WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2013

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VM kalendern 2013 VM kalendern 2014
15-20 jan Monte Carlo  
7-10 febr Sverige  
7-10 mars Mexico  
11-14 april Portugal *  
2-5 maj Argentina  
31 maj-2 juni Grekland *  
21-23 juni Italien  
1-4 aug Rally Finland  
22-27 aug Rally Tyskland *  
12-15 sept Australien  
3-6 okt Frankrike *  
24-27 okt Spanien *  
13-17 nov England  
 
= Rallyt pågår
 
 
* = Junior-VM
 
17-19 jan Monte Carlo  
5-8 febr Sverige  
6-9 mars Mexico  
4-6 april Portugal  
8-11 maj Argentina  
30 maj-1 juni Italien  
27-29 juni Polen  
1-3 aug Finland  
22-24 aug Tyskland  
12-14 sept Australien  
3-5 okt Franrkike  
24-26 okt Spanien  
14-16 nov England  
 
= Rallyt pågår
 
 
 

13-12-18 Ott Tänak returns to WRC in 2014
In the press conference held today in Saku Suurhall Ott Tänak revealed his plans for 2014. According to their programme he and his co-driver Raigo Moölder will do nine rounds in brand new team Drive DMACK with Ford Fiesta R5 and three rounds with M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Drive DMACK is set to campaign a two-car team in the WRC2 series, beside Tänak other driver in the team is Jari Ketomaa.
Ott Tänak: „This is a great opportunity for us to come back to WRC. Our programm contains 12 rounds and this gives us the opportunity to find again our speed and prove ourselves among other WRC top- drivers. We have to be more stable in WRC rallies and show good and calculated speed. In WRC 2 our goal is to fight for the high places. More teams have come to WRC and if we will be fast, stabile and also successful it is a good basis for us to have a seat in WRC in 2015.
Raigo Moölder is a co-driver for Ott Tänak in 2014, they have worked together in 2007-2009. After that Raigo was co-driver of Georg Gross in Ford Focus WRC. This year they were crowned as Estonian rally champions.
Raigo Moölder: „This is a challenge and also a big responsibility for me. I'd like to thank the team for the opportunity. This is a big step for me and means lot of work. Looking forward to the first start in 2014.“
Many people have worked hard to realise this programme. A huge effort from Markko Ma¨rtin and Malcolm Wilson to finalize the programme. Also supporters like Oleg Gross, many other Ott Tänak's long term supporters and DMACK who are helping to realise the 2014 programme for Ott Tänak.

Ott Tänak and Raigo Moölder are starting their season with Rally Sweden where they are starting with M- Sport prepared Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Other two rounds with WRC car will be Rally Portugal and Rally Sardegna. Their WRC2 challenge for DMACK will kick off with Rally Mexico.
There are also plans for Estonian rallies, if the budget allows then auto24 Rally Estonia in July which is a round of ERC and also Rally Saaremaa in October.
13-12-13 Robert Kubica confirms 2014 Campaign
Robert Kubica and his long-term partner, Lotos, are delighted to announce their plans for the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The Pole will contest all 13 rounds of next season’s championship with a Lotos-supported Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Following some inspiring performances in 2013, M-Sport were eager to see Kubica progress his career within the team. The Pole’s dominant display in this year’s WRC 2 series saw him burst onto the world stage in style, and M-Sport will provide him with a great platform from which to advance his career at the sport’s highest level.

Having won five of his seven WRC 2 events this year, there is no doubting Kubica’s speed and skill behind the wheel of a rally car, but it is the WRC 2 Champion’s ambition and determination which makes him an ideal candidate for the M-Sport squad.

Having made his WRC world rally car debut at the season-closing round in Wales last month, Kubica is keen to develop and build on his experience at rallying’s highest league.

Contesting all 13 rounds of next season’s championship, there will be a number of new experiences for the 29-year-old including the specialist stages of Sweden’s snow-covered countryside and the high-altitudes and soaring temperatures of the Americas.

Of course, there are few drivers who possess the former Formula One driver’s desire to succeed, and armed with the Fiesta RS WRC, the WRC community should prepare for the coming of Kubica.

Robert Kubica said:
“I am really glad that I will participate in all 13 rounds of the [FIA] World Rally Championship [WRC] with the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC. The support of my partner, LOTOS Group, combined with the knowledge and experience of M-Sport will create a solid foundation for my further development and I am looking forward to gathering valuable experience on the WRC stages.”

CEO of Grupa LOTOS, Pawel Olechnowicz, said:
“A decisive victory for Robert [Kubica] in the WRC 2 class in 2013 confirmed his extraordinary talent and determination. We are very pleased that we can support such an excellent driver. Robert has consistently pursued further goals and does so with a passion that characterises only the greatest athletes. We believe that next year he will confirm his position amongst the top rally drivers in the world.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I am thrilled that Robert [Kubica] will be contesting next season in a [Ford] Fiesta [RS WRC]. Since he burst onto the WRC [FIA World Rally Championship] scene earlier this year, we have been very keen to have him on-board and I think that we can expect some great things from him in 2014.

“You only have to look at the way Robert prepared for the 2013 season to see what it all means to him. He has a desire and a hunger which you don't see in many drivers and I truly believe that M-Sport can offer him all the right tools to move forward in rallying.”
13-12-13 M-Sport confirm Hirvonen and Evans for 2014
M-Sport will field a mix of youth and experience in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as the winning potential of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are combined with the raw talent and ambition of Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt. Both crews will take to the Cumbrian firm’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC for all 13 rounds of next season’s championship.

The news that Hirvonen is coming home will bring a smile to the face of many a rally fan. Having started his WRC career with the Ford / M-Sport operation in 2003, the Finn enjoyed eight years behind the wheel of M-Sport machinery and was instrumental in securing Ford’s back-to-back manufacturers’ titles in 2006 and 2007. With fourteen of his fifteen victories claimed with M-Sport’s range of award-winning rally cars, Hirvonen’s return also provides the team with a real contender for rally wins.

The Finn is hungry for success. Having finished as vice champion on four separate occasions, he was one of nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb’s main rivals and missed out on the 2009 championship laurels by a single point.

As he and Lehtinen return to the team which delivered the bulk of their success, the squad will be keen to see the Fiesta RS WRC piloted to the best of its potential. Since parting ways with M-Sport in 2012, the two Finns remained a popular crew in the eyes of the M-Sport family, and their homecoming brings a real enthusiasm for the season ahead.

Occupying the seat of the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, is one of rallying’s most promising up-and-coming young talents. Evans’ breakthrough performance in 2013 saw him elevated to the top of WRC competition. The Welshman showcased some impressive pace in the WRC 2 category, but it was arguably his performance at Rally Italia Sardegna which saw him stamp his authority on the world stage.

A world rally car debut is no mean feat, but when combined with unknown stages, an unfamiliar co-driver and a mere two days of preparation, the youngster’s sixth place finish was a revelation which saw him join an elite group of ‘rookies’ to have impressed to such an extent on their world rally car debut.

Working closely with the team, Evans and Barritt will be given the opportunity to learn from their team-mates’ expertise whilst refining their own pace and experience ahead of a prospective long-term campaign with the Cumbrian firm.

In 2005, Ford and M-Sport set out to create an effective ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ through which rallying’s brightest talents might progress to the pinnacle of the sport. Evans provides a near-perfect example of that system in operation.

The youngster started his career with the Ford / M-Sport partnership in 2007, winning the Ford Fiesta SportTrophy series in both the UK and Ireland. Progressing from the Ford Fiesta ST to the globally successful Ford Fiesta R2, it was not long before he was a regular on the WRC stage – winning the 2012 FIA WRC Academy Cup with a dominant display on both gravel and asphalt. The WRC 2 category swiftly followed with some inspired performances behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5, and in 2014, the Welshman will complete his ladder of success by lining-up for a full season in M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“To be back in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, it really feels as though I am coming home. The last two years were really good for myself and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver], but although we will take a lot of good memories with us, we didn’t necessarily achieve what we set out to do. Joining M-Sport will give us a good chance to try again – a fresh start in a car we know we can be competitive in. We are motivated to win, and we are in the best possible place to do that.

“There are definitely some rallies that we will be targeting. We know that the Fiesta is competitive on every surface, but Sweden and Finland are two rallies that I particularly enjoy. Ultimately however, I want to be in a position to fight throughout the entire season. I want to be a contender for the championship, and at M-Sport, we can achieve that.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“It is an absolutely fantastic feeling to know that I will be driving a world rally car for a full season next year! Last year was a real development year for us, so it is great to be able to take the next step in my career and for myself and Dan [Barritt, co-driver] to really progress within the team. The great thing about this programme is that it gives us time. The whole team is behind us and we have a long-term plan to get to where we all, ultimately, want to be. This is just the first step and I am extremely grateful to Malcolm [Wilson] and M-Sport for this opportunity and their belief in my future.

“Of course we are under no illusion that it is going to be an easy year. We need to view it as a learning curve. There are a lot of specialist events that I have never previously contested, and the first half of the season will be about getting to the end of each rally with as much knowledge and experience as possible. Having Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] in the team is certainly a big positive for us. They know what it takes to win at this level and we can learn a lot from them.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We have pitched a combination of youth and experience for our assault on the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship. Mikko [Hirvonen] has always been a very popular member of the team. He has done well here [at M-Sport] in the past, and he provides us with the potential to battle for victories at a number of events throughout the year. We all know what he is capable of behind the wheel of a Fiesta, and he has lost none of his ambition and determination to win.

“I am also delighted to announce that Elfyn [Evans] will partner Mikko in the sister M-Sport Fiesta [RS WRC]. I have no doubt that he is ready for this opportunity. Over the course of the season, he proved that he has both the mental strength and speed to learn whilst securing some very strong results. I am looking forward to seeing how he develops, and although we are not expecting him to challenge for any wins this season, his talent could certainly spring a few surprises. We have a long-term plan for Elfyn and Dan [Barritt, co-driver] and this is just the first step along the path to championship success.”
13-12-09 Kris Meeke, Mads Østberg and Khalid Al Qassimi to compete for Citroën Racing in 2014
Citroën Racing is delighted to announce its line-up for the 2014 World Rally Championship. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson will be the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s driver/co-driver pairings in the DS3 WRC next season.

Having won the World Rally Championship eight times between 2003 and 2012, Citroën Racing is to continue its involvement in WRC with two new high-potential pairings.

Kris Meeke came through the ranks of Citroën Racing’s promotional formulas, before driving a C2 Super 1600 for the brand in the Junior WRC. IRC Champion in 2009, the Northern Irishman has since made a return to the World Championship. His two 2013 appearances saw him put in some impressive performances at the wheel of the DS3 WRC. In 2014, these occasional outings will give way to a full programme, as he becomes the first British driver to race a full season since Colin McRae’s 2003 swansong with Citroën.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” says a delighted Kris Meeke. “I’ve always been close to Citroën over the last few years. I’m really lucky to be able to work with a team that has so much experience and so many titles.”

“I have only competed in ten World Championship rallies in a WRC,” he says. “I think I’ve got some potential, but I still need to get some experience under my belt. The Citroën DS3 WRC is a terrific car and I’m going to be able to use the team’s knowledge to help me improve. I know that I’ll have to be patient in the first half of the season and learn all about the rallies that I haven’t done before.”

26-year-old Mads Østberg has already taken part in 65 WRC rallies and won the Norwegian Championship four times. With seven podium finishes to his name at world level, he notched up his first WRC victory at the Rally of Portugal in 2012.

“I am very happy and proud to be joining Citroën Racing,” explains the Norwegian. “We worked hard to get an official driver’s spot. After so many years watching Citroën win, it’s a dream come true to be part of this team.”

“Competing is the most important thing,” adds Mads. “And even though I don’t know the team or the car yet, I can recognise the worth of the guys and the Citroën DS3 WRC. Of course, I’m joining Citroën Racing to get some good results and to try and win some rallies. I’ve always shown that I could be quick. I know that the standard in the World Rally Championship is exceptionally high, but I want to be competitive!”

Like last year, Khalid Al Qassimi will take part in a selection of World Championship rallies. The driver from Abu Dhabi will line up for the races in Sweden, Portugal, Italy and Spain and will concentrate on taking part in the entire Middle East rally Championship.

“Our team line-up for the 2014 season is in keeping with our ambitions,” concludes Yves Matton, Managing Director of Citroën Racing. “Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg have followed very different career paths, but both of them are on the cusp of making it into the very top class of world rally drivers. After an initial phase of learning and getting to know each other, our goal will be to help them to improve and turn them into real contenders for victory.”
13-11-18 Dubbelt Volkswagen i topp i WRC-avslutningen
Volkswagens framgångsrika säsong i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) avrundades med teamets bästa resultat i år. Ogier/Ingrassia vann VM-rallyt i Wales före teamkamraterna Latvala/Anttila. Den tredje Polo R WRC med Mikkelsen/Markkula kom på femte plats.

Sverige, Mexiko, Portugal, Grekland, Italien, Finland, Australien, Frankrike, Spanien och nu Storbritannien: Volkswagen har haft ett fenomenalt debutår med Polo R WRC, med segrar på tio av de 13 deltävlingarna. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike) är världsmästare* i förar- och kartläsarmästerskapet och tillsammans med Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) vann Volkswagen också konstruktörsmästerskapet.

Även om titlarna redan var säkrade slog man inte av på takten i den sista tävlingen i Wales, 13-17 november. Etta, tvåa och femma var teamets bästa resultat under ett rally denna säsong. Ogier och Ingrassias seger var förarparets nionde under 2013.

De tre Volkswagenbilarna vann 16 av de 22 specialsträckorna och nådde 41 av 66 möjliga topp-tre-resultat. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia vann nio specialsträckor, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila fem och Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula var snabbast på två. Rallyt satte både teamet och bilarna på hårda prov genom de walesiska skogarna, med vattenfyllda och leriga vägar. Endast tre specialsträckor kördes på asfalt.

Nästa säsong drar igång 14-19 januari med Monte Carlo-rallyt. Omedelbart efter rallyt i Wales börjar Volkswagens mekaniker att arbeta med bilarna för att komma väl förberedda. Tester på asfalt, is och snö är också inplanerade för förare, ingenjörer och mekaniker. Hela Volkswagenteamet kan också se fram emot den 6 december då den officiella prisceremonin äger rum i Paris.

Citat efter Wales Rally Great Britain, 13-17 november
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
– Tvåa på sista tävlingen är ett hyggligt resultat, men jag hade hoppats på mer. Vårt tempo var i princip okej, men tyvärr jag gjorde för många små misstag för att kunna hota Sébastien. Jag var riktigt hungrig på att vinna detta rally för tredje gången i rad, men Seb har gjort ett perfekt resultat. När han är på detta humör är han nästan oslagbar. Ser jag tillbaka på min första säsong med Volkswagen har det varit en bergochdalbana, men nu känner jag mig hemma i Polo R WRC. Det var från början klart att 2013 skulle bli något av ett lärande år. Sättet säsongen startade i Monte Carlo, Sverige och mitt hemmarally i Finland var svårt att ta. I kontrast till detta var min efterlängtade första seger i Grekland, ytterligare sju pallplatser och seger i konstruktörsmästerskapet. På toppen av det har jag nu mycket mer erfarenhet och ett stort självförtroende inför nästa säsong.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
– Det här är det perfekta slutet på en perfekt säsong. Jag är mycket glad och mycket stolt över denna seger, eftersom Rally Wales är en av de tuffaste i kalendern. Saker har inte alltid gått som planerat här för mig under de senaste åren. Vi försökte bara att hålla försprånget fram till målgång idag. Nu när säsongen är över kan jag se tillbaka på ett fantastiskt år. Om någon hade förutspått innan säsongen att Julien och jag skulle sluta med nio segrar och VM-titeln, skulle vi förmodligen har skickat honom direkt till teamets läkare. Jag kan inte säga tack tillräckligt ofta: teamet gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb under vårt debutår. De gjorde denna framgång möjlig genom att förse mig med en magnifik bil!

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
– Allt som allt är jag nöjd med rallyt, men jag hoppades givetvis på mer. Efter att ha kämpat mig till fjärde plats igår, bara 20 sekunder bakom Thierry Neuville, försökte jag att sätta press. Men då började misstagen komma och jag snurrade två gånger. Femte plats är definitivt ett bra resultat som man kan vara stolt över. Jag ser redan fram emot 2014, då vi kommer att visa vad vi är kapabla till.

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport
– Du kan knappast önska ett bättre slut på vad som har varit en fantastisk WRC-säsong för oss. Dubbelseger med alla tre förare bland de fem bästa, rallyt var vårt mest framgångsrika under säsongen. Vi fick se en magnifik duell mellan Sébastien Ogier och Jari-Matti Latvala. Och en mycket mogen och snabb Andreas Mikkelsen som körde för en pallplats. Vi kan ha stora förhoppningar på alla tre Volkswagenförarna nästa år. Jag är också mycket stolt över hela vårt team. Även om vi hade mindre möjligheter än vanligt att serva bilarna den här helgen, var arbetet inte bara väloljad, utan klanderfritt. Vi har inte ett enda tekniskt problem i Wales. Vi har inte drabbats av ett enda motorhaveri under säsongen, inte heller har vi förlorat ett enda chassi som en följd av en krasch. Det är extraordinärt!

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Wales Rally Great Britain – Resultat
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3:03.36.7
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 21.8 sek
Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 1:24.5 min
Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 1:48.2 min
Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen + 2:03.4 min
Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford + 7:37.5 min
Daniel Sordo/Carlos Del Barrio (E/E), Citroën + 8:27.9 min
Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 11:13.1 min
Jari Ketomaa/Tapio Suominen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 12:16.2 min
Mark Higgings/Carl Williamson (GB/GB), Ford + 13:21.0 min
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – Slutställning

Förarmästerskapet
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen, 290 poäng
Thierry Neuville, Ford, 176
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen, 162
Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën, 126
Daniel Sordo, Citroën,123
Mads Østberg, Ford, 102
Evgeny Novikov, Ford, 69
Sébastien Loeb, Citroën, 68
Konstruktörsmästerskapet

Volkswagen Motorsport, 425 poäng
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 280
Qatar M-Sport WRT, 190
Qatar WRT, 184
Jipocar Czech National Team, 65

* Med förbehåll tills resultaten publiceras officiellt av FIA
www.volkswagen-motorsport.com

13-11-18 Podium finish for Qatar M-Sport and vice Champion Neuville
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville finished his season on another high today as a seventh podium result was enough to secure the runner-up spot in the FIA World Rally Championship’s drivers’ standings*. Elfyn Evans too gave the Welsh fans something to cheer about as he led home a one, two, three for the Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC 2 support series.

A fantastic event for M-Sport also included a further one, two, three for the team through the points-paying Power Stage and 10 M-Sport built cars in the overall top-14 – four Ford Fiesta RS WRCs five Fiesta R5s and one Ford Fiesta RRC.

There is no better way to finish a fantastic WRC season than with a fantastic stage, and that was how events unfolded in Wales today as the legendary Great Orme closed proceedings.

Prior to tackling the tricky contours of the mountain headland, crews endured second runs through both the Dyfnant and Clocaenog forests – the latter encompassing the all-important Power Stage – as well as one run through Penllyn and two over a new spectator special in the confines of Kinmel Park. If the challenging stages weren’t daunting enough, the crews had to find the perfect balance between speed and caution with just one 15 minute service opening the day, and nothing more.

Focused as always, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul consolidated their position perfectly. Keeping their Fiesta RS WRC firmly planted to the gravel stages, the pairing were not going to let their podium finish and second place in the championship* slip through their grasp – a mentality they highlighted by claiming the fastest time and maximum points through the Power Stage.

Bringing what has been a sensational season to a close, the Belgians brought their tally of podium finishes to seven overall – an achievement which came hand-in-hand with a thoroughly deserved vice championship.*

Left to rue what might have been on an event they consider a home-from-home, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson were on a flyer having discovered a favourable set-up for their Fiesta RS WRC. Claiming a stage win on Penllyn (SS18), the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team pairing had a flawless run through the event’s final day – leap-frogging fellow Scandinavian, Andreas Mikkelsen, for fourth place overall.

With the M-Sport team having worked throughout the night to repair the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Evgeny Novikov was back on the stages – entertaining the crowds through the season’s final stint. Using their time wisely on what were relatively unfamiliar stages, he and co-driver Ilka Minor focused on perfecting their pacenotes ahead of a return to the Welsh forests. Having rolled his Fiesta on yesterday’s first pass of Dyfi, the Russian climbed four places from 23rd to 19th overall.

However it was in the WRC 2 support series where the Welsh fans really had something to cheer about as local-man Elfyn Evans secured his maiden victory. Partnered by co-driver Daniel Barritt, the Welshman didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend. Controlling his lead in near-perfect fashion, Evans looked supreme behind the wheel of his Fiesta R5 – leading a one, two, three for M-Sport’s latest model.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I felt after Qualifying that we would be able to secure a good result here, and that is what we have done. Most importantly though, it means that we have maintained our second place in the drivers’ championship.* That was our goal coming here and, as always, the team have done a fantastic job to make it happen.

“At the beginning of the year, M-Sport and Qatar took Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] and I under their wing like two little children and we cannot thank them enough for their support and their belief in us. In 13 rallies, the car has been absolutely faultless. It will be very emotional for us to leave this team – they have given us so much.”

Mads Østberg (4th) said:

“It was a very difficult start for us here this weekend – on both Thursday and Friday. We were pushing really hard and the driving was good but we just couldn’t find that sweet-spot with the set-up. We found it in the end, but unfortunately it was just a little too late.

“We ended up in a great battle with Andreas [Mikkelsen] for fourth place, and I am very happy to have won that fight. When we had the confidence, our times were good and we were able to really challenge the leaders. That is a big positive for me and I will keep that in my mind as we go into next year.”

Evgeny Novikov (19th) said:
“Having had to Rally 2 today, the rally didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I just need to accept that. I think that we had some good speed and were driving well – the fact that we were able to trade times with the leaders is a big positive. For us, today was all about checking the pacenotes to get them as perfect as possible for the future. A lot of these stages were new to us, and with nothing much to gain, it was important to do that.”

Elfyn Evans (8th overall, 1st in WRC 2) said:
“It’s a great feeling to win my first [WRC 2] event at home here in Wales. I need to say a big thanks to the whole team – they work really hard and brought out this fantastic car. To bring them a win here on home soil is absolutely fantastic.

“This is a very special moment for us, so it has to be up there as one of the best moments of my career. A big thanks to Dan [Barritt, co-driver] too – he works extremely hard and this win is as much down to him as it is to me!”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Thierry [Neuville] and Nicolas [Gilsoul] have been absolutely fantastic this year and the whole team are extremely proud that we were able to deliver them a fully-deserved second place in the championship.* I think if you look at the season as a whole, this has been one of our most successful in the sport – to take a young driver with limited experience, in a privateer team, and do what we have done. I could not have expected it at the beginning of the season and it is testament to all of the hard work from every single member of the team.

“Elfyn [Evans] too can be very pleased with himself this weekend. He and Dan [Barritt, co-driver] did exactly what was asked of them. There wasn’t a single mark on their car at the end of the event and they controlled their lead from practically start to finish. I am sure that the Welsh fans were extremely happy to have a true Welsh winner this weekend.

“To top off what has been a fantastic weekend, we have also seen a very impressive showing from our customer teams. To have 10 M-Sport built cars in the top-14 on our home event – and to have five of those Fiesta R5s – is very satisfying indeed.”

*Subject to official confirmation by the FIA.

13-11-17 Sebastien Chardonnet wins the 2013 Citroen Top Driver
Cheers all round for Sébastien Chardonnet and his co-driver Thibault de la Haye, who have won the Citroën Top Driver championship. The French crew therefore earn the right to enter the 2014 WRC2 championship in a DS3 R5. Quentin Gilbert and Renaud Jamoul won the season’s final round, meaning they finished as runners-up in the final standings, whilst Keith Cronin and Marshall Clark took the third podium spot.

Day four of Wales Rally GB threw up very little in the way of surprises. Cloudy weather and cool autumnal temperatures didn’t make the roads any trickier on this leg, which featured around fifty kilometres of timed stages.

The lead remained in the hands of French driver Quentin Gilbert. He managed to continue to top the standings without taking any unnecessary risks and went on to claim his second win of the season. His performance enabled him to move up a place in the Citroën championship standings, and finish the season as runner-up.

“We are really pleased with our weekend! Despite the particularly tough conditions, which we’ve not experienced before, the Citroën DS3 R3 handled perfectly and we really enjoyed driving here.”

After his direct rival for the title went off, Sébastien Chardonnet needed to avoid taking any risks if he was to secure the win. The talented young Frenchman maintained a comfortable pace on the last six timed stages of the Welsh event, thus becoming the first ever winner of the Citroën Top Driver. Overjoyed at the finish of “Great Orme”, the Côte d’Azur driver’s achievement had yet to sink in fully: “It’s fantastic! It’s really a dream come true, winning this competition. The DS3 R3 has been reliable and quick on all surfaces, and our team has done a great job. This result is down to our shared fighting spirit and determination. We now have a magnificent opportunity, and the goal will be the same in 2014.”

Keith Cronin was unable to hide his disappointment at the end. The only driver who had a mathematical chance of taking the title away from the Frenchman before the event, the Irishman scuppered his chances when he went off the road on day two. After rejoining under Rally2 rules, he adopted a sustained pace ready to seize upon the slightest error from his rivals. However, unfortunately for him, no such opportunity presented itself. He finished the rally in third position.

