M-Sport World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are in the hunt for another top result at this weekend’s Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse – currently holding second place behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Gaining confidence in the Fiesta, there remains all to play for with two days of competition left to contest and Ogier just over 10 seconds adrift of the lead.
An epic battle for victory is expected as the Frenchman goes head-to-head with rally-leader Kris Meeke and the team are keen to give their lead driver a fighting chance of victory.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Sébastien has driven well today and he has been sitting with our engineers looking for every little detail and every tenth of a second that they can find for the remainder of the event. I think everybody knows that he will not give up, and neither will we. He’s putting us under some pressure for sure, but it’s all there to play for and we’ll certainly give it our all over the next two days.
“It was a less fortunate day for Ott and Elfyn. Ott was really unlucky. He just got caught out on some gravel and there is practically no damage to the car. He drove it back to service and we basically just need to give it a clean. It’s a shame as he was delivering a really solid drive and some valuable points have slipped away from him.
“Elfyn’s obviously really disappointed. This is one of his strongest events but we had a hydraulic issue early on which he’s had to carry with him throughout the day. The good thing is that he got the car back to service and now he just needs to reset and start afresh tomorrow.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Currently holding second place behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are just 10.3 seconds adrift of the lead on what is their pure-asphalt debut with the team.
Despite struggling to find the sweet-spot with their set-up – particularly through the bumpier sections – the pairing posting the fastest time through the second pass of ‘Pietrosella – Albitreccia’ (SS3) and were never outside of the top-two on individual stage times.
That said, there remains more potential to unlock. Working with the team to increase their confidence and make further improvements to the set-up, Ogier and Ingrassia remain focused on taking the fight to Meeke and on being in a position to challenge for victory.
SS1: 2nd (+5.7)
SS2: 2nd (+3.2) SS3: 1st
SS4: 2nd (+2.2)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“We tried as much as we could today. I have to say that I'm pretty happy with my drive, but we also know that we're still missing a little performance.
“We tried a few things stage after stage and the feeling did get better as the day went on. It’s still not perfect, but we have some ideas for tomorrow that will hopefully help us gain some more speed. It’s all about the set-up and we have to try to improve the feeling in the car so that we can get the most out of it.
“Tomorrow we will continue to push and try our best. It's only 10 seconds, and there are still plenty of kilometres to come. Of course it would have been better to have had a 10 second advantage ourselves, but at the moment we are behind and we need to keep the pressure on and continue to push.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt suffered an unfortunate start to this year’s Tour de Corse.
Suffering a hydraulic issue on the second stage, the lack of a midday service meant that the pairing had to carry the problem throughout the day and haemorrhaged time as a result.
Refusing to give up the fight, they kept their heads down and battled through the stages so as to start as the first car on the road tomorrow.
SS1: 9th (+31.9)
SS2: 25th (+2:10.2) SS3: 20th (+1:59.4)
SS4: 21st (+1:58.8)
Elfyn Evans (18th) said:
“We had a problem with the hydraulics early on in the second stage so it’s been a long day trying to manage the issue. Obviously it’s been a bit frustrating as this is one of the strongest events on the calendar for us. It’s disappointing, but we have plenty to learn and plenty of purpose to keep fighting for the rest of the rally.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak has not had the best of fortunes at his previous encounters with the Tour de Corse. Through the opening stages of this year’s encounter however, it looked as though he and co-driver Martin Järveoja would have the better of the Corsican stages.
Driving well and having a good feeling with their Ford Fiesta WRC, the Estonians were in fourth place and looking comfortable behind the wheel. Unfortunately, it was not to be and fate dealt Tänak another cruel hand at this notorious event.
Embarking on the third stage of the day, the pairing were caught out by an patch of gravel into a long corner. Sliding off the road by the smallest of margins, they became stranded down an embankment.
Despite there being no damage to the Fiesta – and despite the best efforts of both Tänak and Järveoja – it proved impossible to return the stricken car to the stage.
