Delivering a confident and controlled drive behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have taken an early, but commanding lead at this weekend’s Tour de Corse.
Demonstrating the performance of the top-specification Fiesta on asphalt, the Frenchmen secured three out of a possible four stage victories and currently hold a 33.6 second advantage at the head of the field.
Elfyn Evans and Phil Mills may have had little time to develop the special relationship that exists between a driver and co-driver this weekend, but that hasn’t prevented the Welshmen from showing their potential. Currently holding a commendable sixth place, the pairing are just 0.3 seconds adrift of the top-five.
Despite their limited experience behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC, Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri have also delivered some strong times through the opening day of competition. Currently holding tenth-place overall, the pairing were a match for their more seasoned rivals through the shortest stage of the loop.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We saw a stunning drive from Sébastien and Julien in Mexico. To come here and see them continue that same level of performance is just incredible. We’ve made some good steps since last year and, as you can imagine, it was fantastic for all of us to see those splits coming through today.
“There is still a long way to go and, even if you have a good margin, you’ve got to keep focused and maintain the pace. We all know that anything can happen in rallying. In this game you can never afford to relax and we all need to stay at the top of our game going into the weekend.
“To think that Elfyn and Phil only had a few hours together before they even started the recce, I have to say that they have done a remarkable job. Having been part of Elfyn’s gravel crew, Phil is familiar with the notes but I’m sure it was a bit of a shock getting into one of these new cars for the first time!
“The delivery of the pacenotes and the relationship between the two of them has been getting better and better, and I hope they can continue that progress as the event goes on.
“Bryan too has had a really good day with some really impressive times. Experience is everything in rallying, and this is only his second time behind the wheel of one of these new cars. When you think about how much seat time everyone else has, I think he can be really happy with his performance – especially on the shorter stages where he was right on the pace.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia proved a force to be reckoned with through the opening day of competition at this weekend’s Tour de Corse.
Winning three of today’s four stages, the Frenchmen looked supremely confident and controlled behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC – and were just 1.8 seconds shy of securing a clean-sweep of fastest stage times.
Having established an impressive 33.6 second lead, the pairing have a good advantage, but will have to maintain their focus with some tricky sections still to come over the remainder of the event.
SS4: 4th (+1.8)
Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:
“We’ve had a great day. It’s always nice to be in the lead, but it’s even nicer to be leading on home soil. The car was very enjoyable to drive today and we’ve had a lot of fun out on the stages.
“We’ve made good progress since last year and in this sport you don’t achieve anything alone – it’s always a team effort. All the energy we’ve put into developing the car over the past year is really starting to pay off. We saw it already in Mexico with a good step forward on gravel, and so far I think we’ve improved on asphalt too which is very positive for the future.
“There’s still two days of rallying to come with a lot of new stages so there will be no time to relax. We’ll take the same approach that we had today into tomorrow, and try to stay in a good rhythm. These new sections will be very challenging, but we have to keep pushing.”
EVANS AND MILLS
With regular co-driver Daniel Barritt needing more rest before returning to competition, Phil Mills has been drafted in to call the notes for Elfyn Evans at this weekend’s Tour de Corse.
The 2003 FIA World Rally Champion Co-driver sampled the power and performance of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC for the first time during Thursday’s Shakedown – eight years since his last competitive outing on the world stage.
Despite having little time to adapt, the Welsh pairing remained focused on the job in hand – sitting a highly commendable sixth overall with the potential for further improvements as the event continues.
SS1: 6th (+30.5)
SS2: 9th (+7.2)
SS3: 9th (+32.7)
SS4: 9th (+5.2)
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“We knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing for us today, but I think it’s gone as well as we could have hoped in the circumstances. To be fair, Phil has done a really good job. We’re building that trust, and hopefully we can keep improving as the weekend goes on.
“My notes aren’t the easiest if you don’t know them inside out. Obviously Phil knows them quite well from being a part of our Route Note Crew, but there are little tricks and ways that things have to be read to makes everything flow a hundred percent. If you’re not used to reading them day after day it’s extremely difficult, so he’s done a really good job.
“There are a lot of new sections coming up tomorrow and, honestly, I was finding the going a bit easier in the more familiar sections today. We have to keep going so let’s just give it our best and see what we can do.”
BOUFFIER AND PANSERI
Taking to the wheel of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC for only the second time in competition, Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri are currently sitting in tenth place overall.
The Frenchmen may have considerably less experience than their rivals when it comes to these new-generation world rally cars, but that didn’t stop them showing their potential.
Posting the fifth fastest time through the first pass of ‘Piedigriggio - Pont de Casirla’ (SS2), the pairing were just four seconds shy of the fastest time – out-performing a number of their regularly-competing rivals.
They then repeated that performance through the second pass – posting a time just three second adrift of the stage-winning time.
SS1: 11th (+50.4)
SS2: 5th (+4.0)
SS3: 10th (+49.2)
SS4: 7th (+3.0)
Bryan Bouffier (10th) said:
“It’s been a good day and I was happy with both of our passes through the short stage. We still had something to find in the long one – and I was finding it difficult to place the car. We’ll discuss everything this evening and hope to show another improvement tomorrow.”
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:19:39.0
2. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +33.6
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +38.7
4. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +44.2
5. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:13.5
6. Elfyn Evans / Phil Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:13.8
7. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:14.4
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:25.0
9. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:29.2
10. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:44.8