The Finn Jukka Korhonen ended the race with a few impressive performances. The 2013 BRC champion admitted he was pleased with this very rewarding, first experience of the WRC

As regards the Teams’ championship, Top Teams beat Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast to the title. The French team therefore earns the right to run the DS3 R5 of the winner in 2014.

“What a year it has been!” We have seen some fine scraps and each team has been able to count on some talented and motivated crews. We are very happy and can’t wait to start the 2014 season with Sébastien, Thibault and the DS3 R5!” commented a delighted Sandrine Wanson, Team Manager for Top Teams.

“This season has been absorbing and highly entertaining thanks to the high quality of the field entered in the Citroën Top Driver,” analysed Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroën Racing. “The final outcome shows that Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault de la Haye have real talent. Their performance is impressive. After claiming the WRC3 world championship, they have now won the Top Driver title. Quentin Gilbert and Renaud Jamoul have had a superb end to their year and showed their potential for the coming seasons. Keith Cronin and Marshall Clark lost out on the final round, but they have nothing to be ashamed about. We are proud of our crews and we can’t wait to see them back in next year’s WRC to tackle another challenge.”

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1: SS1 and SS2: Gilbert – SS3: Bouffier
Day 2: SS4: Cronin – SS5: Bouffier – SS6 and SS7: Gilbert – SS8: Chardonnet – SS9: Gilbert
Day 3: SS10 to SS13: Gilbert – SS14: Cronin – SS15: Cancelled – SS16: Chardonnet
Day 4: SS17: Gilbert – SS18 and SS19: Korhonen – SS20, SS21 and SS22 : no official timing

BEST PERFORMERS
Gilbert, 10 fastest times – Bouffier, Cronin, Chardonnet and Korhonen, 2 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS2: Gilbert – SS3 to SS5: Bouffier – SS6 and SS7: Gilbert – SS8: Chardonnet – SS9 to SS22: Gilbert

RETIREMENTS
Jean-Mathieu Léandri: SS3: Mechanical retirement after going off on the road section (no Rally2)
Bryan Bouffier: SS6: Overshot a corner then mechanical retirement (no Rally2)
Keith Cronin: SS6: Minor off (Rejoined under Rally2 rules on Saturday

CITROËN TOP DRIVER FINAL STANDINGS – DRIVERS
1. Chardonnet Sebastien 106 points
2. Gilbert Quentin 87 pts
3. Cronin Keith 85 pts
4. Riedemann Christian 47 pts
5. Bouffier Bryan 27 pts
6. Campedelli Simone 18 pts
7. Vainionpaa Jussi 15 pts
8. Fisher Alastair 13 pts
9. Korhonen Jukka 10 pts
10. Della Casa Frederico 8 pts
11. Consani Stephane 6 pts
12. Al Mutawaa Mohammed 6 pts
13. Parli Francesco 4 pts
14. G.Ojeda Enrique 0 pts

CITROEN TOP DRIVER FINAL STANDINGS – TEAMS
1. Top Teams 193 pts
2. Charles Hurst Citroen Belfast 142 pts
3. Delta Rally Team 33 pts
4. Sainteloc 31 pts
13-11-17 The season draws to a close in Wales
The 2013 World Rally Championship concluded today in Wales. The only Citroën Racing crew still in the race, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio made it to the end in seventh place. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team finished as runners-up in the Manufacturers’ championship, whilst Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo ended fourth and fifth respectively in the Drivers’ standings.

This fourth and final day of racing featured six stages, three of which were held in the famous Welsh forests. Somewhat isolated in seventh position overall, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio’s only goal today was to guide their DS3 WRC safely to the end of the final round of the season. Erring on the side of caution, the Spanish crew also decided to take two spare tyres with them for this final leg, which was completed without any service period.

“Although we weren’t pushing really hard, we still enjoyed driving our DS3 WRC,” confirmed Dani as he arrived at the podium. “These very fast stages are fun to drive when the grip is as good as it was today. It was important for me to complete a gravel rally without making any mistakes and by building up my confidence with each of the stages.”

Winner in Germany and with three podium finishes, Dani Sordo ended the year in fifth place in the Drivers’ World Championship, three points behind Mikko Hirvonen. The Finn finished in the top three on five occasions this season. With two wins (Monte-Carlo and Argentina) and one runner-up spot from four rallies, Sébastien Loeb finished seventh.

Thanks to the points scored by the three nominated crews, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT finished as runner-up in the Manufacturers’ World Championship, whilst the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT claimed sixth position.

“Although we have lost our titles, this weekend’s actual result doesn’t really tell the story of our season. We have been quick at pretty much all of the rallies, but we’ve often been unlucky not to convert that speed into results,” assessed Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “I would like to reiterate my congratulations to the 2013 Champions 2013 and thank Dani and Carlos for having ensured one DS3 WRC finished the rally. Well done also to Robert Kubica and Sébastien Chardonnet, who have secured the WRC2 and WRC3 titles for Citroën. The curtain falls on a pivotal season and we will now quickly turn our attention to 2014. There are many possible options as regards the drivers of our DS3 WRCs. We’ll take the time needed to finalise the discussions before announcing the line-up of our team for next season.”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 3:03:36.7
2 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +21.8
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:24.5
4 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:48.2
5 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo RS WRC +2:03.4
6 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7:37.5
7 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +8:27.9
8 Evans / Barritt Ford Fiesta R5 +11:13.1
9 Ketomaa / Suominen Ford Fiesta R5 +12:16.2
10 Higgins / Williamson Ford Fiesta R5 +13:21.0

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1 and SS2: Ogier – SS3: Neuville.
Day 2 – SS4: Ogier – SS5: Sordo – SS6: Latvala – SS7 to SS9: Ogier.
Day 3 – SS10 and SS11: Mikkelsen – SS12 to SS14: Latvala – SS15: Sordo – SS16: Neuville.
Day 4 – SS17: Ogier – SS18: Østberg – SS19: Neuville – SS20 and 21: Ogier – SS22: Latvala.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 9 fastest times – Latvala, 5 – Neuville, 3 – Sordo and Mikkelsen, 2 each – Østberg, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS22: Ogier.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RANKINGS (DRIVERS)
1. OGIER, 290 points
2. NEUVILLE, 176
3. LATVALA, 162
4. HIRVONEN, 126
5. SORDO, 123
6. OSTBERG, 102
7. NOVIKOV, 69
8. LOEB, 68
9. PROKOP, 63
10. MIKKELSEN, 50

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RANKINGS (MANUFACTURERS)
1.Volkswagen Motorsport, 425 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 280
3. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 192
4. Qatar WRT, 184
5. Jipocar, 65
6. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 63
7. Volkswagen motorsport II, 50
8. Lotos WRC team, 20
13-11-16 Gilbert dominates, Chardonnet champs at the bit
Day three of Wales Rally GB passed without incident for the Citroën Top Driver crews. Quentin Gilbert and his co-driver Renaud Jamoul dominated the leg, extending their lead over their rivals. Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault de la Haye held onto second position and remain on course to win the title, whilst Jukka Korhonen completed the top three in the Top Driver standings.

Up at the crack of dawn, the competitors were faced with six timed stages with no service period before returning for a flexi-service at the end of the day. Race management was therefore paramount, but all of the drivers managed to make it back safely.

Very comfortable on the Welsh roads, Quentin Gilbert gave his rivals no chance, putting together an impressive series of stage wins this morning. He ended the day leading the two-wheel drive category by almost fifty seconds. His performance moves him up to second in the Citroën Top Driver championship standings as they stand, a win here enabling him to finish the year as runner-up

“It was a good day and we drove without taking any unnecessary risks. We want to finish on a high. We’re obviously aiming to go on and win the race,” commented Quentin

Cruising through the stages, Sébastien Chardonnet took no risks and was happy to consolidate his second position, aware that the slightest mistake could cost him the title.

“The conditions were difficult but we are focussed on holding onto our position. There are around fifty kilometres to go tomorrow and we’ll be approaching the final day in the same way as we approached today’s leg,” analysed Sébastien.

Very close to the times of the leader, the Finn Jukka Korhonen produced the sort of performance he’d been hoping for and ended the day in third position.

Having rejoined today under Rally2 rules, Keith Cronin matched the pace of the leading drivers, ready to pounce should an opportunity arise..

CITROEN TOP DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER DAY 3
1 Gilbert / Jamoul Citroën DS3 R3 2:57:51.4
2 Chardonnet / de la Haye Citroën DS3 R3 +2:57.5
3 Korhonen / Salminen Citroën DS3 R3 +16:49.1
4 Cronin / Marshall Citroën DS3 R3 +23:58.1

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1: SS1 and SS2: Gilbert – SS3: Bouffier
Day 2: SS4: Cronin – SS5: Bouffier – SS6 and SS7: Gilbert – SS8: Chardonnet – SS9: Gilbert
Day 3: SS10 to SS13: Gilbert – SS14: Cronin – SS15: Cancelled – SS16: Chardonnet

BEST PERFORMERS
Gilbert, 9 fastest times – Bouffier, Cronin and Chardonnet, 2 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS2: Gilbert – SS3 to SS5: Bouffier – SS6 and SS7: Gilbert – SS8: Chardonnet – SS9 to SS16: Gilbert

RETIREMENTS
Jean-Mathieu Léandri: SS3: Mechanical retirement after off on road section (no Rally2)
Bryan Bouffier: SS6: Overshot a corner then mechanical retirement (no Rally2)
Keith Cronin: SS6: Minor off (Rejoined under Rally2 rules on Saturday)
13-11-16 Neuville and Evans on the road to success
Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans each took another step towards their respective goals at Wales Rally GB today. The two Qatar M-Sport drivers may have different objectives – the Belgian to secure second position in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) standings and Evans to claim his maiden victory in the WRC 2 support series – but both are well on the road to success.

There was a new challenge in store for the crews today as the Welsh event ventured north for two action-packed runs through the forests of Gartheiniog and Dyfi – the latter having not been used in the WRC for 15 years. En route to the service park in Deeside, competitors tackled the fast straights and sweeping bends of Dyfnant before two dashes through a new spectator stage in the confines of Chirk Castle – all without the reassurance of a midday service.

Taking the daunting task in their stride, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul maintained their top-three position to remain on course to secure second place in the drivers’ championship. Consistency was the name of the game for the young Belgian as he piloted his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a string of top-five times – controlling the gap to a chasing Andreas Mikkelsen behind.

With just 51.92 competitive kilometres left to run in tomorrow’s final stint, the Qatar World Rally Team driver is well on his way to securing his goal and finishing his impressive season on another high.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, the thousands of spectators who flocked to the stages were treated to Mads Østberg’s customary speed through the Welsh forests. Working hard with the team and co-driver Jonas Andersson, the Norwegian discovered a good balance with his Fiesta RS WRC. Indeed Østberg was just one second shy of recording a fastest stage time through Dyfnant (SS14), some ten seconds faster than Neuville.

Back to his best and feeling confident on the stages, Østberg will be looking to rein in fourth place tomorrow – a position he trails by just 7.3 seconds.

Unfortunately there was misfortune for Østberg’s team-mate Evgeny Novikov whose Fiesta RS WRC went off the road on SS11. The Russian, who is co-driven by Austrian Ilka Minor, had a strong start to the morning – setting the third fastest time through Gatheiniog (SS11) and looking set to replicate the same feat on the following speed test. Regrettably however, it was not to be.

Carrying too much speed into a tightening corner, not even his ‘tentacles of perception’ could prevent his Fiesta RS WRC succumbing to its fate. The team will assess the damage this evening as to whether or not the Russian will be able to restart under Rally 2 regulations.

In WRC 2, there was much better fortune for Evans and his Ford Fiesta R5. Nestled in the heart of the Welshman’s home region, today’s stages suited the 24-year-old down to the ground – a fact which was reflected in his times.

Securing four out of a possible seven stage wins, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt extended their lead to just under a minute and are now well on their way to what could be a maiden victory in the WRC 2 class.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I think the whole day has been quite good for us. There was one stage that we had to discover and we lost about ten seconds in 20 kilometres, but it was new for us so that was quite normal. The stages are really beautiful, especially the first two this morning. They are not the easiest for sure, but really enjoyable. We have a 20 second advantage on Andreas [Mikkelsen] going into tomorrow, and I think we will be OK to keep the positions as they are.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“I think we had a really good day today. Again we made some big improvements with the set-up and before the last ‘proper’ stage [SS14] we found something really good! The traction and the balance of the car were really, really nice! That’s what we’ll start with tomorrow, and if it works again then I think it can be a very good day for us.”

Evgeny Novikov (23rd) said:
“We will have to have a look at the video but I am almost certain that it was my mistake from the recce. It was a very fast place on a flat-out downhill section where you are right on the rev-limiter. Then there was a crest and a right-hander in fourth or fifth gear. In my pacenotes I had some distance before the corner where I could brake, but at high-speed, that distance was not there.

“I understood straight away that we were too fast and that we would not be able to stay on the road. I put the car sideways to kill the speed, and that was that. We only rolled once, but the main impact was on the front of the car. It is a shame of course because we had some very good speed this morning and were feeling really comfortable in the car, but that is just the way it is.”

Elfyn Evans (8th overall, 1st in WRC 2) said:
“I found the driving really enjoyable today. Certainly the second pass was very slippery in Gartheiniog and Dyfi [SS12 and SS13], but nevertheless great fun to drive. We’re glad to still be here and to still be leading the WRC 2 class. Of course this is Rally GB and anything can happen. There are still some very tricky stages to come tomorrow, so we’ll definitely need to keep our wits about us! But if we have a clean run, I think we’re on course for what could be a really good result.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think we are all aware that an event like Wales Rally GB isn’t over until it’s over and anything can still happen tomorrow. That said, both Thierry [Neuville] and Elfyn [Evans] have had a great run today and, if they have a clean run tomorrow, they are both set to secure a fantastic result – Thierry second in the drivers’ championship and Elfyn his first win of the year.”
13-11-16 Sordo continues fightback
Continuing to enjoy an error-free performance, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio ended day three of Wales Rally GB seventh overall. After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Robert Kubica and Michele Ferrara were forced to retired from the rally altogether shortly after the start of the day.

Featuring seven stages over a total of almost 100 kilometres, completed without any service period, the third leg of Wales Rally GB was something of a marathon session for the competitors still in the race.

First to arrive in the service park right at six o’clock sharp, Robert Kubica was appreciative of the work done by his mechanics the previous evening: “Thanks to everyone in the team who have made it possible for me return to action today. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much damage because I didn’t go off at high speed. I wasn’t pushing very hard yesterday, but I’m going to be even more cautious today. My aim is still to rack up as many miles as possible.”

Unfortunately, the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT driver crashed out of the race on only the second stage of the day, after another off. This time, the damage to his DS3 WRC meant his rally was well and truly over: “Like yesterday, I had adopted a sensible pace, but that wasn’t enough to make up for a misunderstanding with one of the pace notes on a very fast corner. The rear of the car slid wide and off the road into a ditch, and we ended up rolling twice.”

Just like yesterday, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio thus found themselves as the only representatives of the Citroën Racing camp left in the race. Second on the road, the Spaniards didn’t enjoy the best of the conditions. But they adapted as best they could and completed the leg without incident. They rounded off the day by winning the first of the two stages held in the grounds of Chirk Castle.

“The team asked me to get the car safely back home and that’s what I tried to do,” admitted Dani on his return to the Deeside service park. “That didn’t stop me from enjoying the day’s stages. The roads were slippery in many places, with a lot of mud, but it was fun. The car handled well in the conditions, so I’m happy.”

Thanks to his consistency, Dani Sordo climbed another two places in the course of the day. Now seventh overall, he will be looking to hold onto this position to the end of the rally on Sunday afternoon.

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 2:33:47.6
2 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +20.3
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:14.4
4 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +1:34.4
5 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:41.7
6 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:42.0
7 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +7:45.5
8 Evans / Barritt Ford Fiesta R5 +9:19.5
9 Ketomaa / Suominen Ford Fiesta R5 +10:19.3
10 Higgins / Williamson Ford Fiesta R5 +10:55.0

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1 and SS2: Ogier – SS3: Neuville.
Day 2 – SS4: Ogier – SS5: Sordo – SS6: Latvala – SS7 to SS9: Ogier.
Day 3 – SS10 and SS11: Mikkelsen – SS12 to SS14: Latvala – SS15: Sordo – SS16: Neuville.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 6 fastest times – Latvala, 4 – Mikkelsen, Sordo and Neuville, 2 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS16: Ogier.
13-11-16 Sebastien Chardonnet on the verge
The final round of the Citroën Top Driver was all set for a relentless battle in some of the most testing conditions of the season. However, one of the two challengers for the title fell foul of the tricky Welsh course. Keith Cronin conceded defeat today but will return to fight again tomorrow. Whilst Sébastien Chardonnet has the title within his grasp, Quentin Gilbert leads the race.

After a brief stop-off in Llandudno and a rapid run through Conwy Quay for the ceremonial start, the crews tackled the first three stages of Wales Rally GB on Thursday evening. This brand new loop of stages, all held after dark, looked set to provide plenty of action.

Quentin Gilbert got off to a flying start, winning the first two stages. He then lost the lead to Bryan Bouffier, who set a superb time on “Clocaenog 1”. The 2013 BRC champion – a title he won in a DS3 R3 – Jukka Korhonen rounded off the top three, followed by Sébastien Chardonnet and Keith Cronin, who was over a minute off the pace after picking up a puncture.

Meanwhile, Jean-Mathieu Léandri was forced to retire. He was caught out on the road section, getting stuck in the mud and damaging his DS3 R3. He decided not to rejoin the rally the next day.

Friday’s leg featured six timed stages, separated by a remote service in Newtown. During the morning service, the tension was palpable among the challengers for the title. Wide awake, Keith Cronin grabbed the fastest time on the day’s first stage but then went off the road on the 32 kilometre-long Myherin test. His challenge is not over yet, however, as the Irish driver is set to rejoin the race tomorrow under Rally2 rules.

Somewhat off the pace on the first loop, Sébastien Chardonnet knew that above all else he had to keep his car on the road following the retirement of his main rival. He made it to Deeside in second position, 31 seconds behind Quentin Gilbert, the leader of the Welsh round at the end of day two.

“The long road sections and the specific conditions in Great Britain, in addition to a certain amount of pressure, made the day fairly demanding,” admitted Sébastien. “When we found out that Keith Cronin had retired, we had to manage our pace and suddenly our race looked very different. We have to keep going tomorrow but be cautious to make sure we hold onto our position

“We’re rather pleased with how we have started the race!” said Quentin. “Although we lost something like three minutes in a watersplash, we managed to hold onto the lead in the Top Driver standings. The feeling in the DS3 R3 was perfect. Our aim is now to go on and win. We’ll be trying very hard to do just that tomorrow!”

Despite suffering a technical problem, the Finn Jukka Korhonen ended the leg in third position.

The leader at the end of day one,
CITROEN TOP DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1 Gilbert / Jamoul Citroën DS3 R3 1:51:11.5
2 Chardonnet / de la Haye Citroën DS3 R3 +31.1
3 Korhonen / Salminen Citroën DS3 R3 +5:48.8

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1 and SS2: Gilbert – SS3: Bouffier
Day 2 – SS4: Cronin – SS5: Bouffier – SS6 and SS7: Gilbert – SS8: Chardonnet

BEST PERFORMERS
Gilbert, 4 fastest times – Bouffier, 2 – Cronin and Chardonnet, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS2: Gilbert – SS3 to SS5: Bouffier – SS6 and SS7: Gilbert – SS8: Chardonnet – SS9: Gilbert

RETIREMENTS
Jean-Mathieu Léandri: SS3: Mechanical retirement after off on road section (no Rally2)
Bryan Bouffier: SS6: Overshot a corner then mechanical retirement (no Rally2)
Keith Cronin: Minor off (Rejoins under Rally2 rules)
13-11-15 More spills than thrills for Citroën
Citroën Racing had a tough second day at the Wales Rally GB as first Robert Kubica and then Mikko Hirvonen were forced to retire after going off the road. In contrast, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio produced a flawless display, enabling them to bounce back in spectacular fashion, climbing to ninth place in the overall standings!

Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Myherin: the three stages contested today at Wales Rally GB are some of the event’s biggest classics and have been part of the rally for several years. After leaving Deeside early this morning, the crews completed a long road section before tackling SS4.

The first drama of the day involved Robert Kubica. Despite his cautious approach, which had enabled him to end the first leg in seventh overall, the Pole was caught out by a change in grip: “I misjudged how slippery the road surface was on a corner. The front wheels locked up on braking and we slid wide; we ended up rolling into the ditch by the side of the road. The car wasn’t badly damaged – the windscreen wasn’t broken – but there was no way we could’ve got the car back onto its wheels and out of the ditch by ourselves.”

The Citroën camp’s spirits were lifted when Dani Sordo set the fastest time on the Sweet Lamb stage. The Spaniard looked on course to repeat the feat on Myherin, but he eased off quite a bit when he saw Mikko Hirvonen’s DS3 WRC parked in the middle of the stage. “It came from a mistake in the pace notes on a long, flat corner in sixth that tightened to fifth gear. Jarmo didn’t say that it tightened so I just kept sixth gear, flat out, and then it was too late,” explained the mud-covered driver. “We slid wide, then flipped upside down and the windscreen broke as soon as we hit the roadside bank. The inside of the car is completely full of mud and stones…”

After analysing the condition of the DS3 WRC, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT and the Finnish crew decided not to try and rejoin the race under Rally2 rules. Robert Kubica and Michele Ferrara should however be back in action tomorrow.

Somewhat isolated in the standings at the remote service in Newton, Dani Sordo was pretty pleased with his morning: “After making a cautious start, I gradually felt more and more confident. As it isn’t raining, the level of grip is pretty good. It is still difficult to judge how slippery it’s going to be on the really muddy corners. I’m pleased to have set the fastest time on Sweet Lamb – it’s a stage that I really like.”

On the second loop, the Spanish crew continued their race at strong pace, regularly setting times close to those of the leaders. This series of strong performances meant they moved up the standings, ending the second leg ninth overall: “I am most all happy to have found a good pace and to be quick on a surface which in theory doesn’t really suit me. I hope to keep it up on the last two legs.”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 1:34:48.0
2 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +20’’1
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1’02’’6
4 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1’30’’8
5 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1’34’’5
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +1’35’’6
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4’56’’2
8 Evans / Barritt Ford Fiesta R5 +6’30’’2
9 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +6’54’’6
10 Higgins / Williamson Ford Fiesta R5 +6’56’’6
13-11-15 Evening kick-off in Wales
Day one of the Wales Rally GB was packed with action, featuring free practice and the qualifying stage, followed by the opening stages held under cover of darkness. With the first three, short stages completed, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie fourth overall, 16.2s behind the leader. After making a cautious start to the rally, Robert Kubica and Michele Ferrara hold seventh position in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT.

Following two rounds on tarmac, the WRC competitors were once again faced with the thrills and spills of the qualifying stage, which is used to determine the running order for the first leg of the gravel rallies. Mikko Hirvonen, Robert Kubica and Dani Sordo finished this first timed test bunched together in sixth, seventh and eighth places respectively.

Ahead of his first rally behind the wheel of the DS3 WRC, Kubica reiterated the long list of challenges facing him this weekend: “The greatest challenge involves changing the language of my pace notes. As regards the car, the DS3 WRC is more powerful than the RRC. The aerodynamics are also more effective, although they only play a marginal role in this category. At the end of the day, the car is easier to drive but it’s still difficult to find the final few tenths. The rally itself is interesting. You have to feel for the changes in grip from one corner to the next. I’m particularly apprehensive about the night stages that we are driving on today.”

When it came to choosing starting positions, Dani Sordo already knew that it would be difficult for him to secure a good result in Wales. As the no.3 DS3 WRC was found to be using a ninth chassis for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT this season, the Spaniard was handed a five-minute penalty. Despite this error, the Spaniard stood united with the team: “We can all make mistakes: drivers, mechanics and engineers. There’s nothing I can do about it now and I’m here to drive the car. That’s what I’m focussing on at this final round of the season.”

After heading off from Llandudno, the crews completed three stages, together adding up to less than 25 kilometres. Mikko Hirvonen ended the day as the highest-placed Citroën driver. Fourth overall, he was pleased to have stayed in touch with the leaders: “Given our lack of testing, it went fairly well. I made a few minor changes to the set-up before SS3 and it seemed better. We’re going to keep working on it.”

Despite already matching the pace of considerably more experienced drivers, Robert Kubica was above all satisfied to have kept out of trouble. “It was dark and slippery,” summarised the Pole on his return to the service park. “I didn’t take any risks in the sections where I felt less comfortable. I really lack experience in these conditions; the braking distances are more difficult to estimate. I need to rack up as many miles as possible this weekend!”

After struggling to drive with freedom due to a temperamental lamp pod, Dani Sordo ended the first leg looking rather long-faced: “I just couldn’t push with the headlamps – first, they were too high and then, they were too low… I’m looking forward to getting on with tomorrow’s stages!”

In the Citroën Top Driver series, Bryan Bouffier leads the standings by just 2.5s from Quentin Gilbert. The championship’s two title contenders, Sébastien Chardonnet and Keith Cronin hold fourth and fifth positions respectively. The Irishman is 45s adrift of his rival, however, after picking up a puncture.

