M-Sport prevailed in the face of adversity at this weekend’s Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse. Enduring a rally of attrition, the team had to dig deep to deliver a fourth podium in as many events for the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia delivered a sensational performance in difficult circumstances – securing second place overall and extending their lead at the head of the FIA World Rally Championship’s driver and co-driver standings.
With Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja recovering to just outside the top-ten, the team also secured a healthy haul of points to maintain their lead at the helm of the manufacturer standings.
Recovering a strong result from a demanding Tour de Corse, the team now focus their attentions on an up-coming five-day test where every effort will be made to address the challenges faced this weekend and extract further performance from the Fiesta.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a very demanding weekend for the team. We’ve experienced issues that we’ve not seen before and I can tell you that the team will be working extremely hard in the lead-up to the next event.
“We have to praise Sébastien and Julien for the job they have done in what were some very difficult circumstances. But they stuck with it, and second place shows how committed and determined they both are.
“In view of what we’ve experienced here in Corsica, it’s great to see Sébastien extend his lead in the drivers’ championship and for the team to maintain the lead of the manufacturers.
“We have a five-day test coming up next week where we’ll focus on improving the performance of the car as well as addressing the issues we’ve faced this weekend.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia endured a rally of highs and lows this weekend, but the end result remained positive – the four-time World Champions securing second place to extend their lead at the head of the standings.
Struggling with set-up throughout the early stages, the Frenchmen were missing absolute confidence but hinted at the potential of the Ford Fiesta WRC. The pairing were never out of the top two on individual stage times through the opening day but lacked the feeling required to push for the lead.
Following an in-depth review with the engineering team during Saturday’s midday service break, Ogier was back on form and set a time five seconds clear of anyone else through the second pass of yesterday’s ‘La Porta - Valle di Rostino’ (SS7).
That performance propelled him into a battle for victory – just 2.2 seconds shy after yesterday’s penultimate speed test. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and the Frenchman suffered a hydraulic issue on the final test of the day (SS8) which dropped him more than 30 seconds adrift of the lead.
Focused on securing second place over today’s final two stages, there was more late drama for the World Champion as his Fiesta developed an intermittent electrical problem through the first stage of the morning (SS9) – dropping him behind third-placed man Dani Sordo.
Working with the engineers, Ogier proved what it is that makes him such a force to be reckoned with and calmly found a solution. Delivering a stunning drive through the final stage, Ogier regained second position and claimed an additional four points with the second fastest time through the Power Stage.
SS9: 7th (+21.4)
SS10: 2nd (+0.8)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“It has definitely been a roller coaster weekend for us! We’ve had lots of highs and lows, but I’m happy to say that we finished on a high with some really good points for the championship.
“We’re happy with the pace that we had and things are definitely moving in the right direction. We struggled with the set-up at times, but honestly the car is not too bad and I think we have some performance in the tank.
“We had the pace to challenge Thierry for the win – only two seconds behind him before the technical problems – but of course we have some work to do to ensure we don’t repeat this stressful weekend.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
The Tour de Corse was always going to be a challenging one for Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja – Tänak failing to find a good feeling on his previous encounters and Järveoja experiencing the event for the very first time.
In the early stages however, it looked as though the Estonians would have the better of the Corsican stages. Posting a string of competitive times behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta WRC, the pairing were holding a solid fourth place and on pace with the Tarmac specialists.
Unfortunately however, they would not have an opportunity to show what they could do on these unique stages – sliding off the road through the second pass of ‘Pietrosella – Albitreccia’ (SS3).
Returning under Rally 2 regulations, Tänak was hampered by engine issues yesterday morning but soon regained his rhythm – posting competitive times throughout the afternoon.
Despite failing to get the balance of the Fiesta to his liking today, the Estonian continued to post competitive times and has shown a vast improvement in pace at an event he considers to be his Achilles' heel.
SS9: 5th (+7.6)
SS10: 6th (+6.5)
Ott Tänak (Rally 2 / 11th) said:
“It’s been a rally of highs and lows. This has always been one of my least favourite events so it was really good to see that we had good speed through the opening stages. We were on pace with the Tarmac specialists and, for the first time, I was really enjoying these twisty roads.
“That made it really hard when we slid off the road – it was an empty feeling to be honest – but we have to look to the positives. We’ve learnt a lot and my pace has been so much stronger than it had been in previous years.
“The result wasn’t what we wanted, but the pace was good and we’ll come back stronger – all focus now on a proper push at Rally Argentina!”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt have always performed strongly at the Tour de Corse, but this year’s edition will be one to forget for the British pairing.
