans, following its successes in 2016 and 2018, and the fifth podium in the LMP2 category since 2014. And this triumph ahead of the n°38 Jackie Chan DC Racing sees Alpine score its second LMP2 title in the FIA World Endurance Championship, following its 2016 crown… A crown the team will be ready to defend at the opening round of the 2019-2020 season on September 1st at Silverstone!
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Matmut
“I said we were ready and we truly were. The competition was just as ready, which made for a very intense start to the race with a much faster pace than usual. This promised a long and fantastic battle, where we were not surprised to find ourselves mixing it up with the main contenders for the win and the title. We were very tightly bunched just until night fall, then, yet again, Le Mans chose its champion. You have to be ready and present in these conditions. We were in every aspect: the car stayed out of the gravel areas, we made the right choices, had great communication and we adapted. This is the key for an event of this stature and we really enjoyed ourselves. This victory has a special meaning compared to last year’s, because we were able to celebrate together right after the race and we got to hear the French national anthem on the podium. We will have to quickly get back to business because the next challenge, the prologue, will be here before you know it!”
“What a day for us and the entire team! It was essential and crucial in the outcome of the championship and this legendary race that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We worked for more than a year to attain both of these objectives. We decided to give priority to the world championship title, but once the race started, we fought with all we had against G-Drive. They were not a championship rival, but we had to respect this legendary race by fighting for the victory. Our work paid off and the win clinched the title for us. It is a very big mix of emotions, but also satisfaction of a job accomplished in a race that was very hard and competitive. For me personally, this is my last race with Alpine. Maybe we will reunite in the future, but it was important to finish the way we did and we can’t be anything but proud of this team and everything we have achieved together.”
“The top step of the podium is truly a magical place and I am proud to be there with Alpine and the entire team. Not only did we win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second straight year, we also won the championship. I am in heaven and I think I am the happiest among us today. I have just won my first title and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I want to give a humungous thank you to the Signatech Alpine Matmut team, to Philippe as well as Alpine and everyone that has believed in me, supported me and allowed us to achieve this wonderful double together.”
“It was a crazy race. The battle was really intense and contested, but we expected it against quality competitors who were clean and fair on the track. I really want underscore the job the team has done in preparing for every round and that was clear this weekend. There were no issues with the car and none of the three of us made a driver error. I think that is the key to succeeding in LMP2 as the smallest trouble forces you to push to get back in the race. We are a very close-knit family with an excellent team spirit. It is an important aspect and it makes us twice as happy today. Nico and André did an incredible job, as did the entire team. We were inspired by the huge support from the fans and media for Alpine and its team that had two French drivers. I want to give a shout out to Jota. They have been outstanding adversaries during this fantastic season. Their speed pushed us to progress and raise our game and it was an honour to battle against them!”
24 Hours of Le Mans – LMP2 1. Signatech Alpine Matmut n°36 368 laps 2. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°38 +1 lap 3. TDS Racing n°28 + 2 laps 4. United Autosports n°22 +3 laps 5. IDEC Sport n°48 +4 laps 6. G-Drive Racing n°26 +4 laps 7. Duqueine Engineering n°30 + 5 laps 8. Panis Barthez Compétition n°23 + 6 laps 9. Graff n°39 + 6 laps 10. Algarve Pro Racing n°25 +11 laps
Teams FIA Endurance Trophy LMP2 1. Signatech Alpine Matmut n°36 – 181 points 2. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°38 – 166 points 3. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 – 138 points 4. DragonSpeed n°31 – 117 points 5. Larbre Competition n°50 – 85 points 6. Racing Team Nederland n°29 – 85 points 7. TDS Racing n°28 – 66 points
By clocking up his third victory in a row, Álex Márquez took control of the Moto2 world championship on his Catalan home turf. An excellent operation for the Spanish rider.