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 14:28.3
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3.2
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +5.2
4 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +16.2
5 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +24.7
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +27.8
7 Kubica / Ferrara Citroën DS3 WRC +35.4
8 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +37.5
9 Evans / Barritt Ford Fiesta R5 +1:06.9
10 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:07.6
46 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +5:40.8

13-11-15 Neuville and Evans remain on target i Wales
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville remains on target to secure second place in the FIA World Rally Championship’s drivers’ standings having retained a top-three position on the second day of competition at Wales Rally GB. Elfyn Evans also took a step closer to his goal with his Qatari-liveried Ford Fiesta R5, sustaining the top-spot in the WRC 2 category.

The season finale had a familiar flavour today as crews tackled two passes of three of the championship’s most famed and challenging speed tests: Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Myherin. The mud-strewn stages made the day’s rallying all the more daunting, but all four Qatari-supported crews made it through to finish safely inside the overall top-ten.

Letting the front-runners loose, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were under no illusion that their inexperience could pose a disadvantage today. Despite setting some positive times, the 25-year-old took an intelligent approach given the tricky nature of the stages. Concentrating on his second place in the drivers’ championship as opposed to going all-out for glory, the Belgian ended the day a respectable third on what is his first venture to the Welsh forests with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson piloted their Fiesta RS WRC to fourth place overall – less than 30 seconds adrift of the podium. Although struggling to find the optimum set-up, the Scandinavian pairing will be eager to take an advantage as the event continues.

In the sister Fiesta RS WRC, Evgeny Novikov and Ilka Minor climbed three places in the overall rankings. The Russian was back on form as he combined his customary dose of ‘maximum attack’ with consistency. Indeed Novikov was never out of the top-five on individual stage times and will be keen to make further strides in the coming days.

Once again however, it was in the WRC 2 category where the Welsh fans would find their success story as local-man Evans extended his lead of the class. Increasing their advantage to almost half a minute, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt are in the perfect position going into their favoured stages tomorrow.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“We gave it our best but we lost some traction which meant that it was difficult to stay with the guys in front. After that we decided to not take any big risks and just focused on maintaining position. We feel really comfortable in the car and we are still in a really strong position so it has not been a bad day by all means. There are still two more days to go, so we will continue as we are and hope to maintain our third place.”

Mads Østberg (4th) said:
“We struggled with the set-up all day and we’re lacking front grip. I don’t know exactly why it’s happening but it is certainly a lot more slippery than we had expected so we need to think a little bit differently. We made some adjustments during remote service but it was understeering even more. I went back on the damper clicks, but there was no time to adjust everything on the short road sections. Having said that we are still in a good position; we’ll make some small changes this evening and see what tomorrow brings.”

Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“It has been very slippery but I think that we have been driving well and setting some quite good times. There is a big fight between myself, Mads [Østberg] and Andreas [Mikkelsen] so it will be an interesting battle. I was close to my limit today, but I don’t know tomorrow’s stages so well so the plan is to take a more cautious approach in the beginning.”

Elfyn Evans (8th overall, 1st in WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a good day. OK, it’s been very difficult out on the stages – difficult to judge the pace and to know exactly how hard to push. One minute you have grip, and the next minute you haven’t, so it has been difficult to judge the conditions. Overall, we’ve increased the gap and we’re still in first place so we’ve got to be happy with that.

“Tomorrow’s stages are the ones which are most local to me so I’m looking forward to them. They’re stages that I really enjoy – hopefully there’ll be a bit more grip than there was today and we’ll have a good run.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Thierry [Neuville] put in another strong performance today. He is not so familiar with these stages as the other drivers. After what happened to Robert [Kubica] and Mikko [Hirvonen] I think there may have been an air of caution as he focused on the bigger picture and ensuring that he finishes the season with second place in the drivers’ championship. That said, he proved this morning that he had the pace – setting the second fastest time on SS4.

“Elfyn [Evans] too has had another good day. We told him to enjoy his home rally and to go out and get the result he deserves. He’s proved today that he has all the ability to do that, and the whole team are behind him and a potential Welsh win as we go into the final two days.”
13-11-15 Football meets rally at Wales Rally GB
As the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship embarked on the season finale at Wales Rally GB, the Qatar M-Sport squad welcomed an unlikely candidate to the co-driver’s seat of Elfyn Evans’ Ford Fiesta R5. Indeed football met rallying yesterday as former Premier League ace, Jimmy Bullard, got his first taste of the action.

With the wind and rain battering the gravel stages of Llandegla, Bullard was called up for a once in a life time passenger ride with Evans through Free Practice.

Bullard may have had little knowledge of rallying, but when it comes to football he is a cut above the rest and a house-hold name. Having enjoyed a career in the English Premier League, the midfielder was forced to retire through injury early last year but remains integral to the sport as both a commentator and pundit.

Fast becoming integral to his own sport, Evans is esteemed as one of the most promising talents of the future. Following a sensational sixth place debut in a top-specification world rally car in Sardinia earlier this year, the youngster went on to claim two podium finishes in the WRC 2 category and is a firm favourite for victory in the class this weekend.

Experiencing the full impact of Evans’ speed behind the wheel of the Fiesta R5 through the event’s iconic terrain, Bullard’s first rally experience was sure to be one he would not easily forget.

Speaking after the experience, Jimmy Bullard said:
“I didn’t really know much about the sport before today, but it was absolutely incredible! It was quite an insight for me coming here and I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for and I’m not ashamed to say that for the first 30 seconds or so, I was scared! After that I really got into it and was telling Elfyn to really go for it!

“He [Elfyn Evans] is a good lad and he certainly looked after us out on the stage. I also chatted to Thierry [Neuville]. They’re all great guys and the team have been very welcoming and friendly to us since the moment we arrived, so a big thanks to Qatar and M-Sport for having us!”

Elfyn Evans said:
“Jimmy [Bullard] certainly made a lot more noise than Dan [Barritt, co-driver] so he wins on that score, but I think I’ll stick with my regular co-driver for the rally! It was great to meet Jimmy and take him for a spin in the [Ford] Fiesta R5. Obviously he has been a very successful footballer so it was really interesting listening to all his experiences and all of his stories. It was great to have him in the car at my home event.”
13-11-15 Midday quotes, Wales Rally GB, Day 2
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“This morning has been OK. We lost a bit of time in Sweet Lamb [SS5] – about five seconds in four kilometres which we couldn’t explain. There wasn’t really an excuse for that so we must do better on the second pass.

“We were quite close to the leaders on the first stage [SS4], setting the second fastest time, but they are setting a very fast pace now. On the last stage [SS6] I lost all the confidence. I couldn’t imagine how slippery it actually was so we just concentrated on not making a mistake. If we stay in this position, we are still second in the championship so all is good.”

Mads Østberg (4th) said:
“I’m not 100 per cent happy with the set-up yet, but we made changes for all three stages and it is good to see that we are going in the right direction. We need to try and think clearly and make the right decisions. I can already feel an improvement with the changes we made and, as you can see from the times, we have been faster straight away. We’re not exactly where we want to be just yet, but we are certainly getting there.”

Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“We’re still having some issues with the launch at the stage start, but honestly it doesn’t lose us too much time – maybe half a second or so. We were pushing on the first two stages [SS4 and SS5] but the third one [SS6] was very slippery. As always, we are doing our best and trying to set some good times.”

Elfyn Evans (1st in WRC 2) said:
“The first stage [SS4] was very good for us until it got stopped – the pace was good in there. Sweet Lamb [SS5] was tricky so we just tried to make it through unscathed because I have some bad memories of that one from two years ago! Then on the last one [SS6], we had no grip whatsoever; we found ourselves going wide in a few places and not driving the way we like so we lost a bit of time in there. Now we just need to continue like this and see what we can do second time around.”
13-11-15 Evening kick-off in Wales
Day one of the Wales Rally GB was packed with action, featuring free practice and the qualifying stage, followed by the opening stages held under cover of darkness. With the first three, short stages completed, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie fourth overall, 16.2s behind the leader. After making a cautious start to the rally, Robert Kubica and Michele Ferrara hold seventh position in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT.

Following two rounds on tarmac, the WRC competitors were once again faced with the thrills and spills of the qualifying stage, which is used to determine the running order for the first leg of the gravel rallies. Mikko Hirvonen, Robert Kubica and Dani Sordo finished this first timed test bunched together in sixth, seventh and eighth places respectively.

Ahead of his first rally behind the wheel of the DS3 WRC, Kubica reiterated the long list of challenges facing him this weekend: “The greatest challenge involves changing the language of my pace notes. As regards the car, the DS3 WRC is more powerful than the RRC. The aerodynamics are also more effective, although they only play a marginal role in this category. At the end of the day, the car is easier to drive but it’s still difficult to find the final few tenths. The rally itself is interesting. You have to feel for the changes in grip from one corner to the next. I’m particularly apprehensive about the night stages that we are driving on today.”

When it came to choosing starting positions, Dani Sordo already knew that it would be difficult for him to secure a good result in Wales. As the no.3 DS3 WRC was found to be using a ninth chassis for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT this season, the Spaniard was handed a five-minute penalty. Despite this error, the Spaniard stood united with the team: “We can all make mistakes: drivers, mechanics and engineers. There’s nothing I can do about it now and I’m here to drive the car. That’s what I’m focussing on at this final round of the season.”

After heading off from Llandudno, the crews completed three stages, together adding up to less than 25 kilometres. Mikko Hirvonen ended the day as the highest-placed Citroën driver. Fourth overall, he was pleased to have stayed in touch with the leaders: “Given our lack of testing, it went fairly well. I made a few minor changes to the set-up before SS3 and it seemed better. We’re going to keep working on it.”

Despite already matching the pace of considerably more experienced drivers, Robert Kubica was above all satisfied to have kept out of trouble. “It was dark and slippery,” summarised the Pole on his return to the service park. “I didn’t take any risks in the sections where I felt less comfortable. I really lack experience in these conditions; the braking distances are more difficult to estimate. I need to rack up as many miles as possible this weekend!”

After struggling to drive with freedom due to a temperamental lamp pod, Dani Sordo ended the first leg looking rather long-faced: “I just couldn’t push with the headlamps – first, they were too high and then, they were too low… I’m looking forward to getting on with tomorrow’s stages!”

In the Citroën Top Driver series, Bryan Bouffier leads the standings by just 2.5s from Quentin Gilbert. The championship’s two title contenders, Sébastien Chardonnet and Keith Cronin hold fourth and fifth positions respectively. The Irishman is 45s adrift of his rival, however, after picking up a puncture.

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 14:28.3
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3.2
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +5.2
4 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +16.2
5 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +24.7
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +27.8
7 Kubica / Ferrara Citroën DS3 WRC +35.4
8 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +37.5
9 Evans / Barritt Ford Fiesta R5 +1:06.9
10 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:07.6
46 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +5:40.8
13-11-15 Neuville and Evans on the pace in Wales
The FIA World Rally Championship’s season finale started in style this evening with Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville holding second place overall and Elfyn Evans’ Qatari-liveried Ford Fiesta R5 leading the way in the WRC 2 series.

Commencing with three tricky stages under the cover of darkness, Wales Rally GB dished out a challenging start for the crews. Experience was arguably the key to success but that didn’t stand in the way of Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.

This is only the Belgians’ second appearance at the British fixture – and their first taste of the Welsh forests with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC – but their skill, speed and determination saw them post a string of top times including a stage win through the first pass of Clocaenog (SS3). Not even an encounter with a rock on Penmachno (SS2) could halt the 25-year-old and he goes into tomorrow just 3.2 seconds shy of the rally lead.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and Evgeny Novikov hold fifth and eighth places respectively. Nursing an issue with their Fiesta RS WRC’s gearbox, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson set some strong times to keep themselves well and truly in the hunt for the podium shootout. With the issue resolved in service, the Scandinavians are sure to be back to their best through tomorrow’s classic tests.

In the sister Fiesta, Novikov and Ilka Minor were suffering from a loss of power. With the team working to resolve the issue, the adoring fans can look forward to the Russian’s customary dose of ‘maximum attack’ as the event continues.

However it was arguably in WRC 2 where the real story lay as local-man Evans stormed through the field to lead the category by 13.2 seconds. Proving just how capable they are behind the wheel of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta R5, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt secured two stage wins to claim an impressive ninth place in the overall rankings at the end of Day 1.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“It has been a difficult evening but we are quite happy with our pace. Of course it is slippery and you need to be careful in every corner, but so far so good. We had a bit of a moment on the second stage when we cut a corner and hit the underneath of the car. We had a small issue with the gearlever after that, but the car seems to be very strong! I thought that it was over for us, but the car was still going and we went on to set the quickest time in the next stage (SS3).

“Tomorrow is another day and its stages are well known to the other drivers so I hope it is not a disadvantage to us. We’ve only rallied them once but we are well prepared and we will try and stay in the fight.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“I think we must have touched something on the first stage [which caused the issue with the gearbox] because it happened quite suddenly. We went onto a rougher section and straight away I was really struggling and lost a lot of time. It makes it really difficult to change gear – especially changing down through the gears. You have to be a bit more careful and you have to work much harder!

“Tomorrow should be a really good day for us. We know those stages very well and we are going to go flat-out to make back the time.”

Evgeny Novikov (8th) said:
“It’s not been an easy evening – the stages are very slippery and challenging but we also have a loss of power from the car. We’re not sure exactly what the issue is at the moment, but I feel as though we are driving well so hopefully we can get it resolved and start to show our true pace again tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (1st in WRC 2) said:
“It’s not been an easy evening – three very different stages in terms of surface and grip levels – but I think we had reasonably good pace on all three. We didn’t have fantastic rhythm on the first one, and although it got better on the second, we were still a little nervous on the really high-speed sections. It is very fast and narrow in there [SS2] and it’s the first time I’ve done that stage in that direction. All in all it’s been an OK start. The car is working very well here so we just need to keep it up tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a good start for Thierry [Neuville] – he is well and truly in the fight and the top-three have already pulled out a strong lead. He was very lucky on SS2 which only goes to make his SS3 victory all the more impressive. The car took a huge impact and we have had to do a lot of repairs in service, but hopefully with the car fully rectified, we can see some more great times from him and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] tomorrow.

“Elfyn [Evans] too has done a great job in WRC 2 to eke out a good lead over the other competitors – and of course it is fantastic to see so many M-Sport cars excelling in the series!”


13-11-12 Al-Attiyah withdraws from Wales Rally GB
M-Sport today announces that Qatar World Rally Team’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini will not start this week’s Wales Rally GB.

The pairing was due to line up for the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship behind the wheel of their Qatar-liveried Ford Fiesta RS WRC, but will sadly not be present in the Welsh forests.

The Qatari was suffering from some pain in his hand following a high-speed incident on the previous round in Spain. Following medical advice, Al-Attiyah has been advised not to participate this weekend.

M-Sport wish Al-Attiyah a swift recovery and look forward to seeing him back on the stages in the near future.
13-11-08 Kubica teams up with Hirvonen and Sordo
After a brief flirt with Spain last year, the World Rally Championship’s season-ending finale returns to its traditional home in Wales. With both titles wrapped up, all the competitors can go for it no holds barred, starting with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews. For Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen and Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio, the end result will be the only target. Competing for the first time in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, Robert Kubica and Michele Ferrara will undoubtedly be the main attraction at this, the thirteenth and final round of the season.

Leaving behind its home for the last few years, in Cardiff and then Builth Wells, Wales Rally GB heads to the north of the country this year. Now based in Deeside, not far from Liverpool, the British event boasts a new course for 2013, combining stages used in recent years with tests that have not featured in the rally since the 1990s.

Drivers will need to show considerable staying power and look after their machines in the Welsh forests, because service periods have been cut to a bare minimum this year. Given the fact that the weather can be terrible at this time of the year, this rally has all the ingredients necessary to serve up a very special motorsport event!

Having competed in Wales ten times already, winning here in 2007, Mikko Hirvonen is one the event’s leading specialists. Currently fourth in the Drivers’ World Championship standings, Mikko can end the year in the top three provided he finishes among the leaders next weekend.

“After finishing on the podium five times this season, obviously I’d love to end the season with a win,” confirmed the Finn. “It’s a difficult rally, but I like the stages’ extremely fast roads. It’s exhilarating for drivers, although you have to be careful to keep out of trouble. At this time of year, we may well get the worst of the weather conditions, with fog and rain, and maybe even frost first thing in the morning. That can make braking of any kind pretty tricky, so you have to respect the course.”

Currently fifth in the overall standings, Dani Sordo is also keen to finish the season on a high: “Obviously, this isn’t my favourite surface. I like gravel, but more so when the grip is consistent. In Wales, we’re often faced with a racing line that is covered in mud! But I’m not going to get too worried about it; my goal is just to try and achieve the best possible result. I proved once again in Spain that I could deal with slippery conditions. As is the case on all of the gravel rounds, you have to be on the pace from the word go on the qualifying stage in order to be able to choose a good starting position for the first leg.”

After winning five rounds this year, Robert Kubica secured the WRC2 title at the Rally de España. As a reward for his performances – which have been impressive on his debut season in international rallying – the Pole has been promoted to the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team. He will be competing in the no.10 DS3 WRC and will be looking to continue learning about the sport at this level.

THREE QUESTIONS FOR… ROBERT KUBICA
Taking your season in the DS3 RRC together with the rallies in which you have competed in various different World Rally Cars, does your experience mean that you can feel relaxed about switching to the DS3 WRC?

“I think it’s difficult to compare the races I have competed in so far in a WRC with Wales Rally GB! This will be my first time competing in a gravel event in top-level rally car. I still have a lot to learn about: the stages and the team, of course, but also my co-driver. There are lot of new things, but I’m looking forward to making the most of this opportunity.”

After having competed all year with Maciek Baran as your co-driver, you are actually going to team up with the Italian Michele Ferrara. Can you therefore just switch from one language to another?

“I’m not going to get into the details, but Maciek told me he wanted to stop after Rally de España. I don’t want to force anyone to drive with me, so I looked for the best alternative solution for this final rally of the season. Michele isn’t any more experienced than me, but he is very motivated for us to do well together. Although I have spoken Italian since I was very young, it won’t be easy to switch languages, especially as I have made extensive changes to my pace notes system this season. But we’ll just have to get on with it, and cope with it all as well as we can!”

You have finished in the top 10 of the overall standings five times with the ‘little’ RRC. What would you consider to be a good result here?
“Obviously, it would be great to finish in the points again, but I’m not aiming for a specific result. My goal is to rack up the miles and increase my knowledge of the WRC. Each rally in the World Championship has its own distinctive features. In Wales, I know that the combination of fast roads and extreme weather can make it very difficult, especially for an inexperienced driver.”

WALES RALLY GB
Round: 13/13
Base and service park: Deeside Industrial Estate
Surface: Gravel
Weather: The climate in the north of Wales is milder than in the rest of Northern Europe. Average temperatures vary between 4°C and 10°C, with monthly rainfall of around 150mm.
Sunrise and sunset on the first day of the rally: 7.39am/4.19pm
Local time: GMT
Currency: Local currency is the pound sterling (€1 = £0.84).
Website: www.walesrallygb.com
Technical information: Spare parts (gearbox, differentials, subframes, steering racks and turbochargers) are to be shared with the Finland and Australia rallies.
Tyres: 24 Michelin Latitude Cross tyres to be chosen from 24 soft compound and 16 hard compound tyres.
Reconnaissance: Tuesday, 12 November from 7.30am to 4.30pm and Wednesday, 13 November from 7.30am to 4.50pm.
Qualifying Stage: Thursday, 14 November from 10.45am on a 3.11km-long stage at Llandegla (31.79km from the service park).
Route: 22 special stages (13 different stages). 312.38km of timed sections. Total distance: 1,502.44km.

WALES RALLY GB ITINERARY
THURSDAY 14 NOVEMBER
7.00am: Free practice
10.45am: Qualifying stage – Llandegla (3.11km)
12.30pm: FIA Post-Event Press Conference (Media Centre)
1.30pm: Selection of start order (Deeside)
3.00pm: Start (Deeside)
7.05pm: SS1 – Gwydyr (6.95km)
7.38pm: SS2 – Penmachno (10.51km)
8.42pm: SS3 – Clocaenog 1 (7.52km)
10.01pm: Flexi Service A (45 min)

FRIDAY 15 NOVEMBER
6.30am: Service B (15 min)
9.37am: SS4 – Hafren 1 (32.14km)
10.20am: SS5 – Sweet Lamb 1 (4.26km)
10.37am: SS6 – Myherin 1 (32.13km)
12.28pm: Service C (Newtown – 15 min)
1.43pm: SS7 – Hafren 2 (32.14km)
2.26pm: SS8 – Sweet Lamb 2 (4.26km)
2.43pm: SS9 – Myherin 2 (32.13km)
5.38pm: Flexi Service D (45 min)

SATURDAY 16 NOVEMBER
6.00am: Service E (15 min)
8.29am: SS10 – Gartheiniog 1 (14.58km)
8.58am: SS11 – Dyfi 1 (21.90km)
10.33am: SS12 – Gartheiniog 2 (14.58km)
11.02am: SS13 – Dyfi 2 (21.90km)
12.45pm: SS14 – Dyfnant 2 (21.34km)
2.22pm: SS15 – Chirk Castle 1 (2.06km)
2.34pm: SS16 – Chirk Castel 2 (2.06km)
3.45pm: Flexi Service F (45 min)

SUNDAY 17 NOVEMBER
6.30am: Service G (15 min)
8.56am: SS17 – Dyfnant 2 (21.34km)
9.56am: SS18 – Penllyn (14.12km)
11.06am: SS19 – Clocaenog 2 – Power Stage (7.52km)
12.03pm: SS20 – Kinmel Park 1 (2.18km)
12.11pm: SS21 – Kinmel Park 2 (2.18km)
1.01pm: SS22 – Great Orme (4.58km)
1.11pm: Finish and podium (Llandudno)


13-11-05 M-Sport looks to the future
Following the news that Thierry Neuville has agreed terms to move to Hyundai in 2014, M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, made the following comment:

“We are obviously disappointed that Thierry [Neuville] has made the decision to go to Hyundai after a strong performance from all the team this year. However, now that he has made the decision, our focus turns to Wales Rally GB and securing his second position in the drivers’ championship. Once this goal is achieved we will then re-direct our attention to the 2014 season. We are speaking to a number of drivers about potential options. M-Sport has a strong history of developing drivers in the WRC and we look forward to announcing our 2014 programme in the near future."

Thierry Neuville said:
"It has been a fantastic year in 2013 as we have achieved more than hoped for at the start of the year. I would like to thank all of the team who have done a great job – the car has been great with no problems for 12 rallies – but the story is not finished yet. We have a chance to finish second in the drivers’ championship and we will put all our attention on this goal next week at Wales Rally GB. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Malcolm [Wilson] and the team at M-Sport for all their help and look forward to pushing for success in Wales"
13-10-27 Robert Kubica secures WRC2 title with win
Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran dominated on tarmac and then controlled from the front on gravel to take their fifth win of the year at Rally de España. The Pole thus claimed the FIA WRC2 crown at the end of a perfect season, which he will conclude at the wheel of a DS3 WRC at next month’s Wales Rally GB.

The seventh and final event of Robert Kubica’s WRC2 programme, Rally de España provided the Pole with a major challenge since he had a chance to wrap up the title with a podium finish. Having already won four times this season (in Greece, Sardinia, Germany and France), the Citroën DS3 RRC driver was determined to finish in style whilst also accumulating as much experience as possible at the championship’s only mixed surface event.

After setting off from the square in front of Barcelona Cathedral, the competitors contested three night stages on Friday evening. On the first 21km-long stage, Robert Kubica beat his nearest rival by some 26 seconds! Maintaining his impressive form on the other two stages, he ended the first leg over 50s ahead of Elfyn Evans.

Keeping up his good pace the next day, he consolidated his lead at the rate of around half a second per kilometre. At the midday service, the gap to second place was 1:31.0. After winning the rally’s first eight stages, Robert only eased off slightly on the Salou super special stage. As Evans retired at that point, his lead over the second-placed driver exceeded the four-minute barrier!

With such a big lead, the challenge on day three was to finish the rally without jeopardizing the result taking shape. Whilst remaining focussed, Robert conceded a few seconds on the opening stages. However, he set the fastest time on the final two stages to finish the race in style, beating Yazeed Al-Rajhi into second by over five minutes.

Having scored 144 points out of a maximum possible of 150, Robert Kubica therefore becomes the first ever WRC2 champion. It is a title that crowns a season full of discoveries for the Pole: “Perhaps you’ll think that this result has been easily obtained, but I can assure you that it has been difficult from start to finish! When I began my season in Portugal, it was my first rally on gravel and I had to come up with answers to the hundreds of questions I had. After that, every event was totally different to the ones that went before, including those on tarmac. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this success, starting with Citroën Racing, PH Sport and my partner Lotos, without whom I wouldn‘t be here today.”

Robert also admitted that he wouldn’t be resting on his laurels for very long, preferring to focus on the challenges ahead: “In fact, I never really celebrated my win at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, so don’t expect any big celebrations from me! If people are happy that I have had some good results, then I’m pleased for them! The main thing for me is that I have improved, that I have made progress on gravel in spite of the limitations of my arm… I still have a lot of work to do before I can be totally satisfied, because I am very demanding of myself.”

