WALES, Great Britain - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team drivers Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia threw down the gauntlet to their competitors with an all-out attack on Wales Rally GB’s ‘Super Saturday’ to jump from 5th place overnight to take the lead in what is proving to be an epic three way battle for the 2018 FIA WRC Drivers Championship.
The crews left Deeside Rally Village at 0530 under cover of darkness for the longest and arguably the most difficult day of the rally. With 150.24km to cover over nine (9) special stages crucially without the traditional midday service, the crews battled the changeable conditions to return to Deeside 14 hours later with the leaderboard flipped after a day of high speed action on the classic rallying stages of mid Wale
The French pairing who have won this rally 4 times in the last 5 years started the day in the best possible way moving from an overnight 5th position to 3rd with a stunning time on the days opening stage ‘Myherin’. 3rd became 2nd one stage later when Championship leader, Thierry Neuville slipped off the road and lost 45s while the enthusiastic Welsh fans pushed him back onto the special stage. This elevated Sebastien and Julien to 2nd overall as the tight battle for the podium places captivated the 1000s of spectators that lined the roadside.
At the lunchtime regroup in the centre of Newtown, 7s covered 2nd to 5th place overall as the fight for the podium raged on. Through the afternoon repeat stages, the battle for the podium became the battle for the lead as Championship challenger Ott Tanak retired with a technical issue on SS16 ‘Sweet Lamb Hafren’.
Over the closing stages of the day, a duel erupted between former team-mates Ogier / Ingrassia and Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttilla with the French duo taking the overnight lead with a margin of 4.4s.
In the second Ford Fiesta WRC, the home crew of Elfyn Evans / Dan Barritt fought off the disappointment of an early retirement on day one of their home rally when a sensor on the engine failed leaving them unable to start the second loop of stages. Without the ability to fight to defend their memorable 2017 win, Elfyn and Dan concentrated on consolidating their knowledge of the stages and entertaining the fans that lined the route.
With another 0530 start tomorrow, the winner of the 2018 Wales Rally GB will be decided over 55.6kms of North Wales stages including two runs over the tarmac covered Great Orme Toll Road finishing in the centre of Llandudno.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Today has been pretty close to a perfect day for Sebastien and Julien. Last night I was sitting here thinking how much things can change in 12 months – but today really has been a ‘Super Saturday’ for us and tonight I am thinking how much it can all change in 24 hours!
This season has been incredible – we really felt after Turkey that we were on the back foot coming here, but if the result ends as it is now the two final events will probably be like nothing I have seen before in the last twenty years of doing this job.
This morning we had a target to get to 2nd in the rally – but with Ott’s problems that helped us get into the lead of the rally. At the moment it is not a comfortable lead with Jari (Matti Latvala) breathing down our neck but it is a lead nonetheless.
It really is going to be a fantastic battle tomorrow. The stages will suit Seb and the car a bit more. I just hope that Tommi (Makinen) is going to tell Jari to think about the manufacturers championship points!
Elfyn has had a difficult job to do today after the disappointment of retiring from the fight for the lead yesterday, but he has done a great job in front of the passionate Welsh rally fans and I hope that he can push tomorrow and finish the job in style.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
FIRST AFTER EIGHTEEN STAGES
Lying in 5th place overnight, 5 time World Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia showed their determination to win again and put in a champions display to climb up the leader board through a humongous day of 150km of special stages. Up to 3rd with fastest time on the opening stage, misfortune for championship rival Thierry Neuville on the first run through the ‘Sweet Lamb Hafren’ stage helped the M-Sport Ford crew to 2nd. This was followed by a further climb into the lead of the rally when technical issues befell the leader and fellow championship rival Ott Tanak. Sébastien and Julien now find themselves in a tight battle with Jari-Matti Latvala for the lead of the rally as only 4.4s separate the drivers going into the final day.
