M-Sport made history this weekend as Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the first round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship at the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Winning on its maiden outing, the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC continues M-Sport’s immaculate record – with another victory on another debut of another new car.
Coming five years after the team’s last win at the 2012 edition of Wales Rally GB, the celebrations were made all the sweeter with a double podium – Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja overcoming all obstacles to secure an impressive third place.
In what has been a highly rewarding weekend for the M-Sport team, the Ford Fiesta WRC has proven itself to be a formidable contender and a strong base from which the team can build.
All three Fiesta WRC drivers secured stage victories this weekend – three for Ogier, one for Tänak and a further three for Elfyn Evans. The team was also the only manufacturer to secure a one-two on individual stage times – not once, not twice, but there times.
There remains work to do, but this is a very good start and the team are more motivated than ever to continue the season with the taste of champagne.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I can’t put into words the feeling in the team right now. It’s been five years since we have stood on the top step of the podium and I can tell you that it’s a feeling we want to continue.
“Once again, we have won on our debut with a new car and I think that just goes to prove the high level of expertise we have in this company. You just have to look at the performance of all three drivers – Sébastien, Ott and Elfyn all securing stage wins.
“We have got a great base car in the Ford Fiesta WRC. We know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we’ve certainly got something good to work with.
“Again, I cannot praise the team enough. This result is down to their hard work and dedication. Each and every one of them – here on event and back home at Dovenby Hall – should be extremely proud of what we have achieved this weekend.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Securing a fourth consecutive win at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claimed what was arguably one of their career-best victories this weekend.
Coming to the legendary event with limited preparation, it’s fair to say that the World Champions were not the favourites for victory this weekend, but delivered a sensational performance behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta WRC.
Becoming stuck in a ditch on the first stage of Saturday morning (SS3), the Frenchmen lost more than 40 seconds to the leading pack and a win looked like a distant dream. But this is Monte, and Ogier knows better than most that it is a clever and controlled drive that delivers results.
Putting all of his experience, poise, talent and class to good use, he mounted an almighty comeback to claim an historic and deserving victory – christening his debut with the M-Sport team in style.
SS14: 3rd (+1.4)
SS15: 4th (+13.5)
SS17: 11th (+1:56.6)
Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:
“Obviously I feel really great. It always feels good to win at Rallye Monte-Carlo, but this year we had one of the most difficult challenges we have ever had. We had to contend with some really demanding conditions and also had a new car and a new team – it’s really incredible.
“We joined the team only a month ago and have only had a couple of days in the car so far. Of course we know that anything can happen at this event, but I really thought that we would be lacking the necessary preparation to challenge for victory this weekend.
“To be here now, on the top-step of the podium, I’m very happy and so happy for the whole team who really deserve this. We could never have won if they had not given us a good car, so congratulations to them.
“We still have some work to do, but we have started in the best possible way. I’m looking forward to the next events and there is nothing that does not allow me to be confident.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Securing his best ever result at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Ott Tänak piloted his Ford Fiesta WRC to the final step of the podium in third place overall.
The result was an impressive one for new co-driver Martin Järveoja who joins an elite group to have secured a podium result on their world rally car debut. But the podium was hard-fought, and the Estonians put in the drive of their lives to secure it.
Having shown blistering pace through the opening speed tests, Tänak was on course for second place and a one-two for the M-Sport team, but that all fell under jeopardy this morning when his Fiesta developed an issue with the engine electronics.
Causing a misfire on one cylinder, Tänak was down on power and had no choice but to resign his second place. At risk of losing his podium position, the strength of the Ecoboost engine came to the fore.
Coupled with an impressive, brave drive through the final speed test, Tänak secured a thoroughly-deserved podium – a double for the Fiesta on its competitive debut.
SS14: 12th (+12.8)
SS15: 18th (+1:28.2)
SS17: 8th (+1:51.4)
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“It’s great to be here! For a moment we didn’t know if we would make it, but the Ecoboost engine is clearly a very strong and at least we added a little spice to the final day.
“Of course it’s a shame to have had the issue, but this is Monte-Carlo. We know it’s a tricky event and we have to be pleased with our performance.
“I was quite surprised to see how competitive we were. Normally I don’t enjoy challenging conditions but I felt quite comfortable in the car. We were quietly confident during testing, but you never know until you get into competition so all credit to the guys at M-Sport.
“We’ve got a great base car in the Fiesta WRC and also quite a bit that we can still improve. We had consistent speed this weekend and I think we are only going to get better as we continue to learn throughout the season.
“I must also say thanks and congratulations to my co-driver, Martin. This was one of the trickiest Rallye Monte-Carlo’s that we have ever seen and he did a really great job. He did his job so that I could concentrate on mine and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the coming events.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
Elsewhere in the service park, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas secured fourth place in the WRC 2 category behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta R5.
The French pairing had been hoping to secure a podium position this weekend, but their hopes were scuppered after losing more than four minutes to the leading pack with an off-road excursion through SS7 on Friday afternoon.
Were it not for the time loss, Camilli would have finished his home event comfortably inside the top-three; but he leaves the Principality with a full arsenal of experience.
Éric Camilli (4th WRC 2) said:
“Fourth place is not the result we were looking for but when you consider that we lost more than four minutes yesterday, it’s not so bad. Were it not for that, we would have achieved our target and the most important thing is that we were able to get experience of all the stages.
“The conditions were really challenging and we didn’t always have the correct set-up. There remains a lot to learn and we will work hard to achieve that over the course of the season.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE SERVICE PARK
Elsewhere in the service park, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt secured sixth place behind the wheel of their DMACK-clad Ford Fiesta WRC.
The Welshman struggled for grip in the early stages, but as soon as the conditions became more consistent, he and Barritt were unstoppable.
Securing more stage wins that anyone else throughout Saturday’s running, Evans set the fastest time on three out of a possible five speed tests and was untouchable through the second pass of ‘La Batie Montsaleon – Faye’ (SS12) – 7.4 seconds faster than his nearest rival.
In the WRC 2 category, Bryan Bouffier secured a fine third place behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5. Going head-to-head with two-time rally-winner Andreas Mikkelsen, the Frenchman won two stages and used his local knowledge to full-effect.
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:00:03.6
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:15.0
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:57.8
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +3:35.8
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen DS3 WRC) +3:47.8
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:45.0
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:32.7
8. Jan Kopecky / Pavel Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +12:58.1
9. Stéphane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +14:43.8
10. Bryan Bouffier / Denis Giraudet (Ford Fiesta R5) +16:09.4