In recognition of their performances, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran will line up at Wales Rally GB (13-17 November) in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team.
13-10-27 Overwhelming Group N victory for Benito Guerra in Spain
Mexico’s Benito Guerra flanked by Spanish co-driver Borja Rozada drove a strong event from start to finish, proving his speed on both gravel and Tarmac at Rally de España this weekend. He navigated his Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X expertly through the stages to end the rally more than five minutes ahead of nearest competitor Nicolas Fuchs, the 2013 FIA WRC 2 Production Cup winner, marking out Guerra as the man to beat in a production car.

Guerra drove flawlessly through the third day, perturbed only by the dust in the first loop forcing him to slow and wait for the road to clear. Equally confident on gravel and asphalt, Guerra was pleased to prove he still has what it takes to dominate Group N. Cheered on by the Spanish crowds, Guerra couldn’t have asked for more than to claim such a convincing win on the same stages where he won his Production car world title with Ralliart Italy last year.

Now he heads back to Mexico ready to prepare for his next challenge: “I did what I came to do here in Spain. We had a good feeling in the car throughout and Borja and I felt confident from the beginning to the end. I’m going home to Mexico to talk with my sponsors and work on a programme for next season. I hope to be back in the WRC for a full season. I feel like I’ve got a lot more to offer – now I just need the chance to prove it to everyone!”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was delighted with Guerra’s victory: “We all knew what Benny was capable of before the event started, but rallying’s an unpredictable sport and you never can tell what will happen on any one event. That Benny had the chance to show everyone he still has the pace he demonstrated throughout last season has left the crew and the team smiling. Now we hope to see him back in the WRC full-time next year!”


13-10-27 Neuville recovers fourth in Fiesta-dominated top-ten
The Qatar M-Sport squad put in a solid performance in the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at RallyRACC Rally de España this weekend with the Cumbrian outfit’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars accounting for 60 per cent of the overall top-ten.

Having been on course for another podium before a puncture put paid to his efforts, Thierry Neuville finished the event in fourth position with Evgeny Novikov fifth, Mads Østberg sixth and Hayden Paddon completing his competitive debut in a new-generation world rally car in eighth place respectively.

There was a mission in store for the Qatar M-Sport technicians yesterday evening as they converted the fleet of Ford Fiestas from their asphalt to gravel specification – ready for today’s loose-surface tests.

Despite this being done during the longest service of the year, the team had to work quickly in near perfect synchronisation. Changing everything from the suspension components, gearboxes and brakes to the jack foot height and sumpguards, the transformation of each car was completed in just 75 minutes.

Embarking on the final tests, the crews turned their hand back to gravel. Running third on the road with less than a 30 second deficit to the battling duo ahead, Qatar World Rally Team’s Neuville looked well placed to challenge.

But as low sun and hanging dust played havoc with the status quo, it looked as though he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul would have a fight on their hands, and when they picked up a right-rear puncture through the first pass of ‘Pesells 1’ (SS11), they found themselves relegated to fifth place overall.

Determined as always, Neuville was focused on recovering as many points as possible for his championship campaign. With his adversary, Jari-Matti Latvala, finishing second – and taking just one point from the points-paying Power Stage – the Belgian’s fourth place and Power Stage victory was enough to see his advantage reduced by just four points. With a 14-point margin going into the final round, the 25-year-old will be resolute on maintaining the upper hand.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor continued their good run through the Spanish terrain. Keeping his Fiesta RS WRC firmly planted to the stages, the Muscovite found the perfect balance between being cautious when necessary and unleashing his customary dose of ‘maximum attack’ when comfortable.

Having set some strong times over the course of the event, Novikov was combining speed with a clever and considered approach. His strategy paid dividends, and he and Minor added another top-five finish to their 2013 tally.

Progressing on the loose-surface terrain, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson were demonstrating their true potential behind the wheel. Benefiting from a better road position on the morning stages, the Norwegian was back where he belonged – posting top-three stage times on two of the three stages.

As the road cleaned for the afternoon loop, Østberg remained on form – piloting his Fiesta RS WRC to another hat-trick of top-three stage times to secure sixth place overall.

In the third Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were finding their feet on what was their first taste of a modern world rally car. With no gravel testing, it was somewhat of a baptism of fire for the New Zealander.

Adapting the set-up to suit his driving style for the afternoon loop, Paddon upped the pace. Comfortably in the top-ten on individual stage times, the youngster finished his competitive debut in the Fiesta with a creditable eighth place finish.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, there was disappointment for Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt. Recovering well from yesterday’s final stage incident, the pairing were on course to climb the leader board with a second fastest time through the first stage of the day (SS10). Unfortunately the duo would go no further as their Ford Fiesta R5 developed a clutch issue before the first pass of ‘Pesells’ (SS11).

With just one round remaining in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, the team are now focussed on securing a good result on home soil at Wales Rally GB – a favoured hunting ground for both the team and their young crews.

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“Most importantly we have only lost four points to Jari-Matti [Latvala] in the championship, even if I think we could have done better – especially on the Tarmac. OK, we didn’t feel 100 per cent confident with the set-up, but when we made some changes on Saturday afternoon we were able to set fastest times and win the Power Stage. All of these are positive things.

“Also don’t forget that this was the first time for us in the stages today. Especially with the dust, the conditions were very difficult which meant that checking the pacenotes wasn’t easy. At the same time, it was the first time for us doing a rally where a strategy can pay.

“We maybe didn’t see our best performance here this weekend, but we have certainly learnt a lot and it wasn’t a bad weekend by all means.”

Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“I am quite happy with our performance this weekend. We pushed to the maximum when we felt confident and played it clever when the conditions were a bit more tricky and I think that that was a good strategy for us. We were able to set some good times and to finish in the top-five which was my goal for this weekend.”

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“I am very happy and very relieved this afternoon. The last few months have been quite difficult and I was really struggling to find the rhythm and get in the right frame of mind. It is so nice to start the day and be fast – to have the confidence, enjoy the ride, know you’re not going to make a mistake and still be fast. It’s a very good feeling. I’ve had this feeling before, but it has been some time so I am very happy to be back at the top, at least on gravel.”

Hayden Paddon (8th) said:
“Of course it is good to get to the finish as that was obviously one of our goals. This weekend has been a big learning curve for us though. We were a bit disappointed with how today went because we never really got a feeling for the car and struggled for confidence. We made some improvements this afternoon and made some good progress, but there is still a long way to go. We just need to go home, do some homework, and figure out what the answers are.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF) said:
“Performance wise, I think we can take a lot from this rally. Especially on Saturday, we might not have been able to match Robert [Kubica], but when compared to some of the world rally cars I think we had good pace.

“Unfortunately, I made a silly mistake on yesterday’s Super Special and that affected our retirement today when the [Ford] Fiesta R5 developed an issue with the clutch. Obviously it is very disappointing for the whole team, but we just need to keep focussed and look forward to GB.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Sadly we have not achieved the result we were hoping for this weekend, but to come away with Thierry [Neuville] still holding a strong second place in the Drivers’ Championship is not bad at all. He has 14 points over Jari-Matti [Latvala], so I think we can all look forward to a good battle between them in GB.

“It is very satisfying indeed to see so many of our Ford Fiestas in the top-ten. That in itself is a fantastic result and testament to all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes back at base.”

13-10-27 Hirvonen claims podium spot in Spain
After two days on tarmac, Rally de España concluded on the gravel roads of southern Catalonia. Unfortunately, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio were unable to complete their home event, as they were forced to retire when fighting for one of the top-three places. Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen grabbed the third and final podium spot.

Held on the super fast tarmac roads around Reus, Saturday’s long day ended with an intense period of mechanical work in the service park. The Citroën Racing team spent the 75 minutes available to convert the DS3 WRCs to their ‘gravel’ configuration, given that Sunday’s final leg would be held on the dusty roads up in the neighbouring hills, with three stages each of which would be run twice.

The day’s action began with the Gandesa test. Rather unexpectedly, hanging dust turned out to be main topic of discussion at the end of the stage, as opposed to problems related to sweeping the racing line. As the conditions remained largely the same on all of the stages, the issue kept cropping up throughout the morning. By midday, Dani Sordo still held onto second place overall, despite having conceded a few seconds to Jari-Matti Latvala. “I’m pleased to have more or less matched my main rival. My fears turned out to be unfounded, as I felt pretty good in the car right from the word go,” commented the Spaniard. “Ogier has fought back and is now just a few seconds behind. I’m going to try and hold him off but his starting position is still better than mine.”

Also very much on the pace of the leading drivers, Mikko Hirvonen had moved up into fourth overall during the first loop: “I set some good times, but it could have been much better. At certain points, there was so much dust that I just had to stop. I had no choice, really – we couldn‘t even see the road in front of the car! I am going to try and drive quickly this afternoon; I still have a slim chance of grabbing a place on the podium…”

The Finn certainly wasn’t thinking, however, that he would move up in the standings thanks to the retirement of Dani Sordo. After clipping a rock on the penultimate stage, the no.3 DS3 WRC driver was forced to park his car at the side of the road. Mikko Hirvonen therefore took over from him in third place, a position he held onto until the end: “First of all, I’m really sorry for Dani and Carlos, who had had a great race, both on tarmac and on gravel. I’m pretty happy with my weekend, as we managed to stay among the leaders during the tarmac stages. It’s good to be back on the podium. I’ll now be trying to finish off the season in style at Wales Rally GB.”

After making noticeable progress on tarmac, Khalid Al-Qassimi had to adapt to the slippery conditions on the final leg. The Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team driver finished 11th, just outside the points: “Like everyone else, I was hampered by the dust in the first few stages. But most of all, I struggled to make the most of the changes we had made to the set-up. We didn’t do any testing before this rally, so I spent more time getting to grips with how the car worked on the gravel. I’m nonetheless pleased to have made it to the end of the rally without making any mistakes.”

“This rally served up a plethora of difficulties, and I’d like to highlight the high quality work done by all of the members of our team,” concluded Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “As regards performance, reliability and strategy, we have had a very good race. Dani didn’t make it to the finish, but he had to push as hard as possible to fight off our rivals, and you can’t do that without taking some risks. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Volkswagen, who have succeeded Citroën as Manufacturers’ World Champions. They have had a great season and deserved to win the title.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 3:33:21.2
2 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +32.9
3 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +1:13.7
4 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:33.9
5 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:01.0
6 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:26.0
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:55.8
8 Paddon / Kennard Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:55.7
9 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +11:14.1
11 Al-Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +13:30.5

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1 to SS3: Ogier.
Day 2 – SS4: Sordo and Latvala – SS5: Sordo – SS6: Latvala – SS7: Ogier – SS8: Neuville – SS9: Latvala.
Day 3 – SS10 and SS11: Mikkelsen – SS12 to SS15: Ogier.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 8 fastest times – Latvala, 3 including 1 tied – Mikkelsen, 2 – Sordo, 2 including 1 tied – Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS5: Ogier – SS6: Sordo and Latvala – SS7 to SS13: Latvala – SS14 and SS15: Ogier.
CHAMPIONNATS DU MONDE DES RALLYES
CLASSEMENT PILOTES
Ogier : 265 points
Neuville : 158 pts
Latvala : 144 pts
Hirvonen : 126 pts
Sordo : 117 pts
Ostberg : 89 pts
Loeb : 68 pts
Novikov : 67 pts
Prokop : 55 pts
Mikkelsen : 40 pts

CLASSEMENT CONSTRUCTEUR
Wolkswagen Motorsport : 382 points
Citroën Abu Dhabi WRT : 274 pts
Qatar M Sport WRT : 174 pts
Qatar WRT : 169 pts
Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT : 63 pts
13-10-27 Midday Quotes, Rally de Espana, Day 3
Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“We punctured the rear-right tyre about four kilometres into the second stage [of the morning, SS12]. The tyre came off the rim and we had to drive the remainder of the stage like that. Yes, we lost time, but it could have been a lot worse. Because the conditions were so tricky with the dust, we didn’t lose as much as we might have to the guys in front.

“Then on the last stage [of the morning, SS13] we struggled with the set-up – we just didn’t have enough traction. We’re going to make some changes in service so hopefully that will help us for the second loop and we can start taking some time back.”

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“It was very dusty this morning and the low sun meant that the conditions were very difficult. As always, we are trying to do our best. Where we feel confident we are pushing to the maximum and setting some good times, but where the visibility is not so good, then there is no reason for us to take any big risks.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“It feels a lot better today and I think everything is going quite well. We’re just trying to enjoy the driving and push where we can. Obviously it’s all about finding the balance because we want to get to the end – there is no point in pushing too much because we’re not fighting for a position. What we want to do is prove that we can be fast, and I think that we have done that this morning.”

Hayden Paddon (9th) said:
“It’s been a very interesting morning to say the least. It is a great car, but it is just so different to anything I’ve ever driven before. The chassis is so responsive and at the moment it is just not working with my driving style. There was always that risk having not driven the car on gravel, but we’ll make some changes in service and see if we can improve.”
13-10-27 Tidemand bröt i Spanien men är nöjd med säsongen
Årets sista event i Junior-VM, Rally de Espana, fick ett snöpligt slut för Pontus Tidemand med en rullning på tävlingens andra dag. Trots det beskriver den nyblivne juniorvärldsmästaren sin säsong som "nästintill perfekt" och är nöjd med pallplaster i fem av de sex deltävlingarna när han blickar framåt mot 2014.

Pontus fick en uppmuntrande start i Rally de Espana på fredagskvällen. Han satte den snabbaste tiden på den första av de tre kvällssträckorna som utgjorde den första tävlingsdagen och följde sedan upp med två tredjetider. Inför nattuppehållet låg han på en fin tredjeplats efter Suarez och Lemes.
- Jag tycker vi fick till en bra start, säger Pontus. Jag räknade med att Suarez och Lemes skulle vara snabba på hemmaplan, så det var ingen överraskning. Men jag är glad att vi kunde hålla såpass jämnt tempo med dem, det känns lite som ett kvitto på att vi börjar lära oss att behärska olika typer av asfaltvägar.

Lördagen tog vid där fredagen slutade, men jakten på spanjorerna blev tyvärr kortvarig. På morgonens andra sträcka orsakade en sten i en innerkurva en rullning där bilens skyddsbåge blev så tilltygad att en omstart på söndagen inte var att tänka på. José Suarez, som varit den största konkurrenten under säsongen, rullade även han i precis samma kurva och fick ett abrupt slut på sitt hemmarally. Lyckligtvis skadades ingen i incidenterna, men Pontus kände av besvikelsen:
- Riktigt tråkigt att inte få komma i mål på sista tävlingen, jag hade sett fram emot att få en fight i helgen. Men man får väl ändå säga att det var tur i oturen att det hände nu istället för tidigare under året.

Sex deltävlingar har ingått i JVM-säsongen och tillsammans med den för året nye kartläsaren Ola Fløene har Pontus presterat på topp i varje event. Han har imponerat stort med såväl klok körning och utveckling på asfalt som ett starkt psyke som står pall i de mest pressade situationer.

Säsongen inleddes på grus i Portugal i april och efter att ha kammat hem vinsten kopplade Pontus grepp om mästerskapets ledning - en ledning han inte tänkte släppa i första taget. I Acropolis Rally blev det en andraplats och i årets sista renodlade grusrally, Rally Finland, slutade Pontus som trea och tack vare poängen för sträckvinster utökade han sin totala ledning.

I slutet av augusti var det dags för säsongens andra hälft, nu på asfalt. Pontus fick sin första JVM-vinst på underlaget i Rallye Deutschland och sex veckor senare vann han även Rallye de France samtidigt som han säkrade mästerskapet och därmed blev korad juniorvärldsmästare. Målet för årets sista tävling var att sluta på pallen då det skulle ge full pott i pallplaceringar, men den förhoppningen grusades. Trots det kan Pontus vara nöjd med sitt andra internationella år - fem pallplatser av sex möjliga, varav tre segrar, hela 26 sträckvinster och inte minst den prestigefyllda titeln.
- Det har varit en nästintill perfekt säsong för oss, säger Pontus. Våra mål var högt satta från början och vi ville verkligen ta hem mästerskapet. Med den hårda konkurrensen i klassen visste jag att det inte skulle bli lätt, men vi har haft en plan med noggranna förberedelser inför varje tävling och fantastiska människor runt oss som hjälpt till att pussla ihop alla detaljer. Det blev ett vinnande koncept.

Även Ola, som senast var kartläsare åt dubbla IRC-mästaren och numera WRC-föraren Andreas Mikkelsen, är nöjd med sin och Pontus säsong:
- Jag och Pontus var bekanta sedan tidigare, men nu har vi lärt känna varandra betydligt bättre och vi har utvecklat ett väldigt bra samarbete. Konkurrensen i JVM har varit tuffare än jag trodde och jag är otroligt glad för att vi slutade som vinnare. Det har varit otroligt roligt att få uppleva det här och jag tror det kommer hända mycket spännande för Pontus framöver.

Den lyckade satsningen i Junior-VM skulle inte ha varit möjlig utan stödet från EVEN Management och Tätab och Pontus JVM-guld blev också norska EVEN Managements tredje internationella titel på tre år.
- Pontus har klarat av att dra nytta av erfarenheterna från förra året och samtidigt förstått hur viktigt det är att förbereda sig ordentligt inför varje rally. Detta tillsammans med en erfaren co-driver har gjort att Pontus har kunnat visa upp en mognad och stabilitet man sällan ser hos unga förare. Jag ser verkligen fram emot fortsättningen, jag tror att Pontus kan nå långt, säger Erik Veiby som är Pontus manager och en av ägarna till EVEN Management.

Exakt hur 2014 kommer se ut för Pontus är inte klart, men segern i Junior-VM ger honom sex förbetalda VM-tävlingar i en Ford Fiesta R5 i klassen WRC2, och Pontus själv har redan börjat forma ett mål inför kommande året:
- Mitt huvudmål för nästa säsong är att fortsätta utvecklas, samla erfarenhet inför framtiden genom att få köra så mycket som möjligt även utöver programmet jag har genom JVM-vinsten och förhoppningsvis etablera mig starkare som professionell förare.

http://www.pontustidemand.se/
13-10-26 Neuville powers into Spanish top three
As the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) only mixed-surface event of the year bade farewell to the pure asphalt stages, Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville moved into a top-three position whilst claiming three additional points in the all-important Power Stage.

Making strides throughout the day, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov holds sixth place overall with Mads Østberg and Hayden Paddon in seventh and ninth places respectively.

Unfortunately, a huge roll on the penultimate stage of the day put paid to Nasser Al-Attiyah’s hard work and progress. Similarly for Elfyn Evans, the Welshman had to forfeit a strong second place in the WRC 2 category having impacted with a concrete bollard on the day’s final stage and damaging the steering of his Ford Fiesta R5.

Having altered the set-up of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the afternoon loop, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were back up to their customary speed – matching the times of their rivals from the off. The pairing were keen to show how formidable their pace can be, and they did just that by winning the Power Stage by an impressive margin of 2.8 seconds over their nearest rival.

With an additional three points for his championship campaign, it was mission accomplished for Neuville. Having controlled the gap to the leaders, the 25-year-old goes into tomorrow’s gravel terrain with all to play for – as well as a favourable road position he is less than thirty seconds adrift of the battling duo ahead.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Novikov was continuing where he left off last night. Looking at one behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC, he and co-driver Ilka Minor set a string of competitive times to remain in the fight for another top-five result, just 0.1 seconds adrift of rival Mikko Hirvonen.

Getting to grips with the handling of the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson demonstrated some encouraging progress on today’s closing speed tests. With their confidence renewed, the pairing will be relishing the opportunity to get back behind the wheel on gravel tomorrow – when they can truly showcase their potential.

Also improving the balance and handling of his Fiesta RS WRC, Paddon was growing in confidence with each new stage. The New Zealander had been struggling to find the optimum set-up, but having made some adjustments in service, he and co-driver John Kennard were encouraged by their improvements and relishing tomorrow’s fresh challenge on gravel.

Following an inspection of their Ford Fiestas, Evans will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow, but following some substantial rollcage damage, Al-Attiyah will unfortunately take no further part in this weekend’s event.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I think it is fair to say that this morning, the times just weren’t there. We tried to minimise the gap to the guys in front, but the set-up wasn’t really working for us and we were losing time on every stage.

“After speaking with the team, we made some changes to the set-up in [midday] service and immediately the car felt great and our confidence was right back to what it had been in the previous events. It was a lot easier to fight with the other drivers and the three points in the Power Stage were very important for the championship.

“Of course tomorrow is another day. If Jari-Matti [Latvala] takes the full 25 points – and the additional point from this afternoon [for third place in the Power Stage] – it will really reduce our advantage over him [in the championship]. We need to be clever tomorrow and find a good balance between taking time out of him [Latvala] and Dani [Sordo] and, ultimately, staying on the road.”

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“We were able to push a little bit more this afternoon and again I was happy with the times. I think we can be pleased with what we have done on the asphalt stages and tomorrow we will just continue the way we have been going and see what happens.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“Today has been a lot better than yesterday. OK, we started a bit off the pace this morning but we altered the set-up of the car and immediately I found more confidence. From the third stage of the day [SS6], it has been a really good day for us.

“That was where we wanted to start the rally, but unfortunately it was not to be. That is just the way it is sometimes, but I think we ended the day well and I am really excited about tomorrow. There’ll be no real tactic. Result wise, there is nothing much we can do, but we will certainly push because we want to prove that we can be competitive and set some good stage times.”

Hayden Paddon (9th) said:
“We made some good changes to the set-up during midday service and everything certainly went a lot better for us this afternoon. OK, we’re not 100 per cent there yet, but we are moving in the direction that we have some more confidence out on the stages. The times were a little bit better and I think that we got down to about 0.6 of a second per kilometre adrift of the front guys which is not far off where we wanted to be.

“Naturally, we want to be a little bit more competitive, but I am really looking forward to the gravel stages tomorrow which is my preferred surface. It will be another big challenge having not driving the car on gravel before, but hopefully we can adapt quickly and get the job done.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (DNF) said:
“Today we started with some changes on the car and we were making improvements in many areas. I was really happy with the way things were going – we were driving at our own pace and learning a lot on the Tarmac – but unfortunately we had a crash [on SS8]. This is just part of rallying, and the main thing is that Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver] and I are OK.”

Elfyn Evans (4th in WRC 2) said:
“It had all been going OK. Robert [Kubica] had been setting a very strong pace, and even though we were a bit in no man’s land in-between him and the chasing pack, it felt as though we were driving well. We weren’t quite able to match his pace, but compared to other events I think it had been a strong performance from us.

“Unfortunately that hard work was all undone on the last stage of the day. It was a silly mistake from me. We just went a little bit tight into a hairpin, opened the steering for a bit more lock, and there was a big concrete bollard on the inside which I didn’t see. Because the steering was broken we couldn’t continue back to service.

“Obviously it is a huge disappointment for me and the whole team, but tomorrow is a new day. We just need to go out there and show what we – and the car – can do on gravel.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Firstly I am relieved that both Nasser [Al-Attiyah] and Giovanni [Bernacchini] were OK after what was the biggest accident in their WRC careers. Unfortunately the car is too damaged to take any further part in the rally, but is it good to see that the safety features of the Fiesta have done their job.

“We’ve seen a much better afternoon from Thierry [Neuville] – taking his first stage win of the event, and the Power Stage at that. The additional three points will go towards helping him secure his second place in the championship.

“As we move to gravel tomorrow, the rally is still all to play for. Thierry has a more favourable road position, and with the leaders battling up front, anything can happen.
13-10-26 Dani Sordo prepares for push on gravel
Picking up where they left off on day one of Rally de España, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio continued to produce a faultless performance in front of a highly partisan home crowd. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crew lie second overall ahead of tomorrow’s final leg, which will be held on gravel roads. Fifth-placed Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are also well placed to fight for a podium spot.

After yesterday’s first leg of night stages, Rallye de España continued today on the Catalan tarmac roads. The crews set off from the service park to head for Riudecanyes and the day’s first stage. By the end of SS4, Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala had set the joint-fastest time, allowing them to close the gap to Sébastien Ogier.

On the next stage, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver went quickest again, enabling him to grab second position in the overall standings. And then on the third and final test of the morning loop, Ogier picked up a puncture, catapulting Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala into the lead, once again level with each other!

“We had to find the right balance between pushing, wearing out the tyres and taking limited risks, since the aim is certainly not to be leading this evening,” commented Dani on his return to the Salou service park. “We’ll have to keep going at the same pace this afternoon and try to stay just behind Jari-Matti.”

Fourth at this stage of the race, Mikko Hirvonen was also pleased with his morning’s work. “With dry, clean roads and a consistent level of grip, I’ve enjoyed driving the car a lot more than I did in Germany and France,” said the Finn. “I had pretty consistent pace and I think I can go even faster. I’m going to drive as quickly as I can without worrying about what might be the best position for the final day.”

The afternoon loop was shorter, as it was limited to second runs on El Priorat (a lengthy 42.04km, all the same) and Colldejou, with the day’s racing concluding with a super special stage. The stakes were highest on SS8, as it would determine the starting order for the third leg and serve as the rally’s Power Stage, with bonus points for the top three!

Keeping perfectly to the target time set for him by the team, Dani Sordo held onto second position overall, 1.2s behind Latvala! Struggling with his rapidly deteriorating tyres, Mikko Hirvonen slipped from fourth to sixth, before making up a place on the Salou super special stage.

