Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak hold a provisional double podium for the M-Sport team – the two Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC drivers locked in an intense in-house battle for the final podium positions.
With four stage victories – two on gravel and two on asphalt – the Fiesta continues to prove its performance on all terrain and the team will be looking to continue that trend tomorrow.
With the battle extremely close, and the top-step of the podium still within sight, the manufacturers’ crown remains mathematically possible, but the team would have to improve on their current position and secure 23 points more than their main championship rivals.
Whatever the outcome, the stage is set for a thrilling final-day showdown.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“This weekend’s rally typifies just how exciting the championship is. The competition is so close out there and everyone is pushing which is fantastic to see and the pressure will be on them all tomorrow.
“Today, Sébastien and Ott have delivered another strong drive and are both in podium position which would be a great result for the team. Once again, the Fiesta has proven to be a competitive package on all surfaces and we’ve secured fastest stage times on the gravel as well as on the Tarmac.
“Our main rivals have had some misfortunes, and nobody wants to see that happen, but we’re just focused on maintaining our position. Being realistic, we’re not in a position to catch Kris [Meeke] so if we can finish like we are now we’ll be happy.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
As the action turned to asphalt, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have maintained their second position and are on course to secure some vital championship points for their title defence through tomorrow’s closing stages.
Having struggled to find the perfect set-up over the morning loop, the reigning World Champions made some changes and quickly found their pace – posting the fastest time through the second pass of both ‘El Pont d’Armentera’ (SS11) and ‘Savalla’ (SS12) as well as the Salou Super Special (SS13).
Locked in an intense battle with championship rival and team mate Ott Tänak, there remains much to play for with the two Fiesta drivers separated by just 1.5 seconds going into tomorrow’s final 74.26 kilometres – and Ogier just 13 seconds shy of the lead.
SS7: 6th (+10.7)
SS8: 7th (+7.7)
SS9: 4th (+4.0)
SS10: 7th (+3.4)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“The general picture is a positive one for us at the moment and, if we can secure this podium at the end of tomorrow, it will be another good step towards the championship.
“Of course I always want to fight for the victory but, realistically, I think Kris [Meeke] is probably a bit too far ahead. We lost quite a lot of time to him this morning when I wasn’t super confident with the car. When you’re not perfectly committed you lose tenths everywhere and that can easily amount to ten seconds at the end of the stage.
“We worked hard on the set-up throughout the day and I had a much better feeling this afternoon. Hopefully we can start tomorrow morning with that same feeling as we will for sure still have to push.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Currently holding third place, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja have delivered the goods through both surfaces and are now on course to secure their sixth podium of the year.
Despite struggling with the balance of their Fiesta through the opening asphalt stage, the Estonians quickly righted the set-up and were immediately on the pace.
A precautionary gearbox change during the midday service meant that they had to use the transmission which had been configured to the gravel stages, but they didn’t let it stand in their way and continued to post competitive times including the second fastest time through the second pass of ‘Salvalla’ (SS12).
Now just 1.5 seconds adrift of team mate Sébastien Ogier, a titanic in-house battle awaits with both drivers intent on furthering their own championship ambitions.
SS7: 5th (+10.3)
SS8: 4th (+4.0)
SS9: =2nd (+2.9)
SS10: 5th (+1.8)
SS11: 4th (+1.4)
SS12: 2nd (+0.6)
SS13: 4th (+1.4)
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“The podium is always the target, and we’re in a good position to secure that at the moment so it has been a good day. We weren’t so happy with the feeling in the car first thing [this morning], but we soon found a good balance and improved the times after that.
“The goal is to secure as many points as possible but, as we have already seen, everyone is pushing very hard and it’s difficult to make the difference. Even if you have the perfect stage, you can still miss out on the fastest time by a couple of tenths.
“Kris is very strong so it’s going to be hard to compete with him, but we’re still in a very competitive position and it will be important to get to the end and secure these points for the team and for ourselves. We’ll certainly keep the pressure on, so let’s keep it going and see what happens.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
It soon became clear that this was not to be the weekend for Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt. But the British pairing have kept their heads down and piloted their DMACK-clad Fiesta cleanly through the stages – focused on collecting valuable data for future development.
SS7: 10th (+22.8)
SS8: 11th (+18.5)
SS9: 11th (+12.9)
SS10: 11th (+14.3)
SS11: 11th (+18.2)
SS12: 9th (+12.5)
SS13: 30th (+17.7)
Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“It’s been another pretty tough day for us. The pace isn’t there and we’ve just been struggling for grip. That’s the way it is and we need to focus on getting all the kilometres under our belts and collecting as much information as we can for the future.”
1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) 2:16:21.1
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.0
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +14.5
4. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +34.0
5. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +53.2
6. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:22.1
7. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:39.8
8. Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:00.7
9. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:15.1
10. Éric Camilli / Benjamin Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5) + 5:40.8