Superbike World Championship – Argentina

Two more wins for Rea

In the wake of his fifth world champion title at the end of September in Magny-Cours, Jonathan Rea chalked up three new podiums in Argentina. And the Kawasaki rider made it twice to the top step.

The penultimate event of the Superbike World Championship season, the Argentinian event organized on the Villicum circuit in San Juan once again allowed the Kawasaki riders to show off. Third during the practice test sessions and second at the finish of the first race, Jonathan Rea took home two victories on Sunday, gaining the upper hand over Alvaro Bautista, the winner the day before. “I’m very happy with the way we managed this weekend,” said the five-time world champion. “We started on a very dirty track which caused us many problems, especially in terms of tire wear. But after each session and after each race the team did a great job, changing the settings of my bike each time. On Sunday, it behaved perfectly. The conditions had improved, the grip was better, and I was able to hold off Bautista who brakes hard. I was able to keep up a great pace that even allowed me to get away from him fairly quickly.” In trouble during the practice test sessions, Leon Haslam was penalized by being far back on the grid at each start. Sixth on Saturday, the British rider who, unlike his opponents was riding the San Juan track for the first time, finished eighth in the sprint race and tenth in the last event of the weekend. Toprak Razgatlioglu on the other hand rode well and, like Rea, chalked up three podiums during the Argentinian weekend. Three times third, the Turkish rider confirmed his improvement during the second part of the championship. In Supersport, Lucas Mahias finished his weekend on the second step of the podium. “I lacked feeling during the practice test sessions,” said the Frenchman. “At the beginning of the race, I still didn’t feel very comfortable on the bike. But by watching my opponents, I started to take the bends more tightly and found I could ride at a much faster pace. I was even the fastest on the second half of the race. Unfortunately, Jules Cluzel had taken too much of an advance for me to catch up with him. Whatever the case, this new podium was a great reward for the entire Kawasaki team.” His teammate Hikari Okubo took the chequered flag in twelfth position after his machine had vibration problems.

The Championship

Although he won the Championship title during the last weekend of the championship organized in France, it seems Jonathan Rea can’t win enough. The Kawasaki rider further increased his lead over his opponents in Argentina. 141 points now separate him from Alvaro Bautista. Further down the list, Leon Haslam remains in sixth place overall with 257 points, just behind Toprak Razgatlioglu who is now only five points behind Alex Lowes and six behind Michael Van der Mark. Already assured of the title of best independent rider, the Turk can still hope to overtake the two official Yamaha riders and finish the championship on the third step of the podium. In Supersport, Lucas Mahias has consolidated his fourth place and is now only 14 points behind Jules Cluzel. Fifth and missing 46 points, Hikari Okubo can no longer hope to catch up with his teammate.

CITROËN AND OGIER TAKE BRONZE IN WALES GB

45th Wales Rally GB (3 – 6 October 2019) – Finish

Wales Rally GB lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest events on the WRC calendar as Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia negotiated the unpredictable Welsh weather and muddy conditions to finish third overall. Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm made it to the end of the rally, having been forced to rejoin under Rally 2 rules, gathering considerable experience in the process.

With today’s final leg only covering 38.42 kilometres, and held on stages well known to the all the crews, it was asking a lot of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia to make up the deficit to the top two crews. Matters were only made worse when the Great Orme stage (4.74km), where some big gaps appeared last year, was cancelled this year for safety reasons. At that point, the French pair focused on keeping clear of trouble in the many tricky sections, before going for it in the Power Stage. They were second fastest on the final stage, therefore adding four bonus points to those awarded for finishing third overall.

This result is Citroën Total World Rally Team’s eleventh podium in twelve rounds this season and the French crew’s eighth top-three finish, and ensures they remain in second position in the championship, twenty-eight points behind the leaders.

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia moved into the top three after the rally’s first proper stage, before driving really aggressively in the C3 WRC on Friday afternoon, claiming two stage wins and confirming their intention to try and secure a sixth win at this round. They ended the opening leg just 3.4s off the lead. Determined to pursue their push on Saturday, not only the longest leg of the weekend but also contested without a mid-leg service, the six-time world champions once again pushed as hard as they could in an exciting and closely-fought scrap at the front. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite able to match the pace of the other two championship contenders. They therefore began today’s final leg in third place, 17.3s behind the leaders and 6.3s off second place.

After driving somewhat cautiously on the first proper stage as they got to grips with the handling of the C3 WRC on the greasy Welsh roads, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm immediately upped their pace with a fourth fastest time, 4.0s off the pace on the following stage (Penmachno, 16.19km). A third fastest time, just 1.0s off the leading pace on Aberhirnant (SS5, 10.26km) meant they made it the mid-leg service on day one just 7.8s off the podium. However, they were then caught out by one of the stages’ many changes in grip, overestimating the grip available on a braking point at the start of the second loop. They went no further on the opening leg. Having rejoined the action under Rally 2 rules on Saturday, they focused on improving their knowledge of the subtleties of the event and learning what it is like to start first in the running order on muddy, slippery roads, sometimes flooded with standing water. They nonetheless showed impressive speed at certain points, scoring a third fastest time on the Power Stage, within a second of the stage-winning time.