“I think we have had a great race up to this point and we have achieved our objective of staying behind Jari-Matti,” said Dani Sordo. “The final outcome is however far from decided, with Neuville, Ogier, Hirvonen and Novikov all not far behind. It is difficult to know who has the best position, but I do know that we’ll have to push as hard as possible tomorrow! It‘ll be difficult, because gravel really isn’t my favourite surface, but I’ll fight to try and win.”

“Maybe I lost a few seconds by being too cautious on Colldejou, but overall it has been a positive day,” assessed Mikko. “I will have a very good starting position tomorrow. I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’m going to go for it without holding back, to try and finish on the podium. The top six drivers all have a real chance.”

Twelfth overall, Khalid Al-Qassimi was also reasonably pleased with his day’s performance, after making up four positions during the leg: “It was a lot better than yesterday! I gradually felt more confident and I was able to try some different things, both in terms of the set-up and my driving style. We start from scratch again tomorrow on the gravel, but I’m still pleased with how today went.”

Apart from the super special stage, Robert Kubica won all of the day’s timed stages. The Pole is therefore well on course to claiming another WRC2 category win. After his closest challenger retired, he now holds a lead of some four minutes.

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC 2:06:08.9
2 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +1.6
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +29.3
4 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC +46.5
5 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +57.8
6 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +57.9
7 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:28.4
8 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:06.7
9 Paddon / Kennard Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:08.6
10 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +4:07.6
13 Al-Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +8:14.2

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1 to SS3: Ogier.
Day 2 – SS4: Sordo and Latvala – SS5: Sordo – SS6: Latvala – SS7: Ogier – SS8: Neuville – SS9: Latvala

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 4 fastest times – Latvala, 3 including 1 tied – Sordo, 2 including 1 tied – Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS5: Ogier – SS6: Sordo and Latvala – SS7 to SS9: Latvala.
13-10-26 Midday quotex, Rally de Espana, Day 2
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I’m in a podium position at the moment so it is not so bad, but still I cannot drive how I would like to. The settings are not 100 per cent correct for these stages and although we have tried a lot of different things, we’re not seeing too much of a difference – maybe we should put some more abrasive Tarmac on the stages I’m struggling with and I’m sure my times would improve! We have already lost a lot of time to the front, so the mission now will be to keep that gap as small as possible.”

Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“I think it has been quite a good morning for us. We’re not taking any big risks and we have been especially careful in the cuts so as to minimise the risk of any punctures. But all in all I am happy with the driving and everything is OK. Hopefully we can increase a little bit more this afternoon and set some more good times.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“We made quite a big change to the car before the last stage [this morning, SS6] which helped a lot. Before that I wasn’t able to find the rhythm and it was almost like I didn’t trust the car going into the corners. If I braked just a little too late there was massive understeer. We raised the car and stiffened the front, and straight away I felt more confident.”

Hayden Paddon (9th) said:
“We’re learning the car reasonably quickly but we are just struggling a little with the balance and therefore can’t carry the corner speed we would like. We’re changing things after each stage and constantly learning, so hopefully we can hit the sweet spot. The combinations of what does and doesn’t work are different to what we’re used to so it’s a bit of a learning curve at the moment. On the last stage [this morning, SS6] for example, we improved the understeer but then that sacrificed the grip too much.

“It’s all part of the process and any time behind the wheel is great for us. It’s great to be out there and the car feels good, it’s just taking a bit of time to work out how to get that last little bit of performance.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (11th) said:
“I’ve felt a lot more comfortable this morning, but still these stages are very difficult. We don’t know them [this morning’s stages] so well and they are really fast with a lot of blind corners so your notes need to be really precise.

“We just need to continue the way we have been. We’re quite comfortable with our pace at the moment so we won’t make any major changes in service. Our aim is just to get through all of the stages cleanly and try to take as much knowledge and experience away from this weekend as possible.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“This morning wasn’t bad for us, but it is not easy to get the grip. We’re not having the same grip levels that you might expect here – there’s certainly less grip out there than I had anticipated. The car is moving around a lot more, but at the same time it’s reasonably well balanced so it is a challenge for sure.

“It’s definitely a tricky morning, but I wouldn’t say it was a bad one – the main problem is just Robert [Kubica]! After trading times with him over the past two rallies, it’s difficult to say why we’re not as close here. He’s certainly putting in a very impressive performance.”


13-10-26 Dani Sordo moves into position
After setting off from Barcelona, Rally de España started the race proper with three night stages. On the pace right from the word go, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio hold third place overall after the opening exchanges. Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie fifth at the end of the first leg in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s second DS3 WRC.

With Barcelona Cathedral serving as a magnificent backdrop and thousands of supporters on hand to cheer on the crews, Rally de España’s ceremonial start turned into something of a street party as the race got underway. After completing a road section of more than a hundred kilometres, it was already dark by the time the cars set off on Querol, the first timed stage. The stage provided an initial pecking order, with Sébastien Ogier first, followed by Dani Sordo.

The Spaniard confirmed his good form on SS2, but he decided to drop a few seconds on the third and final stage of the night to slip down into third position. “Everything went well this evening. It was great to drive on these roads at night,” reported Dani on his return to Salou. “I felt it was preferable to lose a little bit of time on SS3 so that Latvala moved ahead of me. That will make it easier for me to choose my starting position for the third leg, which will be on gravel. I’m not a big fan of these kinds of tactics, but we’ve been forced into proceeding like this by the regulations.”

Fifth at the end of the first evening of racing, Mikko Hirvonen was reasonably pleased with how he had started the rally: “There were highs and lows. I started well on SS1, but then I struggled to find the rhythm on the next stage. I was quicker on the last test and that meant I finished the leg among the leaders. I like consistent road conditions like these and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s stages…”

Competing in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC, Khalid Al-Qassimi ended the day in 16th place overall after a testing start to the rally: “The damp patches didn’t really help me get into the swing of things, but I was more aggressive on SS3 and that helped me to get closer to the pace of the leading drivers. I am going to ask the team to soften the set-up a little so that I feel more confident tomorrow.”

In contention for the WRC2 title, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran made the perfect start to their rally, securing category wins on all three stages. The Poles lead by almost a minute from Elfyn Evans

1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 34:39.9
2 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +8.8
3 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +12.6
4 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +19.1
5 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +27.3
6 Mikkelsen / Nagle VW Polo R WRC +27.8
7 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +28.5
8 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:07.7
9 Paddon / Kennard Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:09.0
10 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:13.0
11 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +1:25.3
16 Al-Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +2:45.2

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1 to SS3: Ogier.
BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 3 fastest times.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS3: Ogier.
13-10-26 Solid start for Qatar M-Sport in Spain
As RallyRACC Rally de España started in style this evening, the Qatar M-Sport crews got off to a solid start. With M-Sport making up more than half of the event’s entry, it may come as no surprise that the Cumbrian firm’s designed and manufactured Ford Fiestas also accounted for 50 per cent of the overall top-ten come the end of Day 1.

Before tackling three daunting stages under the cover of darkness, the crews stopped off at the region’s capital in Barcelona – entertaining the enthusiastic fans in attendance. Of course it was not all fun and games, and once the merriments of Barcelona came to a close, the Qatar M-Sport squad had to master a challenging opening loop.

Contesting 61.75 kilometres of fast, asphalt, night stages on their journey back to the Salou-based service park, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul got their Rally de España campaign off to a promising start. Despite struggling to find a perfect rhythm and set-up behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Qatar World Rally Team pairing hold a strong fourth place going into tomorrow’s stages – well within reach of a sought-after podium position.

It was a similar story for Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov. Partnered by co-driver Ilka Minor, the pairing already have two solid performances under their belts – in Australia and France respectively – and look on course to continue that trend in Spain. Taking a cleverly thought-out approach to the tricky opening tests, the pairing piloted their Fiesta RS WRC to a creditable seventh place – just over a second shy of the top-five.

In the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson had to contend with finding both the perfect rhythm behind the wheel and the optimum set-up for their Fiesta. Yet thanks to a composed drive, the Norwegian finds himself well within the top-ten and ready for a resurgent comeback as the rally continues tomorrow.

New to the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard had a sensational start to their new-generation world rally car debut. Despite admitting to a steady approach – not 100 per cent comfortable with their set-up – New Zealand’s finest set a string of encouraging times behind the wheel of their Fiesta RS WRC. With the upper hand over a number of those accustomed to the power of today’s modern world rally cars, the pairing’s impressive start sees them placed within the top-ten with the promise of taking further strides as the event continues.

Piloting the second Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini put in a clever start to their rally. Well aware of the risks shrouding this evening’s tricky speed tests, the Qatari took a cautious approach to the super-quick stages which are made all the more treacherous under the cover of darkness. Finishing the day just outside of the top-ten, Al-Attiyah will be looking to take his knowledge from last weekend’s Rally Cyprus – another mixed-surface event – forward for the remainder of the rally.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt overcame an intermittent misfire on the first stage of the evening to finish the day in a strong second place. Piloting their Ford Fiesta R5, the pairing were never out of the top-three on individual stage times and look on course to secure another good result.

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“It was quite a difficult evening for us as I wasn’t 100 per cent comfortable with either the set-up of the car or the pacenotes. We were definitely losing too much time, but I think that that was the best we could have done and we’ll work hard with the team to change the settings for tomorrow and hopefully do better.”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“This evening has been OK for us. Of course it was interesting to drive in darkness because it has been a long time since we have driven any night stages. From the second stage onwards we were following Thierry’s [Neuville] split times and so far everything is going OK and we are looking forward to tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“It has been a challenging first day, but we are here which is the main thing. We have been struggling with the gear-changes, and I don’t think the gearbox option we came up with in testing worked so well for us this evening, but I hope it will be better on tomorrow’s stages.”

Hayden Paddon (9th) said:
“This evening was a challenge, but we got up to speed with the car reasonably quickly and I felt comfortable. We were struggling with the set-up a little so the times aren’t exactly where we want them to be just yet. Nevertheless, we got through this evening and we got some more miles under our belts. Tonight we are going to make the car a bit stiffer so hopefully we can improve a lot tomorrow.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (12th) said:
“Honestly, it has not been a bad evening for us. I find the night stages quite difficult and we have never driven these stages before so we decided to manage our pace and finish all of the stages without any issues. We know what we have to do tomorrow, so I hope we can make some good progress.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“We had a bit of an issue from quite early on in the first stage, but through talking with the team we managed to rectify it and the car was running properly from then on. It was a shame to lose the time to Robert [Kubica] as I was looking forward to really taking the fight to him here this weekend. That said, I think there is certainly a lot more to come from me this weekend and I am really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think all of the drivers have struggled a little with the set-up in these dark conditions, but with some small adjustments, I am sure we will be better placed tomorrow. Despite struggling to find the optimum set-up, Hayden [Paddon] in particular has been very impressive on his debut and I am sure there is more to come from him as we move into tomorrow.

“It’s been a solid start to the rally. All of the cars have run without any issues and that gives us a good base to build on tomorrow.”
13- 10-23 Tidemand redo för årets sista deltävling i Junior-VM
Pontus Tidemand kommer till Spanien och den sjätte och sista deltävlingen i årets upplaga av Junior-VM i rally som klar juniorvärldsmästare då han lyckades säkra titeln i Frankrike för tre veckor sedan. Det gör honom dock inte mindre laddad inför helgen - pallplats är målet i WRC-kalenderns enda event med mixat underlag.
- Det kändes obeskrivligt bra att ta hem mästerskapet med ett event kvar, berättar Pontus. Det är givetvis en lättnad att inte ha någon press på sig inför Rally de Espana, men att vi har titeln med oss förändrar ingenting i hur vi tacklar den här tävlingen. Vi har förberett oss precis som vanligt. Jag vill samla så mycket erfarenhet som möjligt inför kommande år så onödiga risker är uteslutet, samtidigt som pallen lockar eftersom det skulle innebära att vi har varit i topp tre i alla årets JVM-tävlingar.

RallyRACC-Rally de Espana är det enda eventet i VM-serien som går på både asfalt och grus och detta blir även första och enda gången i år som JWRC-deltagarna kör alla sträckorna i sina Ford Fiesta R2:or. De flesta förare benämns som grus- eller asfaltspecialister, vilket gör att Rally de Espana bjuder på en extra utmaning i att snabbt kunna ställa om sig mellan underlagen och ställer högre krav på bilens inställningar. De spanska vägarna skiljer sig från de tyska och franska genom att vara både bredare och mer rytmiska och för ofta tankarna till banracing.
- Jag satsar på att hitta en bra rytm och att kunna köra så fort det går utan att dra på mig problem, säger Pontus. För att lyckas i Spanien handlar det mycket om att hitta rätt linjer på asfalten och klara av omställningen till grus. Konkurrenterna kommer ge allt, kanske särskilt Suarez och Lemes som är på hemmaplan, så det blir garanterat en spännande helg.

Serciveplatsen är belägen i staden Salou och totalt ska 15 specialsträckor på sammanlagt 355,92 km klaras av under helgen. Tävlingen inleds på fredag med en ceremoniell start vid katedralen i Barcelona och följs upp av tre kvällssträckor. På lördagen körs sex sträckor, bland annat tävlingens längsta (42,04 km) och kortaste sträcka (2,24 km). Efter två dagar på asfalt är det på söndagen dags att gå över till grus när de avslutande sex sträckorna väntar innan målgång på eftermiddagen.

Följ årets sista JWRC-tävling live via: http://www.wrc.com/jwrc/results/2013/rallyracc-rally-de-espana/stage-times/

Hemsida: http://www.pontustidemand.se/
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/PTMRacing
13-10-15 Robert Kubica to drive a DS3 WRC at Wales Rally GB
7After a highly successful season in their DS3 RRC, Robert Kubica and his co-driver Maciek Baran will compete in the top-flight category at the final round of the world championship. Thanks to the support of Citroën Racing and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, they will line up at the start of Wales Rally GB in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën World Rally Team.

With four category wins from the six rallies in which he has competed, Robert Kubica can rightfully feel pleased with his debut season in the World Rally Championship. The Polish track racer has overcome a genuine challenge in winning at extreme and varied international events in the DS3 RRC. Currently leading the WRC2 championship standings, he will be trying to seal overall victory later this month at Rally RACC Catalunya, where second place would be enough for him to win his first world title. Wales Rally GB, which until now wasn’t part of his programme for this year, will provide him with the perfect opportunity to put his skills to the test in rally’s top-flight category.

“Such a fantastic performance is worthy of our trust,” commented Khalid Al Qassimi, who welcomed the opportunity to offer his seat to a famous and worthy driver. “Robert’s fine result this year are down to his hard work and determination. We know he will do a great job in representing the Abu Dhabi Citroën World Rally Team,” he added.

Convinced by the qualities of the Pole, Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal) detailed the reasons behind this choice, entirely in keeping with the team’s policy for showcasing promising drivers: “In my discussions with Robert, we agreed that he would move up to the next category if he won the WRC2 title. It’s true that as things stand, he hasn’t won the title. But even if he doesn’t win it in Spain, he has still had a very successful season. He is therefore perfectly entitled to have a go at Wales Rally GB. There is no doubt that his motivation and professional attitude mean he can set his sights on securing a good result.”

“This one-off outing for the works team is a great opportunity for me, but it’s also a huge challenge,” revealed Robert. “Wales Rally GB wasn’t part of my original programme, so I’m very happy to be able to have this precious experience. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my partners, and especially the Lotos Group and Citroën Racing for having made this possible.”

13-10-07 Nya världsmästarna Ogier/Ingrassia vann det franska VM-rallyt
En magnifik thriller och en stor framgång för Volkswagen: det franska VM-rallyt går till historien som en av de största tävlingarna. På torsdagskvällen blev Sébastien Ogier och hans kartläsare Julien Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike) världsmästare* i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) i sin Volkswagen Polo R WRC. På söndagen stod de som segrare i sitt hemmarally efter en spännande avslutning.

Power Stage, där bonuspoäng delas ut till de tre bästa bilarna, öppnade det franska VM-rallyt på torsdagskvällen. Ogier/Ingrassia krönte den framgångsrika säsongen genom att komma trea inför sin hemmapublik. Resultatet räckte för att Ogier/Ingrassia skulle säkra VM-titeln. Ingen kunde då längre hota fransmännen, trots att det franska VM-rallyt bara hade startat och ytterligare två deltävlingar återstår.

Med förarmästerskapet säkrat fick Ogier/Ingrassia tillstånd från teamet att satsa allt för att vinna deras hemmarally. I början såg de ut att ta det försiktigt och låg femma efter första dagen, men på lördagen handlade allt om Ogier/Ingrassia som då vann fem av de sju specialsträckorna.

Inför sista dagen skiljde det bara fem sekunder mellan de fyra främsta bilarna – två Volkswagen och två Citroën – och jakten på segern hade utvecklats till den potentiellt mest spännande uppgörelsen i WRC:s historia. Kraftigt regn under natten gjorde den sista dagen särskilt svår. Flerfaldige världsmästaren Sébastien Loeb körde av i sin Citroën och tvingades bryta i sin sista tävling. Efter att ha vunnit ytterligare tre specialsträckor stod till sist Ogier/Ingrassia som segrare, 12,2 sekunder före Sordo/Barrio (Citroën). Därmed satte Ogier/Ingrassia stopp för Citroëns långa segersvit på asfalt som startade under det tyska VM-rallyt år 2005.

I och med denna framgång skriver Ogier/Ingrassia motorsporthistoria på flera sätt i sin Polo R WRC. För dem personligen är detta deras första förar- och kartläsartitel* i WRC. Det är också första gången på knappt ett decennium som ett nytt förarpar erövrar världsmästartiteln. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën) har vunnit de nio senaste åren.

Det är dessutom första gången någonsin som en förare eller kartläsare krönts till världsmästare* i en bil som gör debut i WRC. Med Polo R WRC gör Volkswagen sitt första framträdande i WRC 2013, och teamet har redan överträffat alla förväntningar i sin debutsäsong.

I den andra Polo R WRC hade Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila som uppgift att ta så många poäng som möjligt till konstruktörsmästerskapet. Den finska duon skötte sin roll perfekt och ledde inför den sista dagen av rallyt. De vann näst sista specialsträckan och slutade på en total tredjeplats, 19,5 sekunder efter Ogier/Ingrassia. Latvala/Anttila var topp-tre på tolv av de 20 specialsträckorna.

I den tredje Volkswagen-bilen avslutade Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (Norge/Irland) sin asfaltsdebut med Polo R WRC på sjunde plats. Duon slutade i topp-fem på fyra specialsträckor.

I och med första- och tredjeplatsen tog Volkswagen Motorsport ett stort kliv mot titeln i konstruktörsmästerskapet. Ogier/Ingrassia och Latvala/Anttila körde ihop 40 poäng, medan Citroën fick 8 poäng. Detta innebär att man nu kan säkra även konstruktörstiteln under nästa tävling. Volkswagen Motorsport har 80 poäng till godo med maximalt 86 poäng att köra om under de sista två tävlingarna i Spanien (24-27 oktober) och Storbritannien (13-17 november).

Av de elva tävlingar som körts hittills i år har Volkswagen nu vunnit åtta. Ogier/Ingrassia har sju vinster medan Latvala/Anttila har vunnit ett rally.

Citat efter Rallye de France-Alsace
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
– Grattis till Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia! De var bäst denna helg och förtjänade både segern och VM-titeln. De har den här säsongen visat att de är enastående i alla förhållanden och på alla underlag. Jag är mycket nöjd med tredje plats, vi var felfria och konsekvent snabba. Det ger oss stort självförtroende inför de kommande tävlingarna. Vi uppnådde vårt mål att köra hem viktiga poäng i konstruktörsmästerskapet. Titeln är nu inom räckhåll för teamet. Det är synd att Sébastien Loeb körde av på sin sista rally, men detta förringar inte på något sätt hans otroliga prestationer de senaste åren.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Det är definitivt den mest fantastiska rallyhelgen i min karriär: först VM-titeln och nu seger i mitt hemmarally! Det var en extremt svår sista dag. I morse var vägarna så otroligt hala, men mitt team gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb. Jag känner naturligtvis för Sébastien Loeb, men han gick ut för att vinna och sådant kan hända i svåra förhållanden. Det kunde ha hänt vem som helst idag. Jag är helt överlycklig och vill tacka mina killar. Vi har gjort ett fantastiskt jobb hela säsongen och jag är verkligen stolt över vad vi har åstadkommit!

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 9
– Det franska VM-rallyt var mitt första asfaltsrally med Polo R WRC. Vi kunde verkligen inte tro att vi skulle vara bland de främsta, men jag förväntade mig ändå lite mer. Vi vet nu vad vi har att jobba på för att bli ännu bättre i framtiden. Jag lärde mig framför några saker om inställningarna på bilen. I slutändan handlade det om att få så mycket erfarenhet som möjligt under svåra förhållanden.

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport
– Rallyt i Frankrike var en stor framgång. Å ena sidan för rally i allmänhet, och å andra sidan för Volkswagen. Det blir inte mer spännande, inför den sista dagen kunde fyra förare ha vunnit. Till sist kunde de nya världsmästarna*, Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia, stå högst på pallen. Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila tog värdefulla poäng till konstruktörsmästerskapet. Volkswagen har nu chans att vinna denna titel i nästa tävling i Spanien. som chef för Volkswagen Motorsport kan du inte begära mer. I helgen har vi tagit hem titeln i förarmästerskapet, vunnit det franska VM-rallyt och tagit ett stort steg framåt. Detta kommer vi förstås att fira!

Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Volkswagens utvecklingschef
– Det här är ett oerhört känsloladdat ögonblick för mig. Jag är glad att vara här för att se Sébastien Ogier ta hem den första titeln för Volkswagen under vårt debutår. Jag vill tacka vårt enastående team som har utfört sitt arbete perfekt hela året!

Rallye de France-Alsace – resultat
Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 2h 53m 07.6s
Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën + 12.2s
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 19.5s
Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 1m 14.1s
Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A), Ford + 3m 10.9s
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën + 3m 37.7s
Andreas Mikkelesen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL), Volkswagen + 4m 04.2s
Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 4m 35.2s
Robert Kubica/Maciej Baran (PL/PL), Citroën + 9m 31.4s
Romain Dumas/Denis Giraudet (F/F), Ford + 11m 55.8s

Power Stage
Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën 3m 20.8s
Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 0.7s
Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 0.8s

Förarmästerskapet
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen, 238 poäng
Thierry Neuville, Ford, 143
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen, 125
Daniel Sordo, Citroën, 117
Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën, 111
Mads Østberg, Ford, 81
Sébastien Loeb, Citroën, 68
Evgeny Novikov, Ford, 57
Martin Prokop, Ford, 49
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen, 40
Konstruktörsmästerskapet

Volkswagen Motorsport, 339 poäng
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 259
Qatar WRT, 157
Qatar M-Sport WRT, 156
Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 59
Jipocar Czech National Team, 51
Volkswagen Motorsport II, 40
Lotos WRC Team, 20

www.wrc.com
www.volkswagen-motorsport.com
13-10-06 Quentin Gilbert finishes the job
After completing 312 kilometres of timed stages, Quentin Gilbert and his co-driver Renaud Jamoul won the fifth round of the Citroën Top Driver series at the Rallye de France. The event’s local driver was the weekend’s top performer, finishing 53.9 seconds ahead of Sébastien Chardonnet/Thibault de la Haye in their DS3 R3. Chardonnet’s second position means he still leads the Citroën championship and that he becomes the two-wheel drive world champion by securing the WRC3 category title. Keith Cronin and Marshall Clarke took the third and final podium spot.

When the crews began the final day of the French round, they weren’t expecting conditions to be even more difficult than yesterday. The leg consisted of six short stages, including two runs on the Haguenau super special stage, with no return to the service park.

The tone for the day was set on the 14.60 kilometre-long “Vignoble de Cleebourg” test. Quentin Gilbert set the fastest time on the trickiest stage of the rally, extending his lead slightly over Sébastien Chardonnet. The next two stages were won by Chardonnet, but Gilbert wasn’t far behind.

It was very much the same story on the second loop, meaning Quentin Gilbert wrapped up his first win in the Citroën Top Driver series. The talented young Frenchman was visibly delighted after enduring a testing first half to the season.

“It’s a huge relief and a great bonus to contest a rally without any problems and end up winning it. Everything went perfectly with Renaud and we’ll take now renewed confidence into the final round. In any case, we’ll do all we can to give ourselves a good chance of winning.”

Runner-up at this, the fifth round of the Citroën Top Driver, Sébastien Chardonnet still leads the championship standings ahead of the season’s final event, but his strong result also meant he ended the weekend with another title under his belt. The talented young driver placed his DS3 R3 on the top step of the podium in the WRC3 category.

“I’m obviously delighted to be world champion in the two-wheel drive category! We have achieved this result thanks to the work put in by our entire team and by my co-driver, but it is also down to the DS3 R3 which has delivered the performance and reliability required to win this title.”

Third-placed Keith Cronin admitted he wasn’t too disappointed with his result. By taking the points for the final podium spot, the Irish driver is now seven points behind the leader and is now the only one still with a mathematical chance of challenging Chardonnet for the title. Although this weekend was the first time he had competed in the French event, he fully intends to win his home round at Wales Rally GB.

“I didn’t want to take any risks given the particularly tough conditions. This result means I have a shot at the title in Wales and I don’t intend to let anyone beat me at my home rally.”

