M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia secured vital points at this weekend’s Rally Argentina – piloting their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC to fourth place and maintaining their lead at the head of the FIA World Rally Championship for both drivers and co-drivers.
With Elfyn Evans climbing to sixth, and Teemu Suninen learning the art of his trade in ninth, the team also secured solid points in what is becoming a close-fought battle between the four manufacturers.
Further down the field, there was also success for the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC 2 category – Gus Greensmith and Pedro Heller securing a double podium for the Blue Oval and equalling their career-best results in second and third places respectively.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“All things considered, it’s not been a bad weekend for us. We weren’t where we wanted to be, but we’ve taken some solid points and Sébastien continues to hold the lead in the drivers’ championship – which is always our goal.
“In Mexico we had a really good package, but it’s fair to say we can make some improvements on certain types of surface. We’ve certainly learnt a lot, and it was nice to see Sébastien set the second fastest time in the Power Stage – just half a second shy of the stage win.
“He and Julien know what it takes to win championships. It wasn’t going their way, but they didn’t get frustrated. They got the job done and brought home a strong haul of points which is what makes them so strong over the course of the season.
“Elfyn also secured a solid result despite it being a difficult weekend for him. I think we were all surprised to see him struggle as much as he did – himself included. But he certainly had no issues in the fog and it was that drive on Saturday morning which enabled him to get some good points on the board.
“Teemu did exactly what he needed to do this weekend – even if I’m sure it was frustrating for him at times. To make your Rally Argentina debut in one of these cars is never easy. It’s such a challenging event and you really do need the experience to excel. He has that now, and I’m sure he’ll be stronger in the future as a result.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Rally Argentina will remain the one that got away for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia for at least another year – the pairing forced to settle for fourth place on the only event they are yet to secure victory.
It looked good for the Frenchmen through the opening speed tests – claiming an early lead with the fastest time through the first gravel stage and closing Friday’s action just 10 seconds adrift of the podium positions; all despite the disadvantage of opening the road.
But as the weekend progressed, the pairing slipped from the fight and chose to play the long game when fog blighted Saturday’s stages – not taking the same risks as their rivals and opting to safeguard a strong haul of points for their championship defence.
Securing 12 points for fourth place as well as an additional four points with the second fastest time behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC on the Power Stage, Ogier and Ingrassia maintain a 10 point lead at the head of the standings.
SS16: 2nd (+0.5)
SS17: 5th (+12.0)
SS18: 2nd (+0.5)
Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:
“There was an amazing atmosphere this weekend and I’ve never seen so many fans out on the stages. It wasn’t an easy rally for us and we need to work on some areas to improve. But when you come away from a difficult event with 16 points, it’s not so bad.
“As expected, the stages were challenging again today. They were rough and slow with very low grip – and we weren’t super-fast in those conditions. We had to push hard to try and make a good time in the Power Stage, and we managed to grab four points which was important.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt may have struggled to find their usual pace this weekend, but a controlled and error-free drive behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC delivered a solid sixth place.
The Brits had been hoping for more, but they certainly had no issues in the fog which on the first pass of ‘Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos’ (SS11). Whereas others struggled to find their rhythm, Evans was at one with his pacenotes – delivering a committed drive and climbing two places in the process.
As the event continued, the Welshman climbed another place and remains resolute on recovering his form when the Championship returns to Europe next month.
SS16: 7th (+6.6)
SS17: 7th (+14.1)
SS18: 8th (+9.9)
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“All things considered, sixth place isn’t a bad result and it was good to get some solid points on the board. But the pace just wasn’t there this weekend. It was disappointing and not what we came here to do. We need to do some analysis to try and understand why that was. The engineers will study the data, I’ll study the onboards, and hopefully we can get back on it in Portugal.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Contesting Rally Argentina for the very first time this weekend, Teemu Suninen adopted a measured approach – intent on securing the knowledge and experience which is so vital to future success on this notoriously challenging event.
Guided by experienced co-driver Mikko Markkula, the young Finn completed all of the stages unscathed – confirming his pacenotes and learning the detailed set-ups required for optimum performance on each of the varying roads.
Becoming more comfortable behind the wheel of his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC as the event progressed, Suninen held his own and also outperformed some of his more experienced rivals on more than one occasion.
SS16: 8th (+22.4)
SS17: 11th (+52.0)
SS18: 9th (+20.0)
Teemu Suninen (9th) said:
“It’s been a challenging weekend, but I have to say that the car has been amazing. It’s really nice to drive and really easy to drive. From that side I really enjoyed the rally – even though I would have liked to have been a bit faster.
“On Friday we weren’t able to set the fast times and that gave us the worst starting position for the next two days. It’s like that for everyone, but we need to work on having a better Friday so that we have a better starting position for the weekend.
“But overall it has been a good experience – not an easy one, but a good one. Next year it will be much easier to prepare as we’ll know what to expect and what the biggest challenges will be.”
1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:43:28.9
2. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +37.7
3. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:15.7
4. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:58.6
5. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:02.6
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:06.3
7. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +3:25.7
8. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:32.6
9. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5:38.6
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +12:15.8