M-Sport’s Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja lead the way at Rally Italia Sardegna – currently holding a 24.3 second advantage at the head of the field.
Having delivered an intelligent drive through the challenging terrain, the Estonians are now in with a chance of securing a maiden FIA World Rally Championship victory and another win for the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a fantastic drive from Ott and Martin. Working with the team they made a great decision on the set-up for this afternoon and now have a good lead going into tomorrow.
“I was actually speaking with Markko Martin yesterday evening and I said that if Ott could just fine-tune the set-up then he would have a real chance of challenging – he has done exactly that today.
“As we’ve already seen, anything can happen, but he’s in a strong positon at the moment. He’s looking comfortable behind the wheel and just has to continue exactly as he has all weekend.
“Fingers crossed that we can deliver another magic WRC moment tomorrow.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja have delivered an intelligent strategy to lead the way at Rally Italia Sardegna – maintaining a margin through the early stages and increasing their advantage this afternoon.
With a good feeling behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta WRC, the Estonians posted a top-three time through all of today’s speed tests and claimed three stage victories on their way to the head of the standings.
SS10: =3rd (+4.2)
SS11: 3rd (+5.1)
SS15: 3rd (+1.9)
Ott Tänak (1st) said:
“It’s been a big fight all rally and I’ve really enjoyed it. Some guys have been dropping out, but we’ve been doing a good job and all we need to do now is keep going and continue exactly as we have been.
“I think we had a good strategy for this weekend. Sardinia is a very special event and it needs a very special approach. You always need to keep that margin and that is what we have done and what we plan to continue doing.
“A massive thanks to the team as the car has been perfect this afternoon. They’ve been working flat-out all hours of the day – literally – and we wouldn’t be sitting here in the first position if it weren’t for them.
“There’s still 40 kilometres of very demanding stages left to come, but there’s a good gap now and we just need to finish the job.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia may no longer be opening the road, but the pairing remains hindered by a less than favourable running order.
Despite their disadvantage, the Frenchmen made quick work of an advance up the leader board and were up to sixth before their hardwork was undone by a puncture through the first pass of Monte Lerno (SS12).
Losing over a minute and a half, the World Champions overcame their frustration and focused on delivering a clean run through the afternoon loop – safe in the knowledge that an intelligent drive could deliver rewards.
Keeping clear of the pitfalls that caught-out a number of his rivals, Ogier recovered sixth place overall and will be keen to secure additional points in tomorrow’s closing Power Stage.
SS10: 8th (+11.5)
SS11: 5th (+24.7)
SS12: 17th (+2:01.3)
SS13: 7th (+7.5)
SS14: 4th (+8.3)
SS15: 5th (+12.5)
Sébastien Ogier (6th) said:
“It’s been a tough weekend for us. I feel as though we’ve been driving well and I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy with the balance of the car, but for some reason we’ve not been able to deliver the performance we wanted.
“There must be something wrong somewhere, but for the moment we’re not sure what. Of course every rally has its own characteristics, so hopefully we’ll be back up to our usual speed with a much better feeling in Poland.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Returning to the stages under Rally 2 regulations, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt focused on racking up the kilometres.
Having missed out on valuable data through the opening speed tests, the Brits tasked themselves with delivering a clean run so as to collect vital information for future development.
SS10: 7th (+9.5)
SS11: 11th (+42.0)
SS12: 7th (+35.4)
SS13: 9th (+12.3)
SS14: 9th (+33.0)
SS15: 8th (+34.0)
Elfyn Evans (Rally 2 / 26th) said:
“We’ve got some good mileage under our belts today. This is one of the most abrasive rallies that we encounter all year so it was important to go out there and collect as much data as we could. That’s what we’ve done, and we can put that to good use for future development.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE TEAM
Elsewhere in the team, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas are locked in an intense battle for the RC2 victory – just 0.9 seconds adrift with 42.04 competitive kilometres left to contest.
Only once out of the top-two on individual stage times (posting the third fastest time through SS3), the Frenchman is proving the performance and consistency of the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2 and is all set for an epic final-day showdown.
Also behind the wheel of the Fiesta R5 Evo2, Pierre-Louis Loubet returned to the stages under Rally 2 regulations. The Corsican posted a string of top-three WRC 2 times throughout the morning, before suffering a brake issue through the afternoon loop.
Éric Camilli (2nd in RC2) said:
“It’s a really interesting race. It’s a big battle with Jan [Kopecky] and that is great. On the first stage of the second loop [SS13], he pushed really hard and we realised that we had to do the same. Unfortunately, we got caught in Raoux’s dust on the following stage [SS12] which cost us quite a lot of time. It’s so close now and I’m really looking forward to an exciting battle tomorrow.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet (9th in RC2 / 7th in WRC 2) said:
“I think our pace had been good and we can be happy with the progress that we have shown in our performance since Portugal. I wasn’t very lucky during this rally, but we are working hard and learning all the time. The confidence is growing and I’m sure we can secure some good results as the season continues.”
1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:56:37.3
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +24.3
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +1:02.2
4. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:10.8
5. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:42.1
6. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:26.1
7. Mads Østberg / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:56.0
8. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Citroen C3 WRC) +7:47.6
9. Jan Kopecky / Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +9:52.9
10. Éric Camilli / Benjamin Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2) +9:53.8
26. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +44:03.7