Once again among the leaders on their debut outing in Chile, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia continued their impressive series of podiums to finish as runners-up after an incredibly intense battle in their C3 WRC, following the improvements made to the car by Citroën Total World Rally Team since Argentina. This result sees them reclaim the championship lead. Increasingly comfortable as the rally progressed, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm ended sixth overall, completing a fine all-round performance by the team.
With more narrow and fast stages to experience for the first time at full pace, today’s final leg was not short on difficulties, but it was made even more taxing by the fine drizzle that had fallen overnight, leaving roads significantly damp. In these testing conditions, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia saw the third-placed crew trim their advantage to just 1.1s on the opening stage. The six-time world champions then produced the kind of performance of which they alone are capable. They pushed throughout the full 18.06 kilometres of Lircay, the rally’s narrowest stage, to claim their second stage win of the weekend, 4.2s ahead of their rival for second place. The French crew then managed the gap to the end, finishing second overall and thus securing their fifth podium in six rounds, following wins at Monte-Carlo and in Mexico, second place in Corsica and third in Argentina.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia also collected four bonus points in the Power Stage, meaning they head back to Europe from Chile with a ten-point lead in the championship standings. This sixth podium finish in as many rounds this season, combined with the sixth position of Lappi-Ferm, also means the Citroën Total World Rally Team stays within touch of second place in the manufacturers’ standings.
On stages in the wooded sections, left damp by rain before the start, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia immediately settled into second position on day one. And although the morning of day two proved more difficult, they were able – in conjunction with the team – to respond perfectly in the afternoon loop, grabbing a stage win and a third fastest time on their way to doubling their advantage over the third-placed crew. Unfortunately, they were hampered by the late arrival of fog and rain on the final stage of the day, allowing their rivals back into the mix ahead of the short final leg.
After a cautious, focused start to the race, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm had closed to within 10.3s of fifth place with the third fastest time on yesterday’s final stage. They confirmed their growing confidence and improved form today, grabbing a fifth and a fourth fastest time. Their splits on the Power Stage were also very promising until a minor error dashed their hopes of any bonus points. They nonetheless finished sixth overall. They can take heart from an encouraging result, one which they will hope to build on, so they can start the next round in Portugal in the better shape.
Engaged in a close fight for the WRC2 Pro class win until a minor brake issue cost them time on Saturday morning’s loop, Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen had to settle for second place in the end. The Norwegians nonetheless claimed twelve stage wins out a total of sixteen, demonstrating the competitiveness of the C3 R5 once again.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver “This podium further confirms our very good start to the season. We have been very consistent and the points are good for the championship. It wasn’t an easy weekend, however, even though things moved in the right direction after Saturday’s mid-leg service. We got the best out of the C3 WRC once again. We now need to develop the car even more so that we can be more competitive in low-grip situations.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver “We had a difficult start, but we managed to make progress bit by bit. We also managed to improve the set-up of the C3 WRC with the team and our pace started to be pretty decent today. I really hope that we can keep going forward like this in our forthcoming tests. In any case, it ended up being a positive weekend in terms of my confidence.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
What is your assessment of this sixth round?
Clearly, it was a positive weekend, with the fine second place secured by Sébastien and Julien. They produced another attacking performance, on these totally new stages, which needed quite a bit of getting used to. Their perseverance was rewarded with a good result that sees them back at the top of the standings. The other cause for satisfaction is the feeling that Esapekka and Janne have found again. They put together a smart, mature performance to finish the race, after gradually building their pace. It certainly augurs well for the rest of the year, especially as we now start a run of events that they know better. I think we also showed that we were able to react and introduce a few minor upgrades, which worked, in the fairly narrow window available between Argentina and Chile. Having said that, we are fully aware that these changes are not enough as yet to fight with the fastest crews in all conditions, and we are going to step up our efforts in order to keep improving.
What did you think of this first edition of Rally Chile in the WRC?
I think the event has been a successful addition to the championship! Having driven on the stages in recce, I have to say they really are very attractive. The roads are fast, undulating but also highly varied. We have also been very warmly welcomed by the local fans. They were especially noisy and enthusiastic at the ceremonial start and at the finish, but were also out in big numbers on the stages and in the service park.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND
In finishing 4.2s ahead and all but securing second place on Sunday morning on Lircay (SS14), the narrowest stage of the rally, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia once again showed their ability to take incredibly precise pace notes, as well as their talent for striking at just the right moment. The number 1 C3 WRC driver explained…
“Obviously, with Julien, we give our all on every stage, that goes without saying. Although we’re not always able to compete with the fastest crews on technical stages and in low-grip conditions, I knew that SS14 and SS15 were the kind of stages that suited us best. They were fast – in fact, the average speeds were above 100kph for the first time this weekend – and we know that the C3 WRC performs well in conditions like this so we couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity! Especially as we had just dropped four seconds on the opening stage of the day. We had to hit back and that’s exactly what we did.”
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:15:53.8
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +23.1
3. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30.2
4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:36.7
5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:15.6
6. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +3:45.4
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:39.0
8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 7:33.4
9. Rovanperä / Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 7:52.5
10.Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +8:16.1
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Sébastien Ogier – 122 points
2. Ott Tänak – 112 points
3. Thierry Neuville – 110 points
4. Kris Meeke – 59 points
5. Elfyn Evans – 55 points
6. Sébastien Loeb – 39 points
7. Andreas Mikkelsen – 36 points
8. Esapekka Lappi – 34 points
9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 32 points
10. Teemu Suninen – 30 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Hyundai WRT – 178 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 149 points
3. Citroën Total WRT – 143 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 100 points