M-Sport World Rally Team overcame a day of attrition at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse today; but remains on course for a strong result with Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia holding second place behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
The four-time World Champions had been locked in an intense battle for victory – just 2.2 seconds adrift of the lead – before developing a hydraulic issue ahead of the final stage. Despite the frustrations, the Frenchmen remain on track to secure a strong haul of points for both their and the team’s championship campaigns.
Ott Tänak also overcame misfortune today. Having re-joined the field under Rally 2 regulations this morning, the Estonian suffered an engine issue through the morning loop but was quick to respond through the second.
Keeping his Fiesta firmly planted to the sealed-surface roads, he and co-driver Martin Järveoja may have to forgo a healthy points’ score for themselves, but are on target to secure valuable points for the team.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another day of highs and lows. In all honestly, the morning was pretty tough. Ott picked up an engine issue and Sébastien really struggled with the set-up – starting 15 seconds ahead of Thierry [Neuville] and ending the first stage [SS5] eight seconds behind!
“There was a lot of head scratching went on but I am relieved to say that the guys did a great job which gave Sébastien the confidence to push this afternoon. After the long stage [SS7], he’d reduced the gap to just two seconds and it was looking good for a really exciting battle to the finish.
“Unfortunately, we then got the call to say that he had an alarm at the end of the stage. That developed into a loss of hydraulic pressure and he had to use the manual gearshift throughout the final speed test [SS8].
“I have to say that he managed to situation brilliantly. The time loss could have been a lot worse, but Sébastien controlled the situation to maintain his second place. He remains on course for a strong haul of points, and Ott has also driven well this afternoon.
“Hopefully we can stay like this through tomorrow’s final stages and have two cars bringing home what will be some valuable points for the championship.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have had a roller coaster day at the Tour de Corse. Struggling with the set-up of their Ford Fiesta WRC on the bumpy roads, the first loop did not go to plan and the pairing dropped to third behind a resurgent Thierry Neuville.
When rally-leader Kris Meeke retired with engine issues, Ogier was propelled back to second and a briefing with the engineers delivered a more favourable set-up for the afternoon stages.
With more confidence behind the wheel of his Fiesta, the Frenchman secured the fastest time through the first pass of ‘La Porta - Valle di Rostino’ (SS7) and overturned an 8.2 second deficit to just 2.2 seconds.
But as the entire service park held their breath ahead of what looked set to be an epic battle for victory, more misfortune befell the M-Sport team – Ogier and Ingrassia suffering a hydraulic issue which they had to carry through the day’s final 17.27 kilometre stage (SS8).
Battling through, the Frenchmen managed the inevitable time loss. Despite losing the battle for the lead, they maintained their second position and are on course to secure another strong haul of points for their championship campaign.
SS5: 4th (+14.9)
SS6: 7th (+8.8)
SS8: 11th (+36.7)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“It was quite a disappointing day – especially as the fight with Thierry was shaping up to be a really enjoyable battle. A situation with a technical issue is never one that you want to be in, but this is motorsport and it happens.
“This morning we didn’t have a lot of confidence and Thierry was able to get ahead of us. This afternoon we had no option but to try and react, and it was good to see that we were able to do that. We got the lead down to just two seconds, but unfortunately that’s where the fight ended for us.
“I'm happy that we at least saved our second place which means good points for the championship – and that's the only target remaining for us now. If we manage to finish like this and collect some points in the Power Stage it will be a very good weekend for us.
“It would mean increasing our lead in the championship and every weekend that we're able to do that is a good weekend. I will be happy with that even if tonight I am a little disappointed. I would have preferred to fight until the very last stage as that would have been exciting for us and for the fans as well.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja restarted under Rally 2 regulations today – fully focused on enjoying the Corsican roads and putting yesterday’s misfortune firmly behind them.
Struck by an intermittent engine issue through the opening loop, they were unable to challenge for the top times but kept their trademark determination at full force – posting a fifth fastest time whilst carrying the issue on SS5.