REACTIONS FROM…

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

“The Power Stage sums up our weekend in many ways: we have been a couple of tenths back throughout the rally. We tried our best and gave it absolutely everything, but we were just a bit short of performance whilst Ott had a super weekend. It’s not a great result for us in terms of the championship with just two rounds to go, but we’re going to keep fighting tooth and nail for as long as it remains possible mathematically to win the title.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

“For sure, it’s a shame to find yourself out of contention on the Friday. But there are some positives because learned a lot here. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of performance we managed to show in the C3 WRC despite having had totally dry conditions for our pre-event test.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

What is your analysis of this slightly disappointing weekend?

Yes, I suppose we have slightly mixed feelings about our weekend. Obviously, there are many things we can be pleased about, not least securing the brand’s eleventh podium in twelve rounds this season. We also showed great reliability with the C3 WRC, especially on Saturday when we had to cover almost half of the total distance with no service period. On the other hand, we had hoped to be more competitive so that Sébastien and Julien could keep moving upwards in the championship standings, especially as they once again showed incredible fight at this rally. It’s an event where they excel, as can be seen in their performance on the Power Stage. Instead of making up ground, however, they have dropped a little further back. Similarly, we were hoping for better for Esapekka and Janne, but they were a little unlucky in drifting marginally off the line at the wrong place. We saw afterwards in the pace they showed that they obviously could have secured a strong result this weekend, but you need quite a bit of experience to read the grip on these muddy gravel roads, something that they are still in the process of gathering. They also learned a lot during the rest of the rally, by being consistent.

How do see the final two rounds?

Obviously, the situation in the championship is more difficult now and we’re going to need a bit of good luck to turn things in our favour. But we’re not about to give up. We now have to work hard to give Sébastien and Julien a car that enables them to fight for victory at these two remaining rounds. Last week, Sébastien spent a day testing on tarmac at our Satory test track. This week, we had another test there and next week, we’ll be holding a four-day test in Spain. We’re going to give it our very best shot, so we have no regrets at the end of the year.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Until the end of the Power Stage, the Citroën Total World Rally Team tried everything to limit the points dropped in the championship, with a team strategy that was close to perfect. 

Despite their misfortune on day one, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm constantly showed their competitiveness on the Welsh roads, whenever they weren’t too hampered by the conditions. This is why the team encouraged them to express their talent on the Power Stage, as part of a team strategy designed to nick as many points as possible from their rivals. The Finnish pair executed their part perfectly, topping the timesheets as many other crews completed, until Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia moved ahead of them by less than five tenths. Neuville tried and failed to dislodge the two Citroën crews, before Tänak finally managed to grab the top time by just over four tenths of a second.

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS

2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:00:58.0
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10.9
4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +23.8
5. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +35.6
6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.6
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +58.2
8. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5:23.8
9. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 9:25.0

27. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +35:53.7

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Ott Tänak – 240 points

Sébastien Ogier – 212 points

1. Thierry Neuville – 199 points
2. Andreas Mikkelsen – 102 points
3. Kris Meeke – 98 points
4. Elfyn Evans – 90 points
5. Jari-Matti Latvala – 84 points
6. Esapekka Lappi – 83 points
7. Teemu Suninen – 83 points
8. Dani Sordo – 72 points

* Subject to publication of the official standings by the FIA

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Hyundai WRT – 340 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 332 points
3. Citroën Total WRT – 278 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 200 points

* Subject to publication of the official standings by the FIA

ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE GTE DOMINATES IN SIX HOURS OF FUJI

– Aston Martin Racing clinches first Vantage GTE victory of WEC season
– First double-class victory first for Aston Martin Vantage GTE in WEC
– Team earns first double-podium for Vantage as sister car finishes third
– TF Sport captures first win in WEC to cap an amazing month for team

Sunday 6 October, 2019, Fuji Speedway, Japan. The Aston Martin Vantage GTE clinched its first double victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the car winning both the GTE Pro and Am classes of the 6 Hours of Fuji. It was Aston Martin’s first double triumph since the team managed it in Mexico in 2016.

Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim delivered a perfectly-judged performance with the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE Pro car in Japan, to deliver their first win of the 2019-2020 season and their second since the car was introduced in May 2018.

