At an event where Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT had been absent from the podium since 2014, Craig Breen and Scott Martin held their nerve on the final leg to finish as runners-up, the best result of their career to date in the WRC. Their performance was complemented by the sixth place of Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen, an especially well-deserved result on their debut in the C3 WRC, whilst Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle made it to the end of the rally determined to fare better in Mexico.
Although it only featured three stages, today’s final leg was anything but a Sunday stroll, with more fresh snow on the roads.
Craig Breen admitted in morning service that he really liked the Likenas stage, going so far as to describe it as the rally’s best speed test. But the 28 year-old Irishman then ‘walked the talk’: on the first pass, he finished a second ahead of his direct rival, before he then gained another 3.1s on the second run, meaning he headed for the final stage with a 13.4s lead over the third-placed driver. He then proceeded to negotiate the ten or so remaining kilometres with the confidence of a seasoned campaigner, sealing second overall and claiming the best result of his short WRC career! A result that provides further evidence of his continuing progress and the improvements made by the C3 WRC since last year’s rally!
This was Craig’s second podium in the WRC, following his third place at Rally Finland in 2016, and the fourth of the C3 WRC, confirming the good start to the season made by Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.
Keen to keep racking up the miles in the C3 WRC, Mads Østberg did not tempt fate by trying too hard to hang onto fifth place and hold off the flying comeback of Lappi, preferring to make sure of scoring important points for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. The Norwegian thus concluded a successful return with Citroën, whilst the team consolidated its third place in the manufacturers’ world championship standings.
Having rejoined under Rally 2 rules this morning after making a minor but costly error yesterday, Kris Meeke used today’s final leg to work on a few things for the future. His aim is now to hit peak form in Mexico, where he secured the C3 WRC’s maiden victory in last year’s championship.
WHAT THEY SAID
« It was a difficult rally for us. With our less than ideal position in the running order on Friday, I had trouble finding any confidence, which meant that we ended up being one of the first on the road on Saturday. I was nonetheless working hard to secure the point for tenth place when we nosed into a snow bank at low speed and damaged the turbo. It was really unlucky. I’m determined to bounce back, starting in Mexico. Out of the next four rallies, I have already won three of them and I was leading in Corsica last year as well. »
« I’m absolutely on top of the world! It has been an incredible weekend. I have always really enjoyed this rally in the past, but I have to say that I surprised myself this weekend in that I was able to fight at the front throughout the race, without making any mistakes. I used to think that quick rallies weren’t suited to me, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. In any event, my C3 WRC was perfect here and it’s great to secure this result for the team – the guys have worked really hard for this. »
« I’m delighted with my return to the team. I wasn’t expecting to be able to fight for such a good position with the limited amount of miles we covered in testing. I hope that the team is pleased with what we have done with this first experience together. I know that with more time in the car, I can be even more competitive with the C3 WRC. In any case, I would love to drive it again soon! »
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2h52’13’’1
2. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 19’’8
3. Mikkelsen/Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 28’’3
4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 45’’8
5. Paddon/Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 54’’4
6. Ostberg/Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1’15’’3
7. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2’04’’9
8. Suninen/Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2’52’’2
9. Tänak/Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 3’44’’4
10. Ogier/Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 8’45’’4
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Thierry Neuville – 41 points
2. Sébastien Ogier – 31 points
3. Jari-Matti Latvala – 23 points
4. Esapekka Lappi – 23 points
5. Ott Tänak – 21 points
6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 21 points
7. Craig Breen – 20 points
8. Kris Meeke – 17 points
9. Hayden Paddon – 10 points
10. Elfyn Evans – 8 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Hyundai WRT – 54 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 53 points
3. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 46 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 43 points