After suffering during the first two days, Christian Riedemann improved his pace and was much closer to the leaders, even taking a stage win. He finished just outside the top three.

“The stages in today’s leg were different and were much more like the kind of roads you find in Germany. So I felt more comfortable and my times were more convincing as a result. This weekend has been difficult but I have learned a lot about a rally that I was competing in for the first time and which was particularly complicated.”

The teams’ championship still remains up for grabs, so Top Teams and Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast will do battle again in the final round to see which outfit takes the title.

CITROËN TOP DRIVER FINAL STANDINGS – RALLYE DE FRANCE
1 Gilbert / Jamoul Citroën DS3 R3 3:12:51.2
2 Chardonnet / De la Haye Citroën DS3 R3 +53.9
3 Cronin / Clarke Citroën DS3 R3 +2:32.6
4 Riedemann / Vanneste Citroën DS3 R3 +3:58.1

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Chardonnet
Day 2 – SS2: Chardonnet – SS3, SS4 and SS5: Gilbert – SS6: Cronin – SS7: Gilbert
Day 3 – SS8 and SS9: Chardonnet – SS10, SS11 and SS12: Gilbert – SS13: Chardonnet – SS14: Gilbert
Day 4 – SS15: Gilbert – SS16 and SS17: Chardonnet – SS18: Riedemann – SS19: Gilbert – SS20: Chardonnet

BEST PERFORMERS
Gilbert, 10 fastest times – Chardonnet, 8 – Cronin and Riedemann, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS3: Chardonnet – SS4 to SS20: Gilbert

RETIREMENTS
Stéphane Consani (before the start of day 2): personal decision
Enrique Garcia Ojeda (Service E): electrical problem. Did not rejoin under Rally2 rules.
13-10-06 Kubica closes in on WRC2 title
Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran produced a flawless performance at the Rallye de France Alsace to take their fourth win of the season in WRC2. The Citroën DS3 RRC crew also now leads the championship standings again and has a chance of securing the title at the next round, Rally de Espana.
Winner in Germany at the championship’s first proper tarmac rally, Robert Kubica had hoped to confirm his improving form in France, on a broadly similar course. As usual, the Pole was modest about his chances before the rally. “The Rallye de France Alsace is held on tarmac, which in theory should be easier for me given my experience on this surface. However, the stages are very specific, both in terms of their profile and the road surfaces,” commented the DS3 RRC driver.

Robert Kubica wasted no time grabbing the lead in the WRC2 category in winning the first test, the Strasbourg super special stage, held on Thursday evening. “It’s a good start, but there was more to lose than to be gained here,” he tempered. “The rally has yet to really get underway, but we are going to give it our best shot.”

Friday’s programme featured six stages, held on mountainous roads in the Massif des Grands Crus and the Vosges. Managing the changeable weather conditions and tricky tyre choice better than his rivals, Robert Kubica literally flew over the Alsatian roads, winning all of the day’s stages. The Pole ended the leg almost three minutes ahead of his nearest challenger, Elfyn Evans. “My rival lost time at the start of the day, and I just tried to find the right balance between pushing and controlling my pace. There are still another 200km to go and we’re well aware that something can always go wrong.”

On Saturday, the crews headed towards Colmar for the third leg. The area was hit by rain and fog, which spiced up proceedings on this, the longest day of the rally. Managing his lead whilst also looking to add to his experience, the DS3 RRC driver still won three stages, including the Mulhouse super special stage, parking up in parc fermé at the end of the day with a three and a half minute lead. “It was very wet this morning. We then had quite a bit of mud, before the roads became dusty,” he reported on reaching the service park in Strasbourg. “We are learning about the car and the tyres in these conditions. But I’d have preferred to have slightly milder conditions…”

Sunday’s final leg, although shorter in length, still featured another six stages including two in the centre of Haguenau, Sébastien Loeb’s home town. With conditions remaining difficult, Robert won all first stages in the morning loop, before repeating the feat in the afternoon, leaving Evans over four minutes adrift. “There was a lot of mud on the corners in Haguenau, and the white lines were also very slippery,” admitted Kubica. “I had to stay focussed. Fortunately, we didn’t have to take too many risks to hold onto the lead.”

“Overall, it has been an excellent weekend, a highly productive one. We were able to get clear despite the tricky sections and the changing road conditions. We have scored lots of points here. We’ll adopt the same approach for the Spanish round. Elfyn Evans has been a tough competitor despite the problems he had. He already has a few big wins under his belt and he won the WRC Academy last year. He is a good benchmark for me.”

With four wins and five podium-finishes from the six rallies in which he has competed, the DS3 RRC driver retakes the lead in the championship standings, eight points ahead of Al Kuwari, who missed the Alsace round but who has the same number of results. “Robert showed a great deal of maturity throughout the weekend,” emphasised Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “His ability to push and manage his pace when necessary was the key to his success at this rally. Some drivers, when they aren’t being put under any real pressure, can take their eye off the ball or make a mistake, but Robert didn’t fall into that trap. Considering the conditions, it’s an excellent performance. He will have our full support in Spain when he tries to win the championship.”

Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran will complete their WRC campaign at the Rally RACC Catalunya (25-27 October).

13-10-06 Qatar M-sport ask what could have been in France
The Qatar M-Sport squad were left to ask what could have been as Rallye de France-Alsace came to a close today. Having led the rally in its early phases, Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville finished the event in fourth place with the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRCs of Evgeny Novikov and Mads Østberg in fifth and eighth places overall.

Despite finishing the event off the podium, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were superb throughout the four-day fixture. Having led the field for much of the event, the Belgians were on course to secure a maiden FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) victory until a puncture on the second pass of yesterday’s ‘Vallée de Munster’ stage (SS12) undid their good work.

Losing almost a minute and a half to the chasing pack, the pairing were relegated to fifth place with all to do on today’s remaining 56.58 kilometre distance. Unfazed by yesterday’s disappointment, Neuville entered the treacherous, mud-strewn stages with one clear goal – to keep his Fiesta RS WRC firmly planted to the black-top stages and reap the rewards of any time loss ahead.

The 25-year-old’s strategy worked well. Despite taking a more cautious approach for the final day, Neuville was never out of the top-three on overall stage times. When nine-time World Champion, Sébastien Loeb, fell foul of the conditions, the Belgian recovered fourth place and valuable points for his championship campaign.

Having claimed two additional points on the opening Power Stage, Neuville lost just one point to Jari-Matti Latvala and retains his strong second place in the Championship – 18 points clear of the Finn – with two rounds remaining.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor piloted their Fiesta RS WRC to another strong result. Driving well, the Russian increased his pace throughout the weekend – setting a string of competitive times. Indeed he and Minor have given themselves a healthy base on which to build when the championship returns to the mixed stages of Rally de España later this month.

Taking an intelligent approach to what is a rally on his least preferred surface, fellow Qatar M-Sport driver, Østberg, grew in both experience and confidence throughout the weekend. Comfortably upping their pace, he and co-driver Jonas Andersson were rewarded through the morning loop as they climbed from eighth, to sixth place overall.

Unfortunately, the 25-year-old had to settle for eighth place come the end of the event having become lodged on a junction through the tricky second pass of ‘Vignoble de Cleebourg’ (SS18). That said, the knowledge he has gained will hold the Norwegian in good stead as the championship continues in Spain.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt regrouped brilliantly following a puncture on the opening day. Having fallen down to fifth place in the category rankings, the Welshman set his Ford Fiesta R5 up perfectly for the challenging conditions.

Rarely out of the top-two on individual stage times, Evans looked more than comfortable on the rain-soaked stages. Second only to ex-Formula 1 ace Robert Kubica, the 25-year-old secured his second successive podium and will be looking to take further strides as the championship continues.

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“Obviously I am disappointed having had the opportunity to take my first win this weekend, but I have to accept it. I think that we had a really good weekend and we have definitely shown that we have the speed and the car to win rallies.

“Ultimately it was my mistake – just 10 centimetres wide in one corner. Of course it’s a shame, but both ‘Sebs’ were here, and we were beating them, so I have to be happy with that.

“Again I need to thank the entire M-Sport team for everything they have done this weekend. This is our eleventh event in the team and we have not had a single problem with the car all season. We know that we have everything we need to secure a win this season, so now we just need to go out there and get it.”

Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“Fifth place is quite good result for us, and I think the best we could have achieved this weekend. Generally it was a good event – our driving was good and I felt confident on the stages which I know quite well. I hope that we can continue to progress like this at the final two events.”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“I was definitely more comfortable as the event went on and the speed was getting better and better which is a good thing. Of course this afternoon didn’t go the way we would have wanted it to, but sometimes things do not always go to plan.

“It is always frustrating when something like that happens – especially when everything was going in the right direction. But if you look at what we have done this weekend, I think it was a big improvement which I hope to continue building on in Spain.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“There are certainly a lot of positives that we can take from this weekend. We had a difficult start after having a bit of a break from the car since Germany and we struggled to get settled in. Then we had a puncture in the early stages that really hampered any hopes of battling with Robert [Kubica] for the lead of WRC 2.

“Saturday was a good day for us and we set some good times. But today we had some very difficult conditions and, considering the gap to Robert up front, we decided to just concentrate on getting the car home in one piece.

“All in all, there are positives to be taken, but not quite the result we wanted. We’re back in Spain and GB so hopefully we can go one better there.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s obviously a big disappointment that Thierry [Neuville] and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] were not able to take their first victory here this weekend – especially after dominating the first half of the event to such an extent – but there is no question that their first win is not far away.

“The way he [Neuville] recovered after the disappointment and went on to continue to set fastest times is testament to both him and the [Ford] Fiesta [RS WRC]. We know that the car is competitive on both gravel and Tarmac, and the whole team is now looking forward to Spain where we can go and challenge for the victory once again.

“In WRC 2, we also saw another solid performance from Elfyn [Evans] and Daniel [Barritt, co-driver]. The puncture on the first day inevitably set them back, but I am looking forward to Spain where I am sure they can take they battle to Robert [Kubica] and Maciek [Baran, co-driver].”
13-10-06 Citroën and Sordo finish with honours
Fighting for the lead since Friday morning, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena missed out on a fitting finale to their career at the Rallye de France Alsace. Also consistently among the front-runners, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio claimed Citroën Racing’s best result in placing their DS3 WRC second on the podium.

Featuring around fifty kilometres of timed stages, day four of the Rallye de France Alsace provided few opportunities to open up or close the gaps. But with just five seconds covering the top four, Jari-Matti Latvala, Dani Sordo, Sébastien Ogier and Sébastien Loeb nonetheless had to push all the way to try and grab the win. Faced with wet road conditions, the crews opted for soft compound Michelin Pilot Sport tyres for the remaining six stages.

A few moments after Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena had set off into the Cleebourg vineyards, the monitors showed the surreal image of the no.1 DS3 WRC upturned on its roof at the side of the road. Astonishment and disbelief were gradually replaced with the realisation that they were out of the rally. “We weren’t far off line… I think I carried a little bit too much speed into a quick right-hand turn. When I braked, we lost the rear end and we dropped into the ditch before rolling the car. Obviously, I had set off with the intention of pushing to try and win the rally. I’d have preferred to make it to the end, and if possible win the rally, by it’s just part and parcel of racing. It’s a shame for the team and for the fans that were waiting to see me in Haguenau. My overriding memory will still be of what a great scrap we had with Dani, Jari-Matti and Sébastien.”

The fans in Haguenau were afforded some consolation when their champion came to greet them before the start of SS20. Alongside Daniel Elena, Seb drove a DS3… Cabrio over the stage held in the streets of his home town.

With Loeb out, Citroën’s chances of victory therefore rested exclusively with Dani Sordo. Although he managed to get ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, the Spaniard was unable hold off Sébastien Ogier, who took the lead after the day’s first stage. Whilst building up a little bit of cushion over Latvala, the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team driver kept up pressure on the leader. His efforts proved to be in vain, however, as he remain second: “I’m above all disappointed for Seb. It would have been a fitting end to the party if he had been able to stay in the fight to the end. As far as I’m concerned, I’m pretty pleased with how the rally went, although I can’t be entirely satisfied to finish as runner-up. I drove well and didn’t make any mistakes, but sometimes I was just a bit short on confidence depending on the road conditions.”

Scrapping with Mads Østberg throughout the final day, Mikko Hirvonen finished the rally in sixth place: “Once again, we have had some very difficult conditions and I didn’t feel really comfortable. The only positive thing I can take from the rally is having made it to the end without damaging the car. But I have some work to do to try and understand why I was so far off the pace of the leading guys.”

“The points scored by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT this weekend leave us with only a very slim chance of winning the Manufacturers’ title,” admitted Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “But we can have no regrets. The gaps were so small that we had to push to try and win the rally. Seb and Daniel gave it their best shot – it just didn’t work out for them. But that shouldn’t overshadow what has been an incredible career. Thanks to the many tens of thousands of fans who turned up to pay tribute to our champions. We’ll all remember the enthusiasm

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 2:53:07.6
2 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +12.2
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +19.5
4 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:14.1
5 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:10.9
6 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +3:37.7
7 Mikkelsen / Nagle VW Polo R WRC +4:04.2
8 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:35.2
9 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +9:31.4
10 Dumas / Giraudet Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:55.8

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Sordo.
Day 2 – SS2 to SS4: Loeb – SS5 to SS7: Neuville.
Day 3 – SS8 and SS9: Ogier – SS10: Loeb – SS11 and SS12: Ogier – SS13: Neuville – SS14: Latvala.
Day 4 – SS15 to SS17: Ogier – SS18: Sordo – SS19: Latvala – SS20: Neuville.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 7 fastest times – Neuville, 5 – Loeb, 4 – Sordo and Latvala, 2 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS3: Sordo – SS4 and SS5: Loeb – SS6 to SS10: Neuville – SS11 to SS13: Sordo – SS14: Latvala – SS15 to SS20: Ogier.

WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

1. S. Ogier, 238 pts
2. T. Neuville, 143 pts
3. JM. Latvala, 125 pts
4. D. Sordo, 117 pts
5. M. Hirvonen, 111 pts
6. M. Østberg, 81 pts
7. S. Loeb, 68 pts
8. E. Novikov, 57 pts
9. M. Prokop, 49 pts
10. A. Mikkelsen, 40 pts
11. N. Al-Attiyah, 30 pts
12. E. Evans, 16 pts
13. R. Kubica, 16 pts
14. B. Bouffier, 10 pts
15. J. Hänninen, 8 pts

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 339 pts
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 259 pts
3. Qatar WRT, 157 pts
4. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 156 pts
5. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 59 pts
6. Jipocar Czech National Team, 51 pts
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 44 pts
8. Lotos WRC Team, 20 pts

13-10-06 Pontus Tidemand korad juniorvärldsmästare i Rallye de France
Det var årets viktigaste helg som väntade 22-årige Pontus Tidemand när han efter en framgångsrik säsong hade chansen att säkra JVM-titeln i Frankrike. Trots att mycket stod på spel lyckades han med en felfri tävling och kammade hem både världsmästartiteln och segern i Rallye de France.

Målet för säsongen 2013 har varit klart för Pontus ända sedan årets början: att bli juniorvärldsmästare. Det har varit strategiska och välplanerade månader där förstaprioriteringen varit att komma väl förberedd till varje event, något som gjorts möjligt tack vare uppbackningen från EVEN Management och Tätab. Nu är målet uppnått - efter 250 kilometers klok körning i oberäkneliga väderförhållanden och ett starkt psyke som inte påverkas av pressen utifrån, knep Pontus världsmästartiteln i Frankrike på lördagskvällen.
- Det kan inte kännas bättre än det gör nu, säger Pontus. Jag är otroligt glad över att få vinna här i Frankrike samtidigt som vi tar hem titeln, det här är utan tvekan det bästa som har hänt i min karriär! Med den här konkurrensen har det verkligen inte varit en lätt väg hit, men vi har haft en perfekt säsong och en fantastisk helg utan ett enda misstag. Ord kan inte beskriva hur tacksam jag är gentemot alla som har hjälpt mig att nå hit, det är och har varit ett riktigt lagarbete!

Rallye de France kickade igång på torsdagseftermiddagen med en 4,55 km lång stadssträcka i värdstaden Strasbourg. Pontus och hans rutinerade norske kartläsare Ola Fløene satte en tredjetid och var endast en halv sekund efter spanjoren José Suarez som hade bästa tiden på den första sträckan.

På fredagen väntade sex sträckor och utmaningen låg i att hitta rytmen direkt från start och undvika misstag i det oförutsägbara vädret. Pontus kom snabbt in i tempot och fick en sträckvinst på tävlingens tredje sträcka. När Suarez, som också är främste rivalen i jakten på JVM-titeln, körde av vägen och tvingades bryta på sträcka fyra, blev det ännu viktigare att hålla huvudet kallt. Efter stabil körning på de resterande två sträckorna, hade Pontus andraplatsen med en halvminut upp till ledande Yeray Lemes inför den avslutande tävlingsdagen.

Lördagen handlade för Pontus i huvudsak om att hålla sig på vägen och inte ta några risker som kunde sätta mästerskapet på spel. Det innebar att han inte ville ta upp kampen med Lemes, utan istället fokusera på att behålla andraplatsen och undvika misstag. På den elfte sträckan drog Lemes på sig en punktering och Pontus gick upp i ledning med en minut tillgodo ner till tvåan när tre sträckor återstod.
- Lemes och Suarez var ruskigt snabba i helgen men drabbades av problem, berättar Pontus. För oss gick allt felfritt och helt enligt planen att inte riskera något. Det är klart att det var en svår situation, men vi fokuserade på mästerskapet och att ta oss hela vägen i mål.

Det bar hela vägen till mållinjen och Pontus kunde på lördagskvällen koras både till juniorvärldsmästare och segrare i Rallye de France med en segermarginal på 42,3 sekunder.

Pontus har motorsport i blodet och har varit både svensk och nordisk mästare i crosscart. För två år sedan blev han den yngste svenske mästaren i rally genom tiderna och förra året deltog han för första gången i World Rally Championships juniorklass, som då hette WRC Academy, där han slutade på tredje plats totalt efter en problemkantad säsong. I år däremot klaffade allt och Pontus har tagit stora kliv framåt i sin utveckling, inte minst när det kommer till körning på asfalt.

Vinsten i Junior-VM är inte bara en stor ära, utan ger också Pontus sex VM-tävlingar i en Ford Fiesta R5 i näst högsta klassen, WRC2, under säsongen 2014.
- Jag ser verkligen fram emot nästa år, säger Pontus. Att få skaffa så här mycket erfarenhet i en Ford Fiesta R2 den här säsongen har varit mycket värt och att gå över till en R5:a och WRC2 känns som ett perfekt nästa steg.

Som tidigare nämnt har EVEN Management en stor roll i Pontus utveckling. Det norska managementbolaget är specialiserade på att ta fram och bygga upp talanger inom motorsport och under deras tak finns även bland andra Andreas Mikkelsen och Esapekka Lappi. Pontus världsmästartitel blir den tredje internationella titeln som EVEN Management tar på tre år (2011 och 2012 blev Mikkelsen IRC-mästare).

Det återstår ett event i JVM-kalendern, Rally de Espana, i slutet av oktober. Det medför ingen press på Pontus som redan har säkrat mästerskapet, men de övriga placeringarna ska avgöras.

Resultat FIA Junior WRC Rallye de France-Alsace 2013
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) / O. Floene (NOR), 2:41:37.4
2. H. Arellano (LUX) / G. Houssin (FRA), +42.3
3. Y. Lemes (ESP) / R. Peñate (ESP), +1:10.6
4. M. Aasen (NOR) / M. Engan (NOR), +1:15.8
5. M. Koci (SVK) / L. Kostka (CZE), +1:54.2
6. M. Burri (SUI) / G. Moreau (FRA), +2:31.4
7. M. Bostanci (TUR) / O. Vatansever (TUR), +4:06.3
8. S. Pärn (EST) / K. Järveoja (EST), +4:38.3
9. N-P. Nieminen (FIN) / M. Korhonen (FIN), +6:39.2
-- J. Suárez (ESP) / C. Carrera (ESP), bröt

Ställningen i FIA Junior WRC efter femte deltävlingen av sex
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) 131
2. Y. Lemes (ESP) 73
3. J. Suárez (ESP) 68
4. S. Pärn (EST) 55
5. M. Burri (SUI) 46
6. M. Koci (SVK) 46
7. M. Aasen (NOR) 33
8. N.Nieminen (FIN) 26
9. M. Bostanci (TUR) 13
10. A. Amberg (FIN) -8
13-10-05 Gilbert holds of Chardonnet
Held on roads around Colmar, the longest day of the Rallye de France also proved to be the most complicated. Rain, mud and fog added spice to the proceeding as the crews tackled the 135 kilometres of timed stages. In the Citroën Top Driver championship, the ball remains very much in Quentin Gilbert’s court, although Sébastien Chardonnet managed to cut his lead to 23 seconds. Keith Cronin remains third overall.

The penultimate day of the Alsatian event was anticipated and dreaded in equal measure by the crews. Rain fell on the first few kilometres of “Hohlandsbourg – Firstplan” before giving way to thick fog. The low-grip conditions deteriorated as more drivers completed the stages, leaving the course littered with muddy sections. Although the sun did make a brief appearance during the remote midday service, the weather deteriorated again when the crews set off for the second loop.

Particularly comfortable in conditions like these, Sébastien Chardonnet won the day’s first two stages, cutting his deficit by 13.8 seconds. Quentin Gilbert hit back on the next three stages. The scrap between the two Frenchmen was spectacular, with their stage times just a few tenths apart. At the end of the day, they were both very pleased:

“What a day!” commented the delighted young man from the Cote d’Azur. “It was a really good fight with Quentin! It will be difficult to win in normal racing conditions and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks in order to make sure of the points. If we hold onto this position, we have a mathematical chance of securing the WRC3 title tomorrow.”

“Our set-up wasn’t perfect this morning, but we were able to make the required changes for the second loop,“ explained Quentin. “Having said that, things didn’t get all that much easier! Sébastien was really very quick and the challenge was very motivating. We have to maintain the gap if we want to have a chance of winning tomorrow.”

Third-placed driver Keith Cronin went for consistency, determined not to make any mistakes. The Irish driver, who now trails the leader by close to two minutes, also holds a similar lead over his nearest challenger, Christian Riedemann.

Off the pace since the start of the rally, the young German couldn’t find the right rhythm to challenge the front-runners.

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Chardonnet
Day 2 – SS2: Chardonnet – SS3, SS4 and SS5: Gilbert – SS6: Cronin – SS7: Gilbert
Day 3 – SS8 and SS9: Chardonnet – SS10, SS11 and SS12: Gilbert – SS13: Chardonnet – SS14: Gilbert

BEST PERFORMERS
Gilbert, 8 fastest times – Chardonnet, 5 – Cronin, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS3: Chardonnet – SS4 to SS14: Gilbert

RETIREMENTS
Stéphane Consani (before the start of day 2): personal decision
Enrique Garcia Ojeda (Service E): electrical problem. Will not be rejoining under Rally2 rules.
13-10-05 Neuville forced to forfeit Rally de France lead
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville was forced to forfeit the lead of Rallye de France-Alsace today. Having led the field for much of the event, the Belgian picked up an unlucky puncture which ultimately deprived him of his place at the top of the time sheets.

Despite an inspired drive, Neuville ended the day in fifth place with the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team pairing of Evgeny Novikov and Mads Østberg in sixth and eighth places respectively.

Going into the rain-soaked morning stages, there was no doubt over tyre choice with all the Qatari Ford Fiesta RS WRCs clad with Michelin’s softer rubber. Anticipation was high as yesterday’s superb team performance gave Neuville a 9.9 second advantage going into the penultimate day. Indeed the Belgian was well and truly in the hunt for a maiden FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) victory, but regrettably it seems not to be.

Partnered by compatriot Nicolas Gilsoul, the day could not have got off to a better start for Neuville. Looking at ease behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC, the Belgian had increased his lead to a healthy 16.6 seconds come the close of SS10.

Yet as the rain clouds reformed for the afternoon loop, disaster struck. Sliding wide into a high-speed, right-hand junction, the 25-year-old picked up a puncture. Opting to drive the remaining 20 kilometres, he lost over a minute and a half to the chasing pack. Left to lament on what might have been, Neuville ended the day in fifth place.

Novikov on the other hand enjoyed a trouble-free day. Upping his pace and consolidating a strong sixth position, the Russian had the edge over rival Mikko Hirvonen. Partnered by co-driver Ilka Minor, the Muscovite will be looking for another clean run tomorrow – ready and eager to push his Fiesta RS WRC up the standings should an opportunity arise.

Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson were also enjoying a better run behind the wheel of their Fiesta RS WRC. Continuously building his knowledge of the sealed-surface event, the Norwegian took his rally step by step. Improving his driving, the times followed suit, and Østberg climbed up to eighth place through the course of the day.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, Elfyn Evans found himself in a similar position to team-mate and former rally leader Neuville – ruing what could have been were it not for yesterday’s time loss. Indeed the Welshman set the fastest WRC 2 time on all but three of today’s speed tests.

Finding the perfect set-up for their Ford Fiesta R5, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt looked supremely confident on the French asphalt – finishing the day in a strong second place.

