Victims of their own success, M-Sport endured a tough opening day at this weekend’s Kennard’s Hire Rally Australia – Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak suffering through the worst of the loose gravel courtesy of their strong championship position.
Despite the disadvantage, the team remain in a close fight for the podium positions – Tänak’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC just 12.2 seconds adrift of the top-three.
With two long and challenging days of competition left to contest, there remains all to play for and the team are still in with a chance of making history with another podium result.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We knew that this weekend would be a difficult one for us. You could say that we have become the victims of our own success, but we’ve also had a few other issues throughout the day.
“As the first car on the road, Sébastien has had to deal with the worst of the road cleaning and you just have to look at the times to see what a handicap that was. The road was getting more and more competitive, but he also lost the rear diffuser this afternoon and has had to contend with an intermittent gear selection issue that we need to get to the bottom of.
“Ott was determined to capitalise on his slightly better road position, but lost the rear diffuser on the first stage of each loop. All of the aerodynamics are there for a reason so he definitely struggled without them. That said, he remains in a close battle for the podium and it’s not in his nature to give up without a fight.
“Elfyn knew that he would struggle here. He might have been fifth on the road, but the conditions just aren’t suited to his package this weekend. He’s kept a level head and focused on getting the experience for the future.
“We’ll face the same disadvantages tomorrow, but this is a very difficult rally which is a long way from being over. We certainly won’t give up without a fight.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja started Rally Australia intent on an attack through the loose-surface terrain – determined to overcome their early road position and challenge for victory.
Damaging the rear aerodynamics of their Ford Fiesta WRC through both loops of stages, their chances of victory were diminished but the Estonians remain in a close battle for the podium positions – just 12.2 seconds adrift of the top-three.
SS1: 6th (+5.3)
SS2: 7th (+8.3) SS3: 4th (+7.3)
SS4: 9th (+3.5)
SS5: 9th (+7.7)
SS6: 6th (+3.3)
SS8: 2nd (+0.7)
Ott Tänak (6th) said:
“It’s not been the start to the rally that we were hoping for and it’s not been easy with our road position. Obviously Thierry [Neuville] has done a good job so we can’t complain too much, but we had some damage to the aerodynamics early in both loops which made it even more difficult.
“Looking at the gaps, it’s still really close and the podium isn’t too far away. For sure it will be difficult with the cleaning tomorrow, but we have two very long days to come. If we can find a bit more performance and attack hard, anything is possible.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Having secured their fifth world title last time out in Wales, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were always going to be at a disadvantage this weekend – opening the road and having to contend with some of the most challenging road cleaning of the year.
Expecting to lose time, the Frenchmen impressed with a third fastest time through the opening speed test, but the loose-gravel of the later stages soon caught up with them. Combined with an intermittent gear selection issue, the pairing finished the day in eighth place overall.
SS1: 3rd (+2.6)
SS2: 8th (+9.8) SS3: 10th (+16.4)
SS4: 2nd (+0.7)
SS5: 11th (+11.6)
SS6: 9th (+7.1)
SS7: =5th (+1.4)
SS8: 4th (+1.4)
Sébastien Ogier (8th) said:
“It’s not been the optimum start to the rally, but we knew that we would be at a disadvantage this weekend. We had a gear selection issue throughout the day which didn’t help, and on the second two stages in particular you could see the road getting better and better with every car.
“Of course this means that we don’t have a great road position for tomorrow – when we expect the road cleaning to be even worse – but we will still try to enjoy. We’re far from a strong result at the moment and it won’t be easy for us tomorrow, but there’s still a long way to go and we will keep pushing.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Fresh from victory at the previous round in Wales, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt travelled to Rally Australia knowing that the conditions were unlikely to favour them this weekend.
Focused on the job in hand, the British pairing remain intent on completing all of the stages unscathed and gaining vital knowledge and experience for the future.
SS1: 10th (+10.0)
SS2: 10th (+18.4) SS3: 9th (+15.0)
SS4: 10th (+7.0)
SS5: 10th (+10.6)
SS6: 11th (+10.3)
SS7: 10th (+2.6)
SS8: 10th (+3.0)
Elfyn Evans (10th) said:
“We knew the conditions were unlikely to suit us this weekend. It’s all been about getting the experience and getting the notes fully up to date. This afternoon was a bit better, but we’re still just focused on the job in hand – on getting through the stages and taking the maximum we can away from this weekend.”
1. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ander Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 57:51.9
2. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +20.1
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +20.8
4. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.9
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +30.8
6. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.0
7. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +38.2
8. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +47.9
9. Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +57.3
10. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:13.8