Since the 2014 season, after which Tito Rabat was crowned Moto2 World Champion, no other Spanish rider has managed to win three races in a row. Can Álex Márquez see a sign? “It’s way too early to think about the title,” he replies. “Let’s continue to work as we have done since the start of the season, and stay focused. The season is still long.” He may be cautious in his statements, but Álex Márquez has nonetheless strung together three remarkable victories in Le Mans, Mugello and Barcelona. In front of the Catalan public, the Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS rider fought it out with Tom Lüthi before breaking away from his opponent five laps from the finish. “The race was difficult to control because the track was very slippery,” says Márquez. “But I did it and I’m as happy as I can be because I find myself at the top of the overall standings.” Twentieth on the starting grid, Xavi Virgo rode a very good comeback to finish in eighth place. “We got lost in the settings on Saturday afternoon,” says the Catalan. “But we were back on the right track on Sunday morning and that allowed me to make the comeback.” On the side of the Tech 3 KTM team, Marco Bezzecchi was ranked 23rd while Philipp Oettl was unable to take the start because of a crash in the during the practice test sessions that caused a concussion. In MotoGP, Miguel Oliveira crossed the checkered flag in twelfth position despite the fact that he rode off the track at the beginning of the race to avoid the collision between the Aprilias of Bradley Smith and Aleix Espargaro. Hafyzh Syahrin fell foul to an engine failure that forced him to retire.
Thanks to his third victory in a row, Álex Márquez has made it to the first place in the Moto2 overall standings. The Spaniard now leads Tom Lüthi by seven points. No change for Xavi Vierge, still eleventh now with thirty-nine points. In MotoGP, Miguel Oliveira has moved up two places. He is now seventeenth with twelve points, only four away from Johann Zarco. Hafizh Syarhin has dropped back to twenty-fifth place.
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.
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…
Hell, 16 June 2019 – Kevin Hansen went from the back row of the World RX of Norway Final to score a thrilling podium finish in Hell, going toe-to-toe with his championship rivals.
Team HANSEN MJP leaves Hell still leading both championships, with Timmy Hansen a single point ahead of Kevin in the drivers’ championship, while both drivers contribute to an 18 point advantage in the teams’ championship.
A tricky start on Saturday, where both Timmy and Kevin were repeatedly stuck in traffic, was turned around on Sunday morning with a 1-2 finish in Qualifying 3. Another strong run from both in Qualifying 4 put them on the first and second row of the grid respectively for Semi Final 2.
But there was a plot twist: a sudden downpour turned what had been a dry and sunny weekend into a wet weather Semi Final. With low grip on the front row, Timmy bogged down and dropped to last, mounting a heroic comeback and almost grabbing third place.
Timmy was beaten to that position by Kevin, whose late joker lap paid off and put him just in front of his older brother. A brilliant start from the back row in the Final put Kevin up to second place at the start, which briefly became first by passing Kevin Abbring for the lead.
Kevin dropped only one place when taking his joker lap and secured a very hard-fought second place, after a defensive masterclass over eventual winner Niclas Grönholm. He fell behind only due to a one second penalty for Kevin’s pass on Grönholm during the first lap in an otherwise faultless performance.
WORLD RX OF NORWAY RESULTS :
6th – Timmy Hansen
Qualifying 1 – 4th Qualifying 2 – 6th Qualifying 3 – 1st Qualifying 4 – 2nd Semi-Final – 4th Final
7th – Kevin Hansen
Qualifying 1 –10th Qualifying 2 – 7th Qualifying 3 – 2nd Qualifying 4 – 4th Semi-Final – 3rd Final – 2nd
Both drivers’ pace was great in the dry after an improvement in set-up late on Saturday. But that effort went out the window in the Semi Finals when it started raining heavily!
Hell lived up to its reputation. After the rain came down, the middle and back rows of the grid provided the best launch, while the front row was almost the worst place to start.
After picking up a position in Abu Dhabi due to another driver’s penalty, Kevin would be demoted a place in a similar manner. It’s all square now!