Meanwhile in GTE Am TF Sport dominated the race with a lights-to-flag victory, having started from the class pole position. Sørensen began the race from third, but quickly moved up to second in a first hour that stood out for its fantastically close racing between the three manufacturer teams in the Pro class. Once in front, thanks to a brilliant pass for the lead by the Dane on the pit straight using the tow of backmarker, he and team-mate Nicki Thiim (DEN) were able to establish control of the race. The duo did briefly lose the lead to their team-mates Alex Lynn (GB) and Maxime Martin (BEL) in the #97 car, who undercut the #95 on an alternative strategy in the second hour, but after that the Danes managed the race and the intermittent rainy conditions perfectly. Lynn and Martin brought the sister Vantage GTE home in third, marking the first time the car has recorded a double-podium finish in GTE Pro.

It was the fifth win for Thiim and Sørensen in the Dane Train, and the third victory for the Vantage GTE in the last six WEC events. It means that the Danes are now second in the GTE Pro drivers’ standing, one point off the lead, while Aston Martin is also second in the Manufacturers’ Championship with 65 points.

“Winning a race like the one we did today is why we all do it,” said Sørensen. “It was great to be involved in the fight for the lead in the first hour of the race, and because we were leading, after that the race seemed to fly by. This was an important win for Aston Martin and and I am very proud for the team. I’m delighted.” Thiim added: “It is a great feeling to be standing here as a winner. WEC GTE Pro has some of the best racing on the planet as you saw today. It was so close that we had to split strategies on the two cars to cover off the competition. That worked well for us and I’m really proud of the team who have worked so hard for this. They kept their focus and had the right mentality today which was why we were able to capitalise on the car’s pace.
This is a fantastic result for Aston Martin.”

In only the second race since the Vantage GTE became eligible to race in the Am class, TF Sport produced an outstanding performance. Having started from pole position the bright red #90 car led all the way. Salih Yoluc became the first Turkish driver to win a WEC event, while for AMR works drivers Jonny Adam (GB) and Charlie Eastwood (IRL) it was the end of a long wait. TF Sport has finished second four times in the last two seasons prior to this win.

Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw added, “This result is the perfect demonstration of the Vantage GTE’s potential. It was a great performance by the two Danes. Marco drove extremely well in the first hour and Nicki was outstanding throughout his stint and when the rain came. This was also the first opportunity for us to see our Technical partner Michelin’s new tyres in action on an equal footing in the dry against our rivals, and I think we’ve proven that we are very much in the fight. That Alex and Max also finished on the podium rounded off an excellent team effort. It was indeed a great day for Aston Martin, and I would like to wish TF Sport congratulations on an excellent and long overdue win in the GTE Am class.”

The next round of the FIA WEC takes place at Shanghai, in China, on 10 November.

MotoGP World Championship Thailand Grand Prix

Márquez keeps his lead

With only four races remaining, Álex Márquez now has a forty-point lead in the Moto2 World Championship standings. The title is getting closer …

The first of the four events on the Asia / Pacific Tour, the Thailand Grand Prix was more than a mere formality for the riders who had to cope with harsh weather conditions and a track whose grip changed from one day to the next.  Álex Márquez handled it well. Chalking up his fifth pole position in seven Grands Prix, the Spaniard finished the first lap of the race in the lead before giving way to Luca Marini. He then fought it out with Iker Lecuona, Brad Binder and Augusto Fernandez before crossing the finish line in fifth position. “The race was more difficult than expected,” said the championship leader. “Right from the warm-up this morning I found it difficult keeping up the pace. The conditions were noticeably different from the free practice sessions and things were more difficult for me. Despite it all we had a good race, I fought long enough in the lead, and could have made the podium. That was not to be, but the weekend was still positive, I finished fifth with useful points for the championship.” Xavi Vierge never saw the checkered flag. After qualifying for seventh place, the Catalan fell on the eleventh lap, trying to catch up with the leaders. On the side of the Tech 3 team, Marco Bezzecchi clinched his second top ten of the season after Assen. “The bike was working well and despite the heat I managed to keep enough energy for the end of the race,” said the Italian, “and that allowed me to overtake several riders in the last six laps.” Phillip Oettl took the checkered flag in twenty-second position. In MotoGP, Miguel Oliveira finished just short of the points, handicapped by pain in his shoulder after a fall during the practice test sessions. “I was paced well on the first part of the race but unfortunately I couldn’t keep it up,” regretted the Portuguese rider. Hafizh Syahrin complained about a lack of engine power probably due to the heat. He finished in twentieth position.

The Championship

Although he lost two points to Augusto Fernandez after the Thailand Grand Prix, Álex Márquez has nonetheless consolidated his position as leader, since with four races to go before the end of the championship he now has a forty-point lead over his Spanish opponent. Xavi Vierge has slipped to fifteenth place while Marco Bezzecchi has moved up to twenty-first. In the MotoGP category, Miguel Oliveira keeps his 17th place and Hafizh Syahrin is still 24th.