Making it safely back to service, the M-Sport technicians soon had the Ford Fiesta WRC running at full health and the Estonian found a good rhythm through the afternoon loop.
On pace with the ‘Tarmac experts’, he posted the fourth fastest time through the final stage of the day and will be aiming for a clean run through tomorrow’s final speed tests.
SS5: 10th (+47.9)
SS6: 5th (+6.6)
SS7: 7th (+25.1)
SS8: 4th (+4.1)
Ott Tänak (16th) said:
“Overall, it’s not been such a bad day. Yesterday we were pushing quite hard, but today the main priority was to get through the stages and secure some valuable points for the manufacturers’ championship.
“During the second loop the stages were quite dirty and really challenging so we didn’t take any big risks. We might not have been flat-out, but we had a good rhythm and a good feeling with the car. We continued to learn and improved the balance for tomorrow so hopefully we can continue that through the final stages.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt have always performed well at the Tour de Course, but luck has not been on their side this weekend.
After suffering a hydraulic issue throughout yesterday’s stages, the Brits haemorrhaged time and things weren’t to get much better today.
Sliding wide through a long left-hander on the first pass of ‘Novella’ (SS6), the pairing became stuck off the road.
With no chance of returning their DMACK-clad Ford Fiesta WRC to the stage, they were left with no option but to retire for the day and will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.
SS5: 9th (+39.3)
Elfyn Evans (Rally 2 / 26th) said:
“This hasn’t been the Tour de Corse as we have known it in previous years. Luck has definitely not been on our side this time and it was really disappointing to end today’s action so early. It was just a very small and unfortunate mistake. Hopefully we can get the car back out on the stages tomorrow and get some more mileage under our belts.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
In the WRC 2 category, Teemu Suninen continued to impress behind the wheel of the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5.
Currently holding second place in the category, the Finn has improved his asphalt performance with each stage. Matching the asphalt experts, he set a trio of second-fastest times and is on target to secure a strong result.
Also impressing on his debut with the Fiesta, Pierre-Louis Loubet has proved his potential with a string of competitive times.
Quickly getting to grips with his new charge, the Frenchman has climbed to sixth place after losing time with a brake issue through the opening day of competition.
Returning under Rally 2 regulations, Éric Camilli was determined to prove his pace and looked to do just that with an impressive performance through the opening splits of SS7.
Unfortunately it was not to be and the Frenchman’s bad luck continued – completely losing the brakes and being forced the crawl through the remainder of the stage.
With nothing to lose, Camilli will be keen to enjoy his last taste of this year’s Tour de Corse when the action concludes tomorrow.
Teemu Suninen (2nd WRC2) said:
“I can be really happy with today. I think we’ve done a good job and set some good times with Mikko. I think we’re getting better all the time and getting closer and closer to the best drivers. Tomorrow we just have to continue this good job and keep improving.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet (6th WRC2) said:
“It was a good day for us and I think we did a good job. We lost a little time stuck behind another driver on the last stage of the day [SS8], but the splits were really good before that so I think we can be happy. Now we have to keep pushing, keep enjoying and keep doing our best.”
Éric Camilli (Rally 2 / 9th WRC2) said:
“We wanted to set a good time this afternoon but unfortunately we completely lost the brakes [on SS7] and it was impossible to drive at anything like full speed. Before that, the splits were really good and we were a lot faster than everybody else. Unfortunately, it seems that luck really isn’t on our side this weekend!
“The frustrating thing is that we know the speed is there, but the result won’t be what we wanted this weekend. Tomorrow we have nothing to lose and we will push.”
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) 2:44:10.2
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +38.9
3. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +57.7
4. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:09.4
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:12.2
6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:43.8
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Skoda Fabia R5) +6:21.7
8. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +7:29.6
9. Stephane Sarrazine / Jacques Julien Renucci (Skoda Fabia R5) +7:46.8
10. Yohan Rossel / Benoit Fulcrand (Citroen DS3 R5) +9:56.5
16. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +15:12.6
26. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +27:47.0