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“Of course I am disappointed as we were having a really good rally, but these things happen. We got a puncture after we hit a kerb on SS11. Then we had to drive 18 kilometres with no air in the tyre. It was good that we didn’t lose too much time, but unfortunately too much to fight for the victory.

“Tomorrow, we just need to stay on the road and follow the battle in front. I am sure that a lot of things can still happen in the difficult conditions. Like we saw last year, there could be a lot of standing water on these stages so it is not over for sure. It will be difficult to get back on the podium, but as we have seen already this year, nothing is finished until you are at the end of the rally.”

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“It’s been an OK day. We have no need to take any unnecessary risks, so we have just been continuing to build the speed whilst maintaining the same level of confidence. I am quite happy with our driving in these difficult conditions, so it certainly wasn’t a bad day by all means.”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“We have done what we wanted to do today – increased the speed and got closer to the fastest drivers. Throughout the day we have upped our performance and I am feeling more and more confident. Tomorrow, we just need to try and continue like this and keep making progress.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“All in all it’s been a good afternoon. The first stage of the loop [SS11] was very good for us again. There were just a couple of places on the other two [SS12 and SS13] where we were perhaps a little over cautious. But on the whole, it’s been a promising day. The car has been perfect and everything is moving in the right direction.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It was a great start to the day for Thierry [Neuville] in what were very difficult conditions. He increased his lead over his nearest rivals and once again proved just how much he has developed this year.

“Sadly, he picked up a puncture on SS11. Considering that he then had to drive almost 20 kilometres on the tyre, he lost a lot less time than we were expecting. Unfortunately, it has put him out of contention for the victory.

“There’s an incredible battle at the front with the top four guys separated by just five seconds, and it is encouraging that we were well ahead of that battle before the puncture.

“Obviously it’s a great shame that Thierry and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] lost out on what could have been a first victory [in the WRC], but the tremendous pace of Thierry, Nicolas and the Fiesta [RS WRC] only goes to show that it is not far away.”

13-10-05 Sordo and Loeb both in fight for victory
At the peak of their powers, four crews served up a breathtaking battle for the lead of the Rallye de France Alsace, ending day three with just five seconds between them. Among them, Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena are still right there, fighting at the front. The final day’s racing promises to be absolutely spellbinding!

Overnight rain continued in the early morning, greeting the crews as they arrived at the Strasbourg service park. Unlike yesterday, tyre choice was a fairly straightforward affair this morning, with all the World Rally Cars opting for soft Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.

Proceedings began in the fog on day’s first stage, Hohlandsbourg. A little less comfortable than their main rivals, Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo lost a few seconds. And then on the Vallée de Munster stage, the Spaniard slipped from second to third position, whilst the Frenchman lost around ten seconds following a spin. “We changed my set-up after the testing we did before the rally, but now the car is oversteering quite a lot. Which is not exactly ideal in the rain,” commented the nine-time World Champion.

After a few tweaks to the suspension, however, Seb looked more assured in winning the next stage, Soultzeren (SS10). The then crews headed for Colmar for the midday service. As conditions promised to be just as wet in the afternoon, the DS3 WRCs kept their soft tyres for the second loop.

Of the five men fighting for top spot, Thierry Neuville was the first to stumble. The leader lost a minute after a minor impact and a puncture, which catapulted Dani Sordo into the overall lead in the rally. The Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team driver held firm, despite taking to the grass on SS12, broadcast live by the television cameras: “A bit like in motocross, I ran a little bit wide onto the verge. Fortunately, nothing was damaged on the car. The roads are very dirty for the second loop, so that has knocked my confidence a bit compared with this morning.”

After leading throughout the afternoon, Dani had first place snatched from him on the Mulhouse super special stage. Second overall, just four tenths behind Jari-Matti Latvala, his assessment of this third day was nonetheless eminently positive: “It’s very close despite the conditions being extreme in places. It‘s very exciting to find myself in a four- or five-way fight for the win, even more so than in Germany when there were just two of us on the Saturday evening. I feel ready to carry on in very much the same vein tomorrow…”

A few seconds back, Sébastien Loeb found himself fighting with Sébastien Ogier, who had managed to climb back into contention. 5s behind Latvala and 3.5s adrift of Ogier, the Alsatian wasn’t entirely happy: “The rain often began to fall just as we were about to start the stages this afternoon! And this time, I had trouble with the car understeering quite badly. I pushed as hard as I could, but the young guys are quick and I’m probably paying the price for not having competed in my DS3 WRC in the last few months. But I can’t complain, it’s fantastic for the crowd to see such a close fight and we still have a great chance of winning.”

By the end of the day, Mikko Hirvonen must have felt like something of a bystander, watching the scrap at the front from afar. After reclaiming seventh overall on SS8, the Finn maintained his position until the end of the leg. On his return to Strasbourg, he admitted: “As I lack confidence, I’m gradually losing ground on the others. And I just can’t put my finger on what we need to change. I’m hanging in there, trying to stay on the road and score and many points as possible tomorrow…”

Matching Evans throughout the day, Robert Kubica maintained his comfortable lead at the top of the WRC2 category. 3m 30.1s of his rival, the Pole can now manage his pace on the final leg.

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC 2:18:58.3
3 Sordo / Del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +0.4
3 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC +1.5
4 Loeb / Elena Citroën DS3 WRC +5.0
5 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:10.4
6 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:16.4
7 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +2:43.1
8 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:57.2
9 Mikkelsen / Nagle VW Polo R WRC +3:19.2
10 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:25.2

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Sordo.
Day 2 – SS2 to SS4: Loeb – SS5 to SS7: Neuville.
Day 3 – SS8 and SS9: Ogier – SS10: Loeb – SS11 and SS12: Ogier – SS12: Neuville – SS13: Latvala

BEST PERFORMERS
Loeb, Neuville and Ogier, 4 each – Sordo and Latvala, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS3: Sordo – SS4 and SS5: Loeb – SS6 to SS10: Neuville – SS11 to SS13: Sordo – SS14: Latvala.
13-10-05 Midday quotes, Rallye de France, day 3
Thierry Neuville (1st) said:
“I’m quite happy with our pace this morning. We’ve been setting good stage times and extending our lead whilst continuing to check the pacenotes, so that was good.

“We made a small mistake on the last stage [SS10] and lost a bit of time. I was surprised by the lack of grip under braking and I had to use the handbrake. Otherwise it has been another good loop of stages for us.

“It’s something different to be first on the road, but it is going OK. We found a good rhythm straight away so it hasn’t really been a big problem for us.”

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“I was very careful on the first stage – just building up our pace slowly. But then we tried to push a bit more for the second two stages. There is no need for us to take any unnecessary risks, but honestly, I was hoping to be a little bit faster through SS9 and SS10. I feel as though we are driving well, so it is a little strange.”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“We tried to get used to our speed this morning, and at the moment, I feel quite comfortable. I think that we need to take the next step now – be a little bit ‘uncomfortable’ by increasing the speed and then get used to that level. That’s the plan and we are just taking it step by step for the moment.

“We’ll make a few small changes in service to try and make the car a bit more balanced because it is pushing too much from the rear where it is slippery in the long corners. Other than that, it’s not been a bad morning and now it is time to take the next step.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2):
“It’s been a good morning. The set-up we had really suited the damp conditions and we were comfortable in the car from the very first stage. We didn’t take any unnecessary risks, just kept it clean and set some really great times – so far, so good.”
13-10-04 Sordo and Loeb mix it with leaders
Despite the unpredictable weather conditions and the difficulty involved in making the right tyre choice, the opening exchanges of the Rallye de France saw impressive performances from Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena. The two Citroën Racing crews took it in turns to top the overall standings. At the end of today’s second leg, the Spaniard and the Frenchmen lie second and fourth overall respectively. After struggling on the stages today, Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen are in eight place.

Beginning with a super special stage held in the streets of Strasbourg, it was Dani Sordo who made the brightest start to Rallye de France, grabbing the early lead after setting the fastest time. As SS1 was also run as the Power Stage, with bonus points for the top three, the performance of the Spaniard sealed the outcome of the Drivers’ World Championship, which went to Sébastien Ogier. All his peers, Sébastien Loeb first among them, warmly congratulated the Frenchman and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia.

On Friday, the race took on another dimension as the crews headed deep into the countryside of the Alsace region and into the Vosges. With unpredictable weather expected, tyre choice for the morning’s stages looked complicated. In the Citroën camp, the three DS3 WRCs left the service park fitted with hard compound Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.

Proving that he had lost none of his legendary speed despite being away from rallying for the last few months, Sébastien Loeb gave his rivals plenty to worry about by winning all three of the morning’s stages. He took the overall lead at the end of the Pays d’Ormont test, the stage which has often proved decisive in determining the outcome of the Rallye de France: “I was pleased to see that my feeling was back within the first few kilometres. The third stage was tricky because it had just rained before our run. I had to stay focussed, but everything went well as we were the quickest.”

Seb therefore wrestled the lead from Dani Sordo, who fell back from first to fourth place: “We’ve had every road condition thrown at us this morning. The main thing is to be fighting for first place. I’ll have to keep pushing to stay among the front-runners!”

Mikko Hirvonen had a much less enjoyable morning. The Finn was languishing down in seventh place, around fifty seconds adrift of this nine-time World Championship-winning team-mate: “On SS2, the intercom headset we use on the road sections came loose and ended up in the footwell between the pedals. Before the next stage, I wanted to change the set-up of the suspension, but I made a beginner’s mistake in turning the wrench the wrong way! Anyway, I ended up spinning on Pays d’Ormont…”

Before heading out for a second run on the same three stages, the drivers were once again faced with a real dilemma when it came to tyre choice. The forecast provided by Météo France indicated conditions would be dry, but the Citroën Racing team opted for a choice that turned out to be too cautious: Loeb and Hirvonen set off with four soft tyres and two hard tyres, whilst Sordo took three of each type.

Having opted for more suitable tyres, Thierry Neuville gradually made up ground on Sébastien Loeb, who lost 16.9s over the loop’s three stages. “Quite simply, we made the wrong call,” he admitted. “Obviously, it’s not enjoyable to fall back from first to fourth place, but the gaps are still sufficiently small for us to remain positive. Before the start of the rally, the question was would I be able to fight for the win. Well, we’re very much in the hunt, and that’s the main thing!”

Thanks to having opted for a midway solution, Dani Sordo fared slightly better. The Spaniard moved back up into second position, 9.9s behind Neuville: “The balance of the car wasn’t perfect but that’s to be expected given the tyre set-up we opted for. I’m pleased with my position – there is still a long way to go in the rally and I’m certain there will be plenty more surprises in store as regards the weather.”

Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen ended the leg in eighth place, a result that he was clearly not happy with: “Apart from our tyre choice not being the right one, I still don’t understand why I was so far off the pace of the leading guys. Even though I lacked a bit of confidence in the damp sections, my pace was nonetheless better than this morning.”

Competing in his DS3 RRC, Robert Kubica leads the WRC2 standings by over three minutes from Elfyn Evans. The Pole is therefore well on course to achieve an excellent result for the championship.

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Sordo.
Day 2 – SS2 to SS4: Loeb – SS5 to SS7: Neuville.

BEST PERFORMERS
Loeb and Neuville, 3 each – Sordo, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS3: Sordo – SS4 and SS5: Loeb – SS6 and SS7: Neuville.
13-10-04 Neuville powers into Rallye de France lead
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville powered into the lead of Rallye de France-Alsace today. Thanks to an inspired tyre strategy from the team, the young Belgian is well and truly in the hunt for securing a maiden victory in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Contesting two loops of three identical stages south-west of the Strasbourg-based service park, Neuville was keen to build on his second fastest time in yesterday’s opening Power Stage, and did just that by piloting his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to the top of the standings.

Despite some slight time loss on the opening test (SS2), Neuville regrouped brilliantly over the following stages. With a diagonal configuration of Michelin’s hard and soft compound tyres for the 34.34 kilometres of ‘Vosges – Pays d’Omont 1’ (SS4), the Belgian was on top form. Trading fastest splits throughout the drying stage, he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul posted the second fastest time – some 20 seconds faster than the WRC’s newly crowned champion Sébastien Ogier.

As for the afternoon loop, Neuville was in a class of his own. Whereas others predicted rain, the Qatar M-Sport team got their weather reports spot on. With the optimum tyre choice, the Belgian posted the fastest time on all of the afternoon’s three stages. Utilising the harder compound rubber to full effect, the Qatari outfit’s rising star goes into tomorrow’s stages with a 9.9 second lead over Dani Sordo, reviving the memory of the pairing’s epic battle at Rallye Deutschland last month.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, the Alsace weather played havoc with Evgeny Novikov’s opening loop as the Russian elected to clad his Fiesta RS WRC with Michelin’s harder tyre. Yet despite being somewhat disadvantaged, the Russian set some promising times.

Following the example of their fellow Qatar M-Sport crews, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor once again opted for the harder compound for the second pass and were immediately on the pace – setting the third fastest time though ‘Klevener 2’ (SS5). On course for another strong result, the Muscovite currently holds sixth place overall.

In the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta, the weather also proved pivotal for Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson. Suffering from the worst of the rain through SS2, the Norwegian took a cautious approach – minimising any risk to complete the morning loop in ninth place overall.

Continuing his measured approach through the afternoon, Østberg strengthened his top-ten position on his least preferred surface. Gaining experience of the sealed-surface roads, he and Andersson will be aiming to increase their knowledge with another clean run tomorrow.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, Elfyn Evans and co-driver Dan Barritt showed early promise. Piloting their Ford Fiesta R5 to second place, the pairing were building their pace for a full-on attack as the day progressed. Unfortunately, the Welshman was forced to stop and change a tyre which cost him over two and a half minutes.

Despite falling down to fifth place, Evans has the better of the majority of his rivals – setting a string of second fastest times through the remainder of the day. Second only to ex-Formula 1 ace Robert Kubica, the 2012 FIA WRC Academy cup winner recovered his second place and is on course for another podium finish.

Thierry Neuville (1st) said:
“It has been a perfect afternoon for us. We had faultless information from the team and our weather crews – so a big congratulations to them because we would not be in first place if it was not for them! I felt really comfortable and we were able to push without taking any big risks. I felt confident all day.

“It will be a new experience for me running first on the road. I have never been first [on the road] on Tarmac so I will have to learn quickly. I will have to make my own lines and I won’t have the benefit of seeing the other drivers’ braking points and if there is standing water it could be difficult. But I am happy to be in first place this evening, and we will just have to wait and see if I am still holding this position tomorrow.”

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“The afternoon has been OK, and this time we were on the right tyres for the conditions. I feel like we are driving well and that we are learning and improving our confidence with each new stage. There is still a long way to go in this event, so we will just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“After service we managed to increase the speed a little bit – that was the intention and that was good. We were a lot better on the first stage this afternoon [SS5] and then we were able to maintain that pace for the second one [SS6]. The plan was to try to increase [the pace] again during the long stage [SS7] but unfortunately we had some small issues with the brakes. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I lost the ‘bite’ on the front and had a lot more in the rear which was difficult at times.

“Although the driving is improving, the times aren’t necessarily where we want them to be. But we can work on that, and we will try again tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“This afternoon hasn’t been bad at all. The first stage wasn’t brilliant and we lost a little bit of time to Robert [Kubica] towards the end of the second stage [SS6], but the long stage wasn’t bad at all. We didn’t take any risks but managed to find a really good feeling with the car. We’re definitely moving in the right direction, and we’ll look to keep learning and consolidate this second place tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a great drive by Thierry [Neuville] and Nicolas [Gilsoul] but also a great performance from the entire team. Everyone played a part. From the weather prediction to the tyre choice, the whole team has been on top form and that is what makes our current position possible.

“We are likely to see some really challenging conditions tomorrow, so it will be a difficult day. This will be Thierry’s first experience of being first on the road on Tarmac, but judging by his performance today, he is in a great position to continue the fight.”
13-10-04 Tidemand tar inga risker i Rallye de France
Sju av de 14 sträckorna i Rallye de France är avklarade och Pontus Tidemand ligger på en andraplats i JVM-klassen. Det är betydelsefulla poäng på bordet och i det här läget gäller det att se till mästerskapet.

Rallye de France mjukstartade på torsdagseftermiddagen med en 4,55 km lång stadssträcka i värdstaden Strasbourg. Pontus satte den tredje bästa tiden och var endast en halv sekund från ledningen, som då tillhörde spanjoren José Suarez.

På fredagen väntade sex sträckor och utmaningen låg i att hitta rytmen direkt från start och undvika misstag i det oförutsägbara vädret. Pontus kom snabbt in i tempot fick en sträckvinst på tävlingens tredje sträcka. När Suarez, som också är främste rivalen i jakten på JVM-titeln, körde av vägen och tvingades bryta på sträcka fyra, blev det ännu viktigare att hålla huvudet kallt. Efter stabil körning på de resterande två sträckorna, ligger Pontus på en andraplats med en halvminut upp till ledande Yeray Lemes inför den avslutande tävlingsdagen.
- Allt har gått bra så här långt, säger Pontus. Det är en svår situation, men vi har kört städat och inte tagit några risker. Lemes är riktigt snabb och det vore dumt att ta upp kampen med honom så just nu håller vi oss här. Men imorgon är en ny dag och vad som helst kan hända, särskilt om det blir regn.

Imorgon är alltså JVM-deltagarnas sista dag i Frankrike. Med start 09:23 kör de lördagens sju sträckor innan de går i mål under kvällen.

Top 5 i Junior WRC efter dag två av tre:
1. Y. Lemes
2. P. Tidemand +31.2
3. H. Arellano +1:26.4
4. M. Aasen +1:58.6
5. M. Koci +2:22.4

http://www.pontustidemand.se/

13-10-04 Midday quotes, Rallye de France, day 2
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“We’ve had an OK morning with a clean run and a good tyre strategy. For sure it was the safer option going for a mixed tyre configuration, but then you also have the disadvantage of two spares and I could feel the extra weight under braking at times.

“I tried to push on the first two stages [SS2 and SS3], but I was a bit steadier on the last one [SS4]. I could have gone quicker there, especially towards the end. Honestly, we were hoping for a bit more rain, but at the end of the day I was competitive over all three stages so – even though it is difficult to say – I think we made the right choice.”

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“This morning has been OK for us. We had a good start on the first stage [SS2], but as the rain started to fall on the second [SS3], we lost a lot of time. Unfortunately, that is the nature of this event and I can’t do anything to stop the weather – we just had to do the best we could and that is what we did on the last stage [SS4]. Given the conditions and the fact that we were running on the harder compound, I was happy with the time through SS4.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“We took a combination of hard and soft tyres and I found it quite difficult in the dry conditions through the first two stages [SS2 and SS3]. It was especially tricky with the rear of the car, and then when it started to rain on SS2 it became even trickier.

“But on the last stage [SS4], it felt a lot better and I think that we also improved the driving quite a lot. It’s all going in the right direction, but this is still a very difficult event. We just need to see what happens this afternoon and continue to focus on ourselves and our own pace.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd in WRC 2):
“We’re not 100 per cent sure what happened on the middle stage [SS3]. We were actually very lucky not to get a puncture when we clipped a concrete block coming out of a hairpin, but then shortly after that the car started pulling to one side. The tyre had come off the rim so we took the decision to stop and change it to prevent any further damage.

“It’s been a disappointing start, but this is a long rally and we just need to concentrate on learning as much as we can. We took a mix of compounds and I think that was the right decision. We had a diagonal configuration for the last stage [SS4] – where it was mainly wet – and it seemed to work. That was the first time for me with a mix of tyres so it’s great to get the experience.”
13-10-04 Ogier/Ingrassia nya rallyvärldsmästare i sin Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Volkswagen-föraren Sébastien Ogier och hans kartläsare Julien Ingrassia är nya världsmästare i rally. Den franska duon har nu en ointaglig ledning i sin Volkswagen Polo R WRC.

Power Stage, där bonuspoäng delas ut till de tre bästa bilarna, öppnade det franska VM-rallyt på torsdagskvällen. Ogier/Ingrassia krönte den framgångsrika säsongen genom att komma trea inför sin hemmapublik. Resultatet räckte för att Ogier/Ingrassia skulle säkra VM-titeln. Ingen kan nu längre hota fransmännen, trots att det franska VM-rallyt bara har startat och två deltävlingar återstår.

Deras enda kvarvarande rivaler om titeln, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford), kom på andra plats och kan därmed inte längre komma ifatt den franska duon. Inför det franska VM-rallyt skiljde det 83 poäng och en förare kunde maximalt köra hem 84 poäng under de tre sista deltävlingarna.

I och med denna framgång skriver Ogier/Ingrassia motorsporthistoria på flera sätt i sin Polo R WRC. För dem personligen är detta deras första förar- och kartläsartitel i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Det är också första gången på knappt ett decennium som ett nytt förarpar erövrar världsmästartiteln. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën) har vunnit de nio senaste åren.

Det är också första gången någonsin som en förare eller kartläsare krönts till världsmästare i en bil som gör debut i WRC. Med Polo R WRC gör Volkswagen sitt första framträdande i WRC 2013, och teamet har redan överträffat alla förväntningar i sin debutsäsong. Volkswagen leder också konstruktörsmästerskapet med tre tävlingar kvar.

Volkswagens utvecklingschef, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, och hans föregångare Ulrich Hackenberg, som startade Volkswagens WRC-satsning och sedan juli är teknisk utvecklingschef för Audi, var i Strasbourg för att bevittna ögonblicket då titeln bärgades.
– Det här är ett oerhört känsloladdat ögonblick för mig, sade Heinz-Jakob Neusser . Jag är glad att vara här i dag för att se Sébastien Ogier ta hem den första titeln för Volkswagen under vårt debutår. Jag vill tacka vårt enastående team som har utfört sitt arbete perfekt hela året!
– Jag är stolt över att vår WRC-satsning, som vi startade för två år sedan, redan har gett oss en titel. Jag är särskilt glad över att Volkswagen är första tillverkaren i historien att bli världsmästare under sin debutsäsong, sade Ulrich Hackenberg.

De två andra Volkswagen-bilarna fick också en bra start på rallyt. Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (Norge/Irland) kom på femte plats på den inledande sträckan och Jari-Matti Latvala/ Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) kom sexa.

Det franska VM-rally är säsongens elfte av 13 deltävlingar och fortsätter till och med den 6 oktober. Ogier/Ingrassia har sex segrar och två andraplatser på de tio första tävlingarna och utöver detta har duon kört in 25 bonuspoäng på Power Stage-sträckorna. 25 poäng är vad som delas ut till vinnaren av ett rally. I Power Stage får ettan tre poäng, tvåan två poäng och trean ett poäng.

Citat efter dag ett av Rally de France-Alsace, 3-6 oktober
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 7
– Att bli krönt till världsmästare på första försöket med ett nytt team och en ny bil, är en prestation som inte kan beskrivas med ord. Mina mest hjärtliga gratulationer till mina teamkamrater Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia, som verkligen förtjänar att fira titeln. Det måste vara en fantastisk känsla för dem att bli krönta till världsmästare inför deras hemmapublik. Mitt eget mål är att vara med i toppstriden eftersom det finns värdefulla poäng på spel för Volkswagen i konstruktörsmästerskapet. Jag vill göra min del för teamet och det är allt jag fokuserar på nu.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Jag är överlycklig! Jag skulle kunna ge alla i världen en stor kram! Känslan är omöjlig att beskriva. Att vinna VM-titeln här i Frankrike är en dröm. De senaste dagarna har jag försökt att inte tänka för mycket på det, för att undvika att göra några misstag. Lättnaden är nu enorm. Som en liten pojke brukade jag tillsammans med min far förundras över bilarna och toppförarna på Monte Carlo-rallyt i min hemstad Gap – och nu är Julien och jag världsmästare. Det är galet! Men jag är också väl medveten om att rally är en lagsport. Denna framgång skulle aldrig ha varit möjlig utan vårt fantastiska team på Volkswagen. Jag har alla att tacka! En sak är säker, vi kommer att fira med stil nu!

Julien Ingrassia, kartläsare till Sébastien Ogier
– Det är kanske den bästa dagen i mitt liv – och definitivt i min karriär! Om någon i början av året hade sagt att Sébastien och jag redan skulle vara världsmästare med så mycket kvar av säsongen, skulle jag genast ha sagt att de är galna. Vi var så nära i Australien för tre veckor sedan, men nu titeln säkrad!

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 9
– Jag är väldigt glad för mina lagkamrater Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia. Idag är deras stora dag. De är mer än värdiga världsmästare och jag är stolt över att vara deras teamkamrat. Hela Volkswagen-teamet har gjort ett enastående arbete. Detta rally, som är så viktig för Volkswagen, har börjat med en smäll – precis som vi hade hoppats. Jag ser fram emot de kommande dagarna, eftersom detta är min första tävling på asfalt med Polo R WRC. Mitt mål är att förbättra mig bit för bit och hjälpa Volkswagen så mycket som möjligt i kampen om konstruktörsmästerskapet.

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport
– Sébastien och Julien har spenderat nästan två år på att arbeta mycket hårt för denna framgång. De har utfört ett fantastiskt jobb under säsongen och förtjänar stort att vara nya världsmästare. Samtidigt är det också den största idrottsliga framgången i historien för Volkswagen Motorsport. Vårt team lyckades vid första försöket att utveckla en vinnande bil – Polo R WRC – och besegra konkurrenter med långt större erfarenhet. Världsmästare! Härligt!
13-10-03 End of day quotes, Rallye de France, day 1
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“I think we all knew that Sébastien [Ogier] would be champion this year, but I admit that it happened a little sooner than I would have liked! I was pushing really hard on the Power Stage and was up on Dani [Sordo], but he [Sordo] set a very good time and maybe the soft tyres weren’t the best option for us. But a big congratulations to Sébastien and Julien [Ingrassia] all the same.

