M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia lead the way at Rally Italia Sardegna – powering their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC to an 18.9 second advantage at the head of the field.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen another incredible performance from Sébastien and Julien today. To think that they turned fifth into first in the space of a single stage is quite remarkable – but it just goes to show what makes them the five-time World Champions. They never give up, and they can never be discounted.
“I think it’s fair to say that they maybe had what happened in Portugal in the back of their minds this morning, but they put the work in and came back to deliver something special this afternoon. Of course there is still a long way to go, but they’re in a great position and looking forward to tomorrow.
“Teemu too was doing a fantastic job up until that very last stage. Looking at his speed, it’s easy to forget that this is only his seventh event in a world rally car – but maybe he was just that little bit too fast on the last one. It’s frustrating as we could have had two cars in podium position, but he’s still learning the limits and it’s all part of the process. I’m sure he’ll learn from it and come back stronger.
“Elfyn too made a small but costly mistake this morning. As we could see from the splits, he had the speed and every chance of challenging for a good result. It was a missed opportunity, but he and Dan certainly showcased their technical ability and I’d challenge any driver and co-driver to change a steering arm as quickly as they did!”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
There is a reason why Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are five-time World Champions, and the Frenchmen demonstrated that today – their Ford Fiesta WRC currently holding the lead at Rally Italia Sardegna.
The pairing may have struggled to find their rhythm through the opening speed tests – 23 seconds down on the lead at the midday service break – but history has proven that they should never be discounted.
Regrouping for the second pass, the pairing proved a force to be reckoned with. More than 12 seconds faster than anyone else through the challenging conditions of SS6, they turned a 23 second deficit into a 3.5 second advantage in just 22.12 kilometres.
Their strong form continued throughout the afternoon, and the Frenchmen have established an 18.9 advantage going into the second day of competition.
SS2: 6th (+12.7)
SS3: 8th (+9.1)
SS4: 6th (+3.9)
SS5: 2nd (+3.0)
SS7: 2nd (+1.9)
SS8: 2nd (+0.4)
SS9: =2nd (+1.1)
Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:
“It’s a perfect result at the end of the day and I’m really happy with our performance. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood to take all of the risks this morning, but I knew that I had to do a little bit more if I wanted a good position for tomorrow.
“The first stage of the afternoon was really demanding and in these conditions it’s so hard to estimate your rhythm. You never know if you are going to lose 20 seconds or gain 20 seconds, so to get to the end of the stage and see the time – let’s say that it was a happy surprise.
“If it stays dry tomorrow then we should have a good road position, but there is still a long way to go. It’s nice to be in the lead with a 19 second advantage, but for sure there is no time to relax.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula were challenging for a second successive podium before their hopes were dashed – an otherwise impressive day coming to a close in the Sardinian undergrowth.
Thanks to a series of strong times through the opening stages, the Finnish pairing were just 1.6 seconds shy of the podium and Suninen had identified areas to make further gains by improving his technique through the slower sections.
As torrential rain and standing water battered the first stage of the afternoon (SS6), the young Finn dropped to seventh but had not given up the fight. Setting the fastest time through the very next stage (SS7), he regained fourth place and looked on course to take third – 1.6 seconds quicker than anyone through the final stage before it got the better of him.
Having proved his speed potential – and found the limits – Suninen will put this one down to experience and come back stronger in the future.
SS1: 7th (+1.8)
SS2: 8th (+16.1)
SS3: 2nd (+0.8)
SS4: 4th (+2.6)
SS5: 6th (+7.3)
SS6: 9th (+34.1)
SS8: 5th (+3.0)
Teemu Suninen (20th) said:
“I had pretty good pace today which I was pleased with, but unfortunately I made a mistake on the last stage – just carrying too much speed. I thought the corner was flat – and it wasn’t. I ran wide with the rear, a stone kicked us round, and we went off the road.
“Tomorrow we just need to get the experience and show some good pace. There is no need to take any big risks as I need the experience, but I hope we can still find a good rhythm and set some good times.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt looked as though they had the speed to challenge for another top result this weekend – that was until a small but costly mistake halted their charge through the first test of the day (SS2).
The pairing’s Ford Fiesta WRC was amongst the fastest through the stage until they reached the 13 kilometre mark – clipping a bank and breaking a steering arm.
Having the necessary spares to affect a repair, the pairing showcased their technical ability and made the stage-side repair in remarkable time – limiting the time loss and giving themselves a chance of salvaging some points at the end of the rally.
SS1: 4th (+0.9)
SS2: 45th (+13:10.9)
SS3: 9th (+11.5)
SS4: 5th (+2.8)
SS5: 11th (+12.3)
SS6: 10th (+35.6)
SS7: 8th (+12.4)
SS8: 7th (+5.6)
SS9: 5th (+3.8)
Elfyn Evans (22nd) said:
“We just couldn’t get the car stopped for a right-hand-corner, ran wide and clipped the bank which broke the steering arm. Luckily we had the spare parts in the car and were able to make a repair, but we lost a lot of time and any chance of challenge for a strong result. After that, there wasn’t anything to fight for and we just need to focus on getting the car to the end. It’s frustrating for sure as the car felt really good.”
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:35:56.9
2. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +18.9
3. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +37.2
4. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.6
5. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +58.3
6. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshal (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:01.5
7. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:26.0
8. Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 R5) +4:02.9
9. Jan Kopecky / Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:16.9
10. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye (Hyundai i20 R5) +5:20.7
20. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10:33.6
22. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +14:03.7