Having suffered a hydraulic issue through the opening day of competition, the Welshman haemorrhaged time and things would go from bad to worse as the crews embarked on the second day of competition – sliding off the road on SS6 with no chance of returning his DMACK-clad Fiesta to the stage.
Re-joining under Rally 2 regulations today, Evans used the remaining mileage well – collecting valuable knowledge and data to further his season’s ambitions.
SS9: 9th (+1:05.0)
SS10: 7th (+6.7)
Elfyn Evans (Rally 2 / 21st) said:
“This has always been one of my favourite events so it’s disappointing not to have been in a position to have challenged for a strong result. What with the problems on the opening day, and the mistake yesterday, it’s just not been our rally.
“But it’s not been a wasted weekend by all means. We’ve learnt a lot and collected a lot of information that we can use to be stronger at the next asphalt event. Now, all focus is on Argentina – and it’ll be all guns blazing there!”
ELSEWHERE IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
In the WRC 2 category, Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula powered their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5 to second place – bettered only by three-time rally winner Andreas Mikkelsen.
Consistently improving his asphalt pace throughout the event, the Finn may have finished the opening day a minute and 10 seconds adrift of the Norwegian, but found himself just a minute and six seconds adrift come the end of the rally.
Rarely outside of the top-three on individual stage times, the 23-year-old regularly matched the speed of the more seasoned asphalt specialists and secured an impressive eighth place in the overall standings.
Making their debut in the Fiesta R5, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Vincent Landais quickly got to grips with their new charge and displayed vast potential throughout the weekend.
The Corsican lost considerable time with brake issues on the opening day and was hindered by power-steering issues today, but maintained his strength of character to secure sixth place overall.
Also behind the wheel of the Fiesta R5, Éric Camilli looked to be the only man capable of challenging Mikkelsen for the win. There is no doubting the Frenchman’s speed and he and co-driver Benjamin Veillas were just five seconds shy of the Norwegian following the opening loop.
Unfortunately it was not to be. Clipping a bridge and damaging the rear suspension through the second pass of ‘Pietrosella – Albitreccia’ (SS3), Camilli was forced to make an untimely exit but returned under Rally 2 regulations with considerable speed.
Determined to prove his potential, the Frenchman was on course to set a stunning time through SS7 before a loss of brakes hindered his charge. Regrouping brilliantly for the final day, he posted a stunning time through the first stage of the morning (SS9) – 15.1 seconds quicker than anyone else.
Teemu Suninen (2nd WRC 2) said:
“This has been a really good event for us and I’m really happy with our weekend. This has probably been my best ever performance on Tarmac. We’ve learnt a lot, and got better and better with every stage. I’m really happy with the car – it’s working totally at one with my mind – and I think we can be really pleased with the job we have done.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet (6th WRC 2) said:
“It has been a good weekend for us. We lost a lot of time on the first day so we had no chance to challenge for the top results, but I am still happy. We set some good times yesterday and I have a good feeling with the car which is cool. Hopefully we can continue like this and keep getting better as the season goes on.”
Éric Camilli (Rally 2 / 9th WRC 2) said:
“We have had quite a lot of bad luck this weekend but we need to focus on the positives. Of course I am disappointed because I wanted to win, but the main thing is that our performance was good.
“We had the pace to challenge for victory this weekend, and when you’re going up against someone like Andreas Mikkelsen that is a very good thing! Now, we will focus on the next events and on turning our pace into some strong results.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen some strong performances from all three of our WRC 2 crews this weekend.
“Teemu and Mikko have done a fantastic job with second place in the category and eighth place overall. They’ve improved their performance throughout the weekend and it’s great to see them enjoying the Fiesta on only their second event with the team.
“Pierre-Louis also seems to have got to grips with the Fiesta extremely quickly. He had his fair share of bad luck this weekend, but delivered an impressive performance on what was his debut with both the team and the car.
“Éric didn’t secure the result he wanted, but his pace was strong. In the early stages, he was the only man capable of challenging Andreas [Mikkelsen] and he’s now hungrier than ever for victory.”
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) 3:22:53.4
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +54.7
3. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +56.0
4. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:09.6
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:09.7
6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:16.3
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Skoda Fabia R5) +8:10.7
8. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +9:17.0
9. Stephane Sarrazine / Jacques Julien Renucci (Skoda Fabia R5) +9:23.6
10. Yohan Rossel / Benoit Fulcrand (Citroen DS3 R5) +12:57.1
11. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +15:20.3
21. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +28:52.3