SS11: 6th (+9.6s)
SS12: 4th (+2.5s)
SS13: 7th (+3.3s)
SS14: 6th (+1.6s)
SS16: 2nd (+2.6s)
SS17: 4th (+2.6s)
SS18: 5th (+5.2s)
Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:
“Today has been a good day, but being in the lead tonight is a bit of a surprise. When I heard about Ott [Tänak], I really felt for him because he was much faster than all of us this weekend. Instead of fighting for second place we now find ourselves in a big fight for the victory. Yesterday was a tough one and I said I would take full risk - and it worked. We finally had a clean day without problems. But it’s very close and it won’t be easy to maintain the lead tomorrow. We have to keep fighting.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
TWENTY THIRD AFTER EIGHTEEN STAGES
Faced with the disappointment of having to retire from a battle for the lead of the rally on the opening day – local crew Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt climbed from 39th overall to 23rd during the course of the day, entertaining the Welsh fans who lined the rallies special stages.
SS10: 9th (+8.2s)
SS11: 9th (14.8s)
SS12: 9th (+5.9s)
SS13: 10th (+4.6s)
SS14: 9th (+2.2s)
SS15: 5th (+3.7s)
SS16: 8th (+7.5s)
SS17: 9th (+6.9s)
SS18: 9th (+9.4s)
Elfyn Evans (24th) said:
“It’s been OK today, it’s difficult without something really to fight for as such, but the stages have been great to be honest, real good fun to drive and the atmosphere from the home fans has been great out there. Overall, enjoyable but still frustrating at the same time!
Tomorrow we will have to wait and see what is possible on the Power Stage, we will sit down with the team tonight and work out what we can do and then go from there.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula retired overnight as the car had sustained roll cage damage and was unable to be repaired in the allocated time.
Gus Greensmith (11th Overall, 3rd WRC 2) said:
“The morning was going really well. We were fastest on the opening stage, taking time out of Pontus [Tidemand] and got the gap down to under four seconds. When we were about to move into second position we had what I’d call a ‘fairly reasonably high speed spin’, which is probably a nice way to put it. We ended up going backwards down the road and lost about 15-20 seconds. After that we couldn’t really break the gap by that time. In the afternoon we settled into a rhythm and we weren’t pushing too hard, but the time came back to us in the final two stages. We really weren’t trying and we were within a second of the stage win each time. It’s been a good day and I’ve just been told if I finish third I will secure third place in the championship - which is good. The plan for tomorrow is to just bring it home.”
Matt Edwards (19th Overall, 2nd BRC) said:
“It has been a challenging day to be honest, we struggled a bit this morning – the balance of the car felt a bit different. We softened it off a lot and it was then mega for the middle batch of stages. The times and the confidence were there. As the stages dried out we were generally too soft with everything and it was difficult to get stability on the fast corners and keep it on the clean line. Overall it is just a great experience to be trying to compete at this level and you really need to have a perfect set-up on every stage to get the best. Any compromise on the set-up punishes you and you can feel the time slipping away.
Tomorrow I would like to finish the rally confident with the set-up and without having to force the driving to get the times. The stages are close to home and we would like to finish the weekend with a positive push.”
Alex Laffey (23rd Overall, 3rd BRC) said:
“It’s been a good day today. We’ve kept ourselves out of trouble which was the goal. As the conditions dried our pace improved and we were a lot closer to the WRC 2 guys. I’m pretty happy with how it’s going so far and we just need to push a little harder to get closer to them now. The stages tomorrow go back to a bit of a trickier nature, so we will take the first stage how it comes and keep going from there.”
Gaurav Gill (25th Overall) said:
“It was a long day with very challenging conditions, changing all the time. We had some new tyres to try so it was quite challenging starting a stage without having driven on the tyre before, real time development. We had some really good times on some of the stages and we have achieved what we came here to do and so we are really happy. Tomorrow is completely different again and we want to finish the rally and show that we have good speed”
Éric Camilli (28th Overall – Rally2) said:
“It was a better day than yesterday to be honest, the car worked very well but we struggled a bit to set the car with the tyres and we lost a couple of good stage times with three punctures. It is a bit like the day is not finished because the split times were good and we did the best time on the long stage this afternoon. We had the pace and that was the target of today. Tomorrow we hope that we will be able to continue and prove the pace of our car.”
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:31.22.5
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.4
3. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.8
4. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +13.5
5. Mads Ostberg / Torstein Erikson (Citroen C3 WRC) +34.1
6. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +36.5
7. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshal (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +45.4
8. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +55.5
9. Kalle Rovanpeara / Jonne Hultunen (Skoda Fabia R5) +7.30.8
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +8.33.9
23. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +21.03.9