COSTA DAURADA, Spain - Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak secured a double podium for the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC at this weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España. The result puts M-Sport within striking distance of the manufacturers’ crown needing just four points over the remaining two events to seal the deal.
Delivering an impressive performance on this weekend’s mixed-surface terrain, the Fiesta posted fastest stage times on both gravel and asphalt and accounts for five of the overall top-eight positions.
Lifting their podium tally to 16, M-Sport also continue their unbroken record of top-three finishes with a Fiesta driver claiming the silverware on every event contested thus far.
There was also good news further down the field as Teemu Suninen claimed victory in the WRC 2 category with the Ford Fiesta R5 and Nil Solans secured the WRC 3 win as well as the FIA Junior World Rally Championship title with the Ford Fiesta R2.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We might not have taken the win this weekend, but it almost feels that way. Another double podium is fantastic and extends our lead in both championships. If that weren’t enough, Ott has also moved up to second in the drivers’ standings.
“To have our two drivers leading the way is something we never thought possible, and Elfyn too is just one point shy of climbing into the top-five. It just goes to show that the whole team has done an incredible job and I think we can look forward to a really special event on home soil in two weeks’ time.
“We’re continuing to show that we have a competitive package on every surface with stage wins on both gravel and Tarmac and another two podium finishes to keep our record-breaking run on track.
“But it’s not just the top-specification Fiesta that is performing well. Teemu Suninen secured the WRC 2 victory with the Fiesta R5, and Nil Solans secured the WRC 3 win and the Junior WRC title with the Fiesta R2. All round, it has been a great weekend for the team.”
Securing second place at this weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have secured vital points for their championship defence. With main rival Thierry Neuville failing to finish, the Frenchmen now hold a 37-point lead over team mate Tänak.
Posting fastest stage times on both gravel and asphalt, Ogier and Ingrassia have excelled on all surfaces this weekend, but made the difference with a stunning performance through the loose-surface terrain when opening the road on Friday.
Knowing that they would be at a disadvantage through the loose gravel, the pairing applied all of their knowledgeable expertise to target a push through both passes of the pivotal Terra Alta stage – a strategy which saw them just 1.4 seconds adrift of the lead before the move to asphalt.
With the Fiestas transformed into their asphalt guise, Ogier worked hard to find a good balance in the car and fought off a late charge from Tänak. An additional three points for the third fastest time through the Power Stage finished off a job well done for the reigning World Champion.
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“We’ve taken a really positive step towards the championship this weekend. I think we were on course to extend the lead anyway, but with Thierry’s mistake that changed the picture completely and we’ve been able to extend the gap even more.
“We were never really in a position where we had to take all the risks, but we still had to keep a good rhythm. There was no chance to fight with Kris [Meeke] as he was just on another level on the Tarmac, but we had a clean drive and it’s definitely been a positive weekend.
“It’s been good news for the team too as the manufacturers’ championship is now pretty much done and we can start to plan a bit of a party for their home event in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja claimed their sixth podium of the year with a fine third place at this weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España. An additional two points from the Power Stage also elevated them to second place in the drivers’ championship – 37 points shy of team mate Ogier with 60 points still up for grabs.
Having led the rally through the early stages, Tänak looked set to challenge for victory before a slow puncture on Friday followed by a precautionary gearbox change on Saturday prevented him from launching a full-on attack.
Locked in an in-house battle with his team mate through the final kilometres, Tänak had to tackle the super-smooth asphalt with a gearbox which was configured to his loose-surface set-up. Unable to extract those extra tenths that come as a result of a fully confident feeling behind the wheel, he had to concede second place to Ogier but kept his championship hopes alive.
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“We feel good at the end of this one. This result was more or less the maximum we could do this weekend so a great result overall.
“I think our first day was particularly good. We were quite early in the running order and still managed to stay close to the lead. Then on Tarmac we had a couple of small issues but generally a good run and a good feeling with the car.
“For sure there will be a big fight for second place in the drivers’ championship now. Sébastien is pretty safe, but there is still something to fight for and two more exciting events ahead.”
RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España has rarely been kind to Elfyn Evans, and the Welshman would endure another tough weekend this year.
Despite a lack of traction on the multi-surface event, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt remained the ultimate professionals – making it through all of the stages and collecting valuable data on their way to Evans’ best result on Spanish soil.
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“Everyone knows that this was a tough weekend for us, but we kept our heads down and got the job done. It’s not been easy, but we managed to get a lot of information from all of the kilometres and now we can start to focus on Wales Rally GB.”
1. Sébastien Ogier - 198
2. Ott Tänak - 161
3. Thierry Neuville - 160
4. Jari-Matti Latvala - 123
5. Dani Sordo - 94
6. Elfyn Evans - 93
7. Juha Hänninen - 71
8. Craig Breen - 64
9. Kris Meeke - 60
10. Hayden Paddon - 55
1. M-Sport World Rally Team - 358
2. Hyundai Motorsport - 275
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC - 225