The big number
The number of qualifying sessions this weekend where Timmy Hansen set the fastest lap, including the outright fastest lap of the weekend.
“Though the Semi Final didn’t go our way, we scored some good points this weekend. We had a strong qualifying and that built a good foundation in terms of points. We kept ourselves in a good position before the rain came.
“The rain before the Finals was a big shock and turned everything upside down. We went through the entire season without wet conditions and suddenly it was fully wet. That meant we had to guess a few things and so we didn’t choose the right settings for the launch. I had a poor start and tried everything I could to get past, but couldn’t find a gap.
“Having Niclas back for this weekend was good to see, even if he beat us this time! It was nice to have a really good challenge through the weekend. If it had stayed dry we could have had a real battle on our hands. It was just not my turn today. I did my best, but today was not my day.”
“The first day was tricky. The speed was there but we had to start from the outside, which is really tricky in Hell. For the second day we adopted some of Timmy’s set-up, made some changes, and that seemed to make a difference.
“Looking at what happened when the rain came, starting from the second row for the Semi Final was a lot better than the first, so I was very happy to start there! We pulled off some amazing launches in the wet.
“I had to drive carefully in the Final as there was wiper fluid spraying everywhere inside the car! That also meant I couldn’t clear mud from the windscreen too. But we managed to cope with that well. Gronholm behind me pushed so hard but we kept our cool, did our thing and kept the grip all the way. With a good joker lap we managed to finish P2 but then got a penalty and were P3 instead. It’s not nice when you get a penalty but in the end I think it was a fair decision.”
THE BOSS – KENNETH HANSEN
“It was a bit of a mixed weekend for us. Saturday wasn’t ideal with a few mistakes from us as a team and some problems for the drivers out on the track. Sunday went much better but in the end, it wasn’t the result we wanted.
“Looking at the positives, we did learn a lot. We expected to have a little more speed here but we’ve learned a lot and there are some things we’ll do differently for the future, especially the next round at Höljes, our home event.”
NEXT ROUND: WORLD RX OF NORWAY
It’s an exciting time of year for Team HANSEN MJP, as the team heads to its home round of the championship at Höljes. Team principal Kenneth Hansen is the most successful driver of all time here, taking five Division 1 European RX wins behind the wheel. Kevin also scored a Euro RX win here in 2016, but the team is still seeking an elusive first win in World RX after the nearest of misses in 2015. Hopefully 2019 will be our year!
Second in the Eight Hours of Oschersleben, the Kawasaki team has recovered first place in the overall classification of the Endurance World Championship. The fight for the title will be in one month on the Suzuka circuit.
Forced to retire after less than two hours of racing in Slovakia, Gilles Stafler’s team-mates were eager to redeem themselves for the Eight Hours of Oschersleben, penultimate round of the World Endurance Championship. The Kawasaki riders were up to the task. In the free practice sessions, Jeremy Guarnoni, Erwan Nigon and David Checa already stood out by taking pole position. “Even if it is not decisive for an endurance race, the first place on the starting grid now includes five points for the team who win it,” recalled Gilles Stafler. And when you’re ten points behind the new leader, namely the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), since the last race in Slovakia, it’s worth making the effort during the qualifying session. Then they had to transform the test results into race results. Which Guarnoni and Nigon did brilliantly. The two Frenchmen rode the stints one after the other. A strategy that paid off as they managed to get the Kawasaki # 11 onto the second step of the podium. “This weekend David was as fast as Jeremy and Erwan, but his riding style is unfortunately more fuel-hungry,” explained the boss of the SRC. “If had rode the race it would have cost us an extra refueling break and we couldn’t afford it.” In Germany, the goal of the Kawasaki team was to try to recover the lead in the championship from the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). “When Gregg Black fell, we didn’t take any chances, we copied Suzuki’s style of racing,” Stafler continued. Only tenth under the checkered flag, the crew of SERT handed over the first place in the overall classification to the SRC Kawasaki team. The boss of the Greens is now hoping to take part in the final of the championship at Suzuka to win the world title, backed by his five-point lead.
