M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC secured a double podium at this weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España; Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia missing out on victory by a mere 2.9 seconds while Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt secured third place by a tantalising 0.5 seconds.
The result also sees five-time World Champions Ogier and Ingrassia retake the lead of the FIA World Rally Championship for both Drivers and Co-Drivers, and the team will focus on giving the French pairing everything they need to maintain their slender three point advantage at the final round in Australia.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a great weekend for the team with another double podium for the Fiesta and Sébastien and Julien retaking the lead of the championship. This one really is going down to the wire, and we’re going to see a thrilling finale in Australia. We’re enjoying a fantastic era in the sport and the true winners are the fans!
“The conditions were really challenging, but Sébastien and Julien held their own – overcoming the disadvantage of their road position on gravel and pushing to the maximum when the action turned to Tarmac. We didn’t get the tyre choices 100 percent right this weekend, but they pushed hard regardless and were rewarded with another great result.
“Elfyn too delivered a really strong performance. He and Dan were competitive on all surfaces and were challenging right at the sharp end – taking a well-deserved podium at the end of the rally which was just what he and the team needed.
“It proved a trickier event for Teemu, but we know how long it takes to get these youngsters to get to the highest level. He learned a lot, experienced a lot of varying conditions, and showed a vast improvement throughout the weekend which – as is always the case with Teemu – bodes well for the future.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have retaken the lead of the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers and Co-drivers, thanks to a fine second place finish at this weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España.
The French pairing were fighting for their fifth win of the year and delivered a confident and determined drive through the closing stages – missing out on victory by the smallest of margins as their old adversary Sébastien Loeb took advantage of a risky but inspired tyre choice through the morning loop.
Heading into the second loop of stages, Ogier and Ingrassia had fallen more than 10 seconds adrift of the lead, but they weren’t going to give up the fight. A big push through the closing two speed tests saw the pairing reduce the deficit to just 2.9 seconds.
It wasn’t enough to topple Loeb, but it was enough to take the lead of the championship going into a thrilling final round in Australia.
SS15: 4th (+6.6)
SS16: 6th (+7.5)
SS18: 2nd (2.0)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“It’s been an eventful weekend but we’re feeling good at the end of it. We knew that it would be difficult starting second on the road and the wet conditions made it really challenging as well. But we never gave up and gave it everything we had. You’re always a little frustrated when you miss the victory by such a small margin, but we tried everything we could and it’s still been a positive weekend as we regained the lead of the championship. Starting first on the road in Australia will be difficult, but I prefer to have the points in hand. It will be a tough rally and we will have to give it everything we have if we want to regain the title.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were determined to bring home the silverware this weekend and did so by securing their second podium of the year at RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España.
The British pairing were fighting at the sharp end on both gravel and asphalt and were part of an intense six-way battle for the win going into the final day of competition.
Embarking on the final four stages, Evans and Barritt were just 1.8 seconds adrift of the podium, and proved themselves great team players once again – taking the final podium place from Ogier’s main championship rival by just 0.5 seconds through the Power Stage!
SS15: 6th (+8.5)
SS16: 7th (+9.5)
SS17: 2nd (+3.5)
SS18: 4th (+3.1)
Elfyn Evans (3rd) said:
“We came here to secure a good result and that’s what we got. The speed has been up there for the past few rallies now, but for various reasons we’ve come away empty handed. It’s good to finally see that speed rewarded and to show that we had the pace on both surfaces here in Spain.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula may have struggled to match the pace at the head of the field this weekend, but the young Finn shouldn’t be disheartened on what was his first experience of this event with a world rally car.
Having to adapt to conditions he’s never experienced at this level, Suninen showcased his determination and readiness to learn with a vast improvement over the course of the weekend – especially on the circuit-like asphalt that defines this popular event.
The highlight came with a third fastest time when the conditions played to his advantage through the second pass of El Montmell (SS13), and Suninen gained vital knowledge and experience for the future with a better understanding of the varying conditions on offer at Rally de España.
SS15: 11th (+18.9)
SS16: 8th (+10.5)
SS17: 10th (+18.9)
SS18: 7th (+7.1)
Teemu Suninen (11th) said:
“It was a tough weekend for us but I learnt a lot about how to drive this car in these conditions –especially the wet Tarmac where I have no experience with a world rally car. We learned a lot and it was good to see the times improve. In the dry I think our times were at a pretty okay level, but I know I still have things to learn to improve my driving technique.”
1. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroen C3 WRC) 3:12:08.0
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2.9
3. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +16.5
4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +17.0
5. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +18.6
6. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:03.9
7. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:16.6
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:26.4
9. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:07.0
10. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:48.2
11. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:52.0
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier - 204
2. Thierry Neuville - 201
3. Ott Tänak - 181
4. Esapekka Lappi - 110
5. Jari-Matti Latvala - 102
6. Andreas Mikkelsen - 84
7. Dani Sordo - 71
8. Elfyn Evans - 70
9. Craig Breen - 61
10. Hayden Paddon - 55
11. Teemu Suninen - 54
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC - 331
2. Hyundai Motorsport - 319
3. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - 306
4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team - 216