With his beached Fiesta towed free of the bank, Tänak drove back to service and will rejoin the field under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow – keen to regain his confidence and prove that his new-found speed at the Tour de Corse was no one off.
SS1: 4th (+13.9)
SS2: 4th (+7.6) SS3: DNF
Ott Tänak (Rally 2 / 23rd) said:
“There was a long corner and a bit more gravel than we were expecting. We understeered wide and the road was quite narrow. We were on the edge for some time and in the end we just missed that little bit of luck to keep us on the stage.
“There was very little damage to the car but we got stuck on a steep bank and it was quite difficult for the tow truck to get us out so we had no chance on our own!
“It’s a big shame because the car felt really nice. I’ve always struggled with this rally but this year I had been really enjoying it. We had a good test in the lead-up and we worked really hard with the notes to get everything perfect.
“I can say that it’s a bit of an empty feeling right now. The times this morning were good and close to the ‘Tarmac experts’ so of course it’s disappointing. But that’s life, and sometimes it’s tough. Now, we just need to have a good sleep and get back out there tomorrow.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, the fleet of Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5s showed good pace throughout the opening day of competition.
On the opening stages, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas were keeping leader Andreas Mikkelsen honest and finished the first loop just 5.8 seconds adrift of the three-time rally winner.
Unfortunately, the Frenchmen were unable to continue their strong performance. Clipping a bridge through the first stage of the afternoon, they damaged the suspension of their Fiesta and their charge was halted. The pairing will return under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.
Waiting in the wings, Teemu Suninen took control of second place having posted a trio of top-three stage times throughout the day’s four stages. Gaining confidence on the asphalt roads, the Finn and his compatriot co-driver Mikko Markkula finish the day in a strong second place.
In the third M-Sport Fiesta R5, Pierre-Louis Loubet was eager to impress on his home event. Unfortunately, the Frenchman was prevented from challenging for a top result when encountering a brake issue through the opening loop.
Having rectified the issue for the second pass, Loubet and co-driver Vincent Landais quickly upped their pace and posted top-three times through both of the afternoon stages.
Teemu Suninen (2nd WRC 2) said:
“I was really happy with our second loop as I was able to improve my driving and improve my times. I was getting closer to Mikkelsen and I’m really happy with that. With so many ‘Tarmac drivers’ here I wasn’t expecting to be second after the first day so that is a big positive. But we all know that there is still a long way to go. We need to keep focused on driving and improving and continuing without mistakes.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet (8th WRC 2) said:
“We won’t have the result that we wanted this weekend, but I think we can be pleased with our performance. This morning we had some issues with the brakes but sometimes that is just the way it goes – sometimes you are unlucky and that is just the way it is.
“We won’t think about it tomorrow, we’ll just focus on each stage and on continuing to set some good times. I have to say that I’m really happy with the car. To start with a new car at a rally like the Tour de Corse is always a big challenge, but we have set some good times and that is cool – I’m happy with that.”
Éric Camilli (Rally 2 / 11th WRC 2) said:
“It was very muddy in one corner and we weren’t expecting it. I entered the corner quite slowly, but maybe not slowly enough. We touched the wall and it damaged the suspension. We were able to finish the stage, but afterwards we discovered that the damage would take a long time to fix. We did manage to fix it, and the car is perfect now, but it took a long time and weren’t able to continue.
“We’re really disappointed. The pace was really good and we were really close to Mikkelsen – closer than I think anyone else has been this year. It’s a big shame as we felt really good and were really enjoying.”
1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) + 1:16:32.1
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.3
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +25.8
4. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +52.4
5. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +53.8
6. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:00.2
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:18.8
8. Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen DS3 WRC) +2:07.6
9. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Skoda Fabia R5) +2:57.3
10. Stephane Sarrazine / Jacques Julien Renucci (Hyundai i20 R5) +3:17.8
18. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:40.7
23. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +7:20.7