Making it to the podium by taking advantage of Alvaro Bautista’s fall during the last race of the weekend, Jonathan Rea has reduced the gap in points between him and the championship leader.
If everything was not perfect in Jerez for the quadruple world superbike champion, Jonathan Rea still managed to use his trip to Andalusia to reduce Alvaro Bautista’s lead by two points. Fourth in the first race of the weekend, twenty seconds behind the Ducati rider, fourth in the Superpole sprint, Jonathan Rea was able to increase the pace on Sunday afternoon to reach the second step of the podium behind Dutchman Michael Van der Mark . “A real podium after a difficult Saturday,” commented the Kawasaki rider. “I had no feeling with the front end of the bike but the team worked hard to find solutions and I felt much better on Sunday despite the increase in the temperature of the track. We’ll now do some tests in Misano where I hope we will continue to progress with the tuning of our bike.” Also penalized by a lack of grip on his front tire, Leon Haslam finished ninth on Saturday before taking sixth and a fifth places on Sunday. On his side, Toprak Razgatlioglu managed to make it back to the podium a month after having tasted triumph in Imola. The Kawasaki rider finished fifth in the first race, seventh in the sprint, and third on Sunday, hot on the heels of Jonathan Rea. In Supersport, Lucas Mahias and Hikari Okubo took the checkered flag in sixth and seventh positions.
By making it to the second step of the last podium of the Spanish weekend, Jonathan Rea reduced the gap with the leader in the overall classification to 41 points. Second in the championship, the Kawasaki rider has no intention of abandoning his world title despite Alvaro Bautista’s domination on the first part of the championship. Leon Haslam stays in fifth place while Toprak Razgatlioglu has now moved up to seventh place. No change however on the side of the Supersport riders. Hikari Okubo remains in fourth place with 59 points while Lucas Mahias had not moved from his seventh place.
In the wake of his victory at Le Mans, Álex Márquez won a second race in a row, this time in Italy. A series that has allowed the Spaniard to return to second place in the overall standings, two points behind the leader.
Álex Márquez is definitely back on track. No matter he had not won since the Japanese Grand Prix 2017, in France and Italy the former Moto3 world champion chalked up two wins in a row. In 2014, then on the road to his title, he achieved the same performance by winning in Barcelona and Assen. “I rode the race I needed,” said the Marc VDS rider. “I was smart enough to wait, and managed the situation by letting Lüthi and Schrotter ride in front at the start of the race. And when I overtook them I got back into the pace I had this morning in the warm-up. The strategy worked. Little by little I consolidated my lead. I am very pleased because the team has done a great job again. Last year we had trouble adjusting the bike to this circuit. This year we’ve had two wins in a row, but we must not slacken. Let’s continue to work like we’re doing because the championship is still very long.” Victim of a collision at the start of the race with Lecuona and Di Giananntonio, Vierge managed to climb back from from sixteenth to twelfth place. “I lost my pace in the second part of the race,” lamented Márquez’ teammate. Tech 3 side, Philipp Oettl and Marco Bezzecchi had dribbling problems and had to settle for 21e and 23th positions on the finish line. In MotoGP, Oliveira and Syahrin were no happier. The Portuguese rider suffered from a lack of power control and finished sixteenth, while the Malaysian, who showed encouraging signs of progress during the practice test sessions, had to give up after several heavy slides forward that put an end to his ambitions for this race.
With two wins in a row, Álex Márquez returns to second place in the overall Moto2 standings just two points behind leader Lorenzo Baldassari. Xavi Vierge remains in eleventh position. For Marco Bezzecchi and Philipp Oettl, the points counter still reads zero. In MotoGP, Miguel Oliveira has lost a place, slipping from eighteenth to nineteenth. Hafizh Syarhin has lost two and is now twenty-third.
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.
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.”