“As for the rest of the rally, we know that we have the speed and that the car is good. The forecast too looks as though it could be good for me so anything can happen. I would like to take my first victory this year, but I also need to look to Jari-Matti [Latvala] and think about the Championship. But OK, if we are still in a position to go for the win on Sunday, then I will for sure take more risks to make it happen.”

Evgeny Novikov (8th) said:
“Just a short stage to start the rally, but everything was OK. Tomorrow the rally starts properly and we will try to set some good stage times. This is an event that I like, so hopefully we can set a good pace this weekend.”

Mads Østberg (11th) said:
“The rally starts properly tomorrow so then we will see where everyone will really be in terms of pace. We are still learning and improving when it comes to Tarmac, so tomorrow the goal will be to finish all of the stages with some positive times and continue building our experience on this surface.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“The first stage was OK. There were no issues and the car felt good so we can concentrate on tomorrow now. That’s when the rally really starts and we will just concentrate on our own performance and see what that brings. Other than that, I just want to have fun and enjoy this opportunity.”
13-10-02 Volkswagens Sébastien Ogier har ena handen på VM-bucklan
Med tre tävlingar kvar att köra i årets rally-VM krävs endast en poäng för att Volkswagen-föraren Sébastien Ogier och hans kartläsare Julien Ingrassia ska vinna VM-titeln i sin Polo R WRC. Den första chansen kommer i hemmarallyt i Frankrike, 3-6 oktober.

Inför den elfte deltävlingen av årets säsong av FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) har Ogier/Ingrassia ett försprång på 83 poäng till Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford), som är det enda förarparet som fortfarande har en teoretisk chans att snuva fransmännen på titeln. En och samma förare kan maximalt köra ihop 84 poäng på de tre resterande tävlingarna.

Allt kan avgöras redan på torsdagens inledande specialsträcka som också är en så kallad Power Stage. Det innebär att VM-poäng tilldelas de tre första bilarna. Ogier/Ingrassia blir alltså världsmästare om de tar sig i mål som etta, tvåa eller trea på denna sträcka. För att hålla liv i fajten om titeln är Neuville/Gilsoul således tvungna att vinna Power Stage samtidigt som Ogier/Ingrassia blir fyra som bäst.

Men det finns mer på spel för Volkswagen i franska VM-rallyt. Med tre tävlingar kvar leder Volkswagen konstruktörsmästerskapet med 48 poäng före titelförsvarande Citroën, med maximalt 43 poäng per tävling att köra om.
– Vårt mål är att behålla detta försprång, eller om möjligt utöka det. Men först vill vi göra allt vi kan för att se till att Sébastien och Julien äntligen får uppnå sin dröm om att vinna VM-titeln i deras hemmarally, säger Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport.

Det franska rallyt ser också ut att bli en mäktig duell mellan Sébastien Ogier och flerfaldige världsmästaren Sébastien Loeb (Citroën), som gör sin sista tävling i WRC. Under årets säsong har de mötts tre gånger, där Ogier har en seger och Loeb två.
– Denna duell blir särskilt spännande. Dessa två superstjärnor kommer köra för fullt inför hemmapubliken, så fansen kan se fram emot ett rally på absolut högsta nivå, fortsätter Jost Capito. Det är regionen runt Strasbourg som står som värd för Rallye de France-Alsace. Rallyt är det andra under säsongen som enbart körs på asfalt. Det andra var det tyska rallyt runt Trier i slutet av augusti. Förarna måste bland annat bemästra de snabba och ibland mycket trånga etapperna i Alsace, där vissa avsnitt körs genom de lokala vingårdarna.

Förra året avslutade Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) tvåa här. Skulle de två finländarna nå en liknande framgång i år i sin Polo R WRC skulle Volkswagen ta ett stort steg mot att även vinna konstruktörsmästerskapet i sin debutsäsong i WRC.

Paul Nagle (Irland) kommer återigen att vara kartläsare för Andreas Mikkelsen (Norge) i den tredje Polo R WRC. Mikkelsens ordinarie kartläsare Mikko Markkula (Finland) återhämtar sig fortfarande från en ryggskada han ådrog sig under Rally Finland.

Citat Inför Rally de France-Alsace, 3-6 oktober
Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
– Teamet fick ett bra resultat i Australien, även om jag personligen hade hoppats på bättre än fjärde plats. Jag vill komma tillbaka på pallen i Frankrike – som jag gjorde förra året. Delar av det franska rallyt liknar rallyt i Tyskland: asfalt, tekniskt krävande avsnitt, och sedan snabbare passager och sträckor genom skogsmark. Av denna anledning kommer vår Polo R WRC ha en liknande inställning som i Tyskland. Sébastien Loeb gör sitt sista rally och fansen kommer naturligtvis att vara mest intresserade av duellen mellan Loeb och Ogier. Dock är vårt mål som team att utöka vår ledning i konstruktörsmästerskapet, det är vad vi fokuserar på.

Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
– Australien var ett bra rally för Volkswagen och för mig personligen. Trots detta var känslan efter målgången lite konstig; vi hade vunnit, men missade att säkra VM-titeln med en enda poäng. Dock gick det snart upp för oss att det bara är en tidsfråga innan vi tar det sista steget. Det är möjligt att vi kan göra det så tidigt som Power Stage som öppnar rallyt i Frankrike. Men vårt mål är att vinna hela rallyt och ta poäng för Volkswagen i konstruktörsmästerskapet. Det är redan klart att det till slut blir en väldigt speciell säsong. Det är fantastiskt vad vi har uppnått. Avslutar vi på topp i både förar- och konstruktörsmästerskapet har vi gjort en magisk säsong!

Andreas Mikkelsen, Polo R WRC #9
– Jag ser fram emot rallyt i Frankrike. Detta är mitt allra första asfaltsrally i Polo R WRC eftersom Mikkos skada innebar att jag inte kunde starta i Tyskland. Jag har deltagit i det franska VM-rallyt två gånger tidigare och de snabba asfaltssträckorna verkar passa mig. Det är lite snabbare där än i tyska rallyt och det kan också vara extremt halt när det regnar. Mitt mål är främst att få mer erfarenhet på asfalt. Av denna anledning kommer jag inte att gå på attack utan att försöka hitta en bra rytm.

Ställning förarmästerskapet, efter 10 av 13 deltävlingar
Sébastien Ogier, 212 poäng
Thierry Neuville, 129
Jari-Matti Latvala, 110
Mikko Hirvonen, 103
Dani Sordo, 96
Mads Østberg, 77
Sébastien Loeb, 68
Martin Prokop, 49
Evgeny Novikov, 47
Andreas Mikkelsen, 34

Ställning konstruktörsmästerskapet, efter 10 av 13 deltävlingar
Volkswagen Motorsport, 299 poäng
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 251
Qatar WRT, 145
Qatar M-Sport WRT, 142
Jipocar Czech National Team, 51
Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 41
Volkswagen Motorsport II, 34
Lotus WRC Team, 20
13-10-01 JVM-titeln inom räckhåll för Pontus Tidemand i Rallye de France
Det börjar närma sig den slutliga uppgörelsen i Junior-VM i rally. Den femte och näst sista deltävlingen, Rallye de France-Alsace, startar på torsdag och mycket står på spel. Pontus Tidemand har ett fast grepp om ledningen och det finns en chans att mästerskapet kan avgöras under helgen.

Efter pallplats i samtliga Junior WRC-events leder Pontus i nuläget med 42 poäng över spanjoren José Suarez som har andraplatsen. För att säkra titeln redan i Frankrike krävs att Pontus tar tolv poäng mer än Suarez och två poäng mer än den näst starkaste rivalen Yeray Lemes, även han från Spanien. På pappret kan också Sander Pärn (Estland), Michael Burri (Schweiz) och Martin Koci (Slovakien) stoppa Pontus, men då måste de slå honom med två, 11 respektive 19 poäng.
- Det skulle vara fantastiskt att få avgöra titeln redan nu med ett event kvar, men jag vet att jag har otroligt tufft motstånd som kommer göra allt de kan för att sätta stopp för mig, säger Pontus. I det här läget kan man inte köra för mycket på säkerhet men samtidigt inte ta för stora risker. Vi får se till att hålla oss fokuserade på uppgiften och göra vårt bästa.

Med stödet från EVEN Management och Tätab har Pontus kunnat skaffa sig god träning mellan JVM-tävlingarna. Under den gångna helgen körde han och kartläsaren Ola Fløene East Belgian Rally, som ingår i det belgiska mästerskapet, för att förbereda sig inför den franska VM-tävlingen. De satte bra sträcktider och hade en riktig kamp med hemmaföraren och tillika VM-tvåan Thierry Neuville. Efter de sju första sträckorna hade Pontus övertaget med dryga åtta sekunder och var snabbaste Ford Fiesta R2. Tyvärr fick rallyt ett för tidigt slut när motorn gick sönder med endast fem sträckor kvar.
- De senaste månaderna har vi försökt få så mycket körning som möjligt på asfalt inför de här avslutande eventen, berättar Pontus. Utöver Rally Deutschland har vi hunnit med tre asfalttävlingar den här säsongen och det är klart att mer erfarenhet ger ett bättre utgångsläge, men konkurrensen är som sagt hård och de flesta kommer till Frankrike väl förberedda och redo för fight.

Rallye de France-Alsace är JVM-säsongens andra asfaltrally och det innehåller alltifrån slingrande vägar genom vingårdar till skogsvägar och branta stigningar i bergskedjan Vogeserna. Smala och tekniska sektioner såväl som snabba sträckor i kombination med fallande temperaturer ger den utmaning som utmärker det franska VM-rallyt.

Tävlingen startar på torsdag med en förlängd publiksträcka på 4,55 km i värdstaden Strasbourg. På fredagen väntar sex sträckor och på lördagen ytterligare sju innan deltagarna i Junior-VM går i mål på kvällen. Totalt ska de bemästra 255,56 km specialsträckor.

Liveresultat: http://www.wrc.com/jwrc/results/2013/rallye-de-france-alsace/stage-times/
13-09-27 Al-Kuwari secures WRC drive for Spain
Seashore Qatar Rally Team’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari will progress to the Ford Fiesta RS WRC for next month’s RACC Rally de España. Becoming accustomed to piloting his Ford Fiesta RRC to the top-step of the podium in this year’s WRC 2 category, the Spanish fixture will see the Qatari take to the wheel of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta for the first time in competition.

Partnered by Irish co-driver Killian Duffy, the pairing have competed at the head of the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series for much of the year. With three victories under their belt – in Mexico, Argentina and Australia respectively – the pairing are currently leading WRC 2 by 17 points.

Although returning to the Fiesta RRC for his final WRC 2 point-scoring event at Wales Rally GB, the Qatari’s impressive performances to date have helped facilitate an additional outing in the world series – this time with M-Sport’s record-breaking Fiesta RS WRC.

The competition will be tough, but thanks to some inspiring performances thus far, the pairing will be well prepared. With two previous outings at the WRC’s highest level, the Qatari is one of a handful of drivers to boast a championship point from a competitive debut when he secured tenth place overall on his maiden WRC event at the 2012 Acropolis Rally.

With a working knowledge of the Fiesta in its RRC guise, Al-Kuwari should not be discounted for a strong result and will be a real contender for a point-scoring finish as he takes to the mixed surface stages of Rally de España.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwai said:
“It’s a great feeling to know that I will be driving the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC in Spain. The decision was made as early as after our WRC 2 win in Argentina. I received a call from Seashore Qatar Rally Team's owner – Mr. Salim Al-Mhannadi – telling me that I would have at least one rally behind the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC this season as reward for our hard work and good results. I would like to thank him very much for this opportunity.”

“This car is much faster than the [Ford] Fiesta RRC I am used to so we will need some time to get used to it. Our first goal is always to finish all the stages and make it to the finish ramp. Of course a top 10 finish would be fantastic, and if I’m honest, I really want to beat my best result of 10th place overall.

“That said, we’ll be back in the [Fiesta] RRC for Wales Rally GB as our focus is very much centred on the WRC 2 championship which we are currently leading. We’ll have to wait and see what lies in store for next year, but I am a very ambitious guy so if my sponsor decides to go for a full WRC program, I will be ready as always.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I would like to thank Seashore for their continued support and for helping secure the deal with M-Sport. With M-Sport I really feel that I am driving for the best team in the world. Our season has been trouble free and everyone is striving towards the one goal – to win. Working with M-Sport is like being part of one big supportive family.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We have seen some very impressive performances from Abdulaziz [Al-Kuwari] this year, so the next logical step was for him to take to the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. It will be a challenging event with a lot of very quick drivers behind the wheel of some top-specification cars, but Abdulaziz and Killian [Duffy, co-driver] are more than capable of securing a good result.

“I am delighted that M-Sport have been able to offer the Seashore Qatar Rally Team this opportunity, and I look forward to seeing how they progress on their competitive debut with the car.”
13-09-25 Paddon steps up to Qatar M-Sport for Rally de España
Paddon and John Kennard will step up to the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team for next month’s Rally de España as New Zealand’s finest make their competitive debut at the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) highest level.

Piloting a Ford Fiesta RS WRC in Qatar M-Sport colours, the pairing’s world rally car debut will also mark a first for New Zealand as they become the first of their countrymen to pilot a new-generation, top-specification rally car.

M-Sport are well known for fostering young talent, and Paddon’s impressive performances of late meant the Cumbrian firm were keen to see him progress. Despite contesting just three events so far in 2013, the Kiwi has been a regular on the WRC 2 podium and has become accustomed to over-shadowing those in more powerful machinery.

Nowhere was that more apparent than at this month’s Rally Australia. Although a technical issue put paid to a strong result, Paddon posted a top-ten time on all but one stage contested and was continuously faster than numerous WRC contenders.

As he makes the move to rallying’s most prestigious league, the New Zealander is keeping his feet firmly on the ground with his main goal a simple one – to finish all of the stages in search of maximum experience. That said, the youngster’s ambition is high and his hopes of setting some top-five times are well within reach.

Those ambitions will be aided by a pre-event test with M-Sport in the lead up to Rally de España, on which he is no novice. Having driven the mixed-surface event in anger for the past two years, Paddon will be hoping his experience pays dividends.

Hayden Paddon said:
“To say I’m excited is an understatement, but I am also focused on ensuring that we make the most of this opportunity. Naturally I want to be competitive and we will be giving it our utmost to set some good stage times, but it is also important to finish the rally and gain as much experience as possible.

“After some discussions, we were offered this great opportunity and it’s amazing to finally get our chance in a top-specification car. While it has been a lot of hard work to get to this point, we are conscious that the level of hard work will only increase as this is very much our chance to showcase what we can do.

“Ultimately, I don’t want to be in a world rally car for just one event. This is what I want to make my career out of and we are trying to market ourselves for 2014. This amazing opportunity with such a respected team as M-Sport gives us that chance.

“I cannot thank everyone in New Zealand enough. From our partners and shareholders, who are behind me all the way, to my family, friends and fellow competitors; everyone has had such a big part to play and now we have our chance.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I am very pleased to welcome Hayden [Paddon] into the Qatar M-Sport team for Rally de España. His speed in Australia was impressive, and this is his opportunity to prove what he can do behind the wheel of a world rally car. He is in the best possible place to learn with Thierry [Neuville], Mads [Østberg] and Evgeny [Novikov] all there to offer advice and experience on how to tackle a world rally car debut.

“There is no doubt that Hayden is an extremely fast driver, and I am looking forward to seeing how he progresses through the weekend. Needless to say, I am delighted that we have been able to offer him this opportunity.”
13-09-15 Överlägsen seger för Volkswagen och Ogier i Australien – VM-titeln är nära
Sébastien Ogier vann 19 specialsträckor av 22 möjliga i sin Volkswagen Polo R WRC, och fick med sig maximala 28 poäng från VM-rallyt i Australien. När tre deltävlingar återstår fattas endast en poäng för att Ogier och hans kartläsare Julien Ingrassia ska bli världsmästare.

Ogier/Ingrassia, båda från Frankrike, firade sin sjätte seger denna säsong i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Vinsten i Australien, 12-15 september, blev den mest överlägsna hittills i år; snabbast på 19 av de 22 specialsträckorna och näst snabbast på ytterligare två. Förarparet vann även ”Power Stage” som ger tre extra VM-poäng. Trots maximala poäng i Australien kunde VM-titeln inte säkras, en poäng fattas fortfarande. Inför nästa deltävling i Frankrike leder Ogier/Ingrassia med 83 poäng före sin närmaste konkurrent, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford).

Tre deltävlingar återstår av årets säsong. I den andra Polo R WRC tog Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) viktiga poäng för Volkswagen i konstruktörsmästerskapet genom att komma fyra. Volkswagen utökar därmed sin ledning till 48 poäng före Citroën. Latvala/Anttila vann en av specialsträckorna och slutade i topp tre ytterligare tio gånger.

Den tredje Polo R WRC med Andreas Mikkelsen och Paul Nagle (Norge/Irland) avslutade rallyt på en total sjätte plats. Även Mikkelsen/Nagle vann en specialsträcka, vilket innebär att en Polo var snabbast på 21 av de 22 specialsträckorna.


Rallyt i Australien präglades under den första dagen av tekniska, smala och slingrande avsnitt, medan dag två innehöll mer öppet landskap. Avslutningen av rallyt handlade om extremt snabba vägar genom regnskogen.

Citat efter Rally Australia
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 7
– Redan från start siktade vi på att samla så många poäng som möjligt till konstruktörsmästerskapet, och vi lyckades. Men saker och ting gick inte riktigt så smidigt som vi ville, bland annat fick vi en punktering i slutet. Det som räknas är dock resultatet, och det var bra för Volkswagen. En annan positiv sak var att vi fann en perfekt inställning för att vara snabba på grus. Det kommer väl till pass för kommande rallyn.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Vilket galet slut på rallyt! Naturligtvis är jag glad över att ha vunnit här i Australien, men det känns ganska surt att vara på väg att vinna VM-titeln och sedan förlora det på den sista kilometern. Bortsett från det var det ett fantastiskt rally för oss. Vår Polo R WRC fungerade perfekt hela helgen och teamet gjorde ett kanonjobb – men till slut hade vi inte riktigt turen att förverkliga drömmen om att vinna titeln här nere. Nu ser jag fram emot att komma hem till Frankrike och fansen där. Jag vill ta titeln genom att vinna detta rally och ta mitt team ett stort steg närmare att vinna konstruktörsmästerskapet.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 9 – Rallyt i Australien hade sina upp- och nedgångar för mig. På torsdagen kunde jag njuta av känslan att leda ett VM-rally för första gången. På fredagen fick vi en bra start, men små misstag under dagen och även på lördagen kostade oss en massa tid. Jag gjorde allt jag kunde för komma i mål och hjälpa Volkswagen i konstruktörsmästerskapet. Allt som allt är vi verkligen nöjda med sjätteplatsen.

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport – Rallyt blev riktigt dramatiskt under de sista kilometrarna. För konstruktörsmästerskapet var allt som hände under Power Stage bra för Volkswagen, men tyvärr innebar det också att Sébastien Ogier var oförmögen att redan nu vinna titeln i förarmästerskapet. Han gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb och vann mer övertygande än vid något annat rally den här säsongen. Han skulle ha förtjänat att blir världsmästare här, men har nu fått möjlighet att vinna titeln en gång för alla i sitt hemrally i Frankrike. Hela teamet kommer att stödja honom villkorslöst. Kampen om konstruktörsmästerskapet kommer också att fortsätta i Frankrike. Tack vare Latvala och Mikkelsen är vi i en bättre sits än före Rally Australia. Vi är mycket nöjda – även om pricken över i:et saknas.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Australia – resultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3h 19m 55.0s
2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 1m 32.1s
3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën + 2m 02.1s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 2m 57.4s
5. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 3m 17.2s
6. Andreas Mikkelesen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL), Volkswagen + 3m 37.6s
7. Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A), Ford + 7m 31.2s
8. Nathan Quinn/David Green (AUS/AUS), Mini + 13m 10.2s
9. Khalid Al Qassimi/Scott Martin (UAE/GB), Citroën + 15m 17.6s
10. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari/Killian Duffy (Q/IRL), Ford + 17m 27.7s

Resultat Power Stage
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 14m 44.9s
2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 2.8s
3. Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A), Ford + 9.4s

Ställning förarmästerskapet, efter 10 av 13 deltävlingar
1. Sébastien Ogier, 212 poäng
2. Thierry Neuville, 129
3. Jari-Matti Latvala, 110
4. Mikko Hirvonen, 103
5. Dani Sordo, 96
6. Mads Østberg, 77
6. Sébastien Loeb, 68
8. Martin Prokop, 49
9. Evgeny Novikov, 47
10. Andreas Mikkelsen, 34.

Ställning konstruktörsmästerskapet, efter 10 av 13 deltävlingar
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 299 poäng
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 251
3. Qatar WRT, 145
4. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 142
5. Jipocar Czech National Team, 51
6. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 41
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 34
8. Lotus WRC Team, 20

Mer information om WRC finns på www.wrc.com
Mer bilder och filmen från Volskwagen Motorsport finns på www.volkswagen-motorsport.com
13-09-15 Neuville seizes second in Australia
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville continued his sensational debut season with the Qatari outfit by seizing his sixth podium and fourth consecutive runner-up spot of the year at Rally Australia today. The Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team pairing of Mads Østberg and Evgeny Novikov finished proceedings fifth and seventh respectively.

Despite the impressive result, it was not all plain sailing for Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul. Although they had to contend with some overly optimistic pacenotes in the event’s early phases, the pairing regrouped brilliantly. Setting the stages alight with some encouraging times, the Belgian secured 10 top-three times on his Australian debut – outshining those with considerably more experience.

Strengthening a comfortable third place through today’s first five stages, Neuville was at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Faultless in his advance up the time sheets, the 25-year-old secured second place – as well as an additional two points in the Power Stage – when a final-stage puncture relegated Mikko Hirvonen from second to third overall.

With the upper-hand over championship rival, Jari-Matti Latvala, Neuville has also increased his second place advantage in the FIA Drivers’ World Rally Championship to 19 points with just three rounds to go.

Having also struggled with his pacenotes in the initial stages, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Østberg turned his weekend around to finish a creditable fifth on his first taste of the Aussie stages.

Having established a comfortable gap over a cruising Andreas Mikkelsen, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson used the final day wisely. Increasing his pace behind the wheel of the Fiesta RS WRC, the Norwegian concentrated on gaining further experience and perfecting his pacenotes ahead of his next venture Down Under.

In the sister Qatar M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Novikov was hampered by his early road position. Having to clear a fine layer of dust and loose gravel for the following cars, the fans were denied the Russian’s usual dose of ‘maximum attack’.
Contesting an intelligent rally, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor managed their pace – learning the stages and improving their pacenotes. Upping their speed for today’s final tests, the Muscovite secured seventh place as well as an additional championship point for the third quickest time through the closing Power Stage.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“I’m a little disappointed for Sébastien [Ogier], but at the same time I am just doing my job and if second place is there for the taking, I’m going to take it! I was really pleased with our performance this weekend. Once again, we were quite clever – pushing when we felt good and checking the notes over the first loop – which proved to be a good strategy.

“I don’t think it was one of my best performances and I could certainly have been better on the first day. We worked hard to make improvements, but I need to work on having more confidence on the first pass.

“In France, I will definitely try to push and fight with the two Sébastiens [Ogier and Loeb]. I know it will be difficult, but that will be my goal.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“It has been an interesting weekend. The first day was very difficult for us because the pacenotes weren’t working as they should and we had no confidence which you could see from the times. But we learnt a lot – changing the pacenotes and the set-up to make a real step forward on Saturday. Then we had some good speed and were close to the top drivers even considering our position on the road.

“Today we tried altering the set-up a little bit more, but I think we went a bit too far. We managed to comfortably climb back up to fifth, even with a puncture on SS20. In the end we managed a top-five result on our first time here, so I am quite pleased with that.”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“The rally has been OK. We scored some points and most importantly we finished all of the stages without any mistakes. It was very difficult with the road position – the stages were very slippery and it was difficult to challenge for the top positions.

“But I think that we improved our pace throughout the rally. We set some good times this afternoon and secured a point in the Power Stage. Now, we need to concentrate on the next events and making more progress.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another dream result for Thierry [Neuville]. We certainly didn’t expect to finish second again but it just proves how he is developing and the professional way in which he has approached every event this season. He’s been patient, and smart, and ended up with a fantastic result.

“Our cars have run faultlessly all weekend, and the good thing is that we have now improved our position in the Drivers’ championship over both Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jari-Matti [Latvala].”
13-09-15 Mikko salvages podium spot
Second just a few kilometres from the end, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished Rally Australia third overall after picking up an inexplicable puncture at the death.

Despite the high stakes, the final leg of Rally Australia did not look like it would provide for especially exciting racing, given the clear gaps between the frontrunners. The day’s three stages – all very fast – were run twice and the second pass on Shipmans (SS22) served as the Power Stage.

At the end of Bucca 1 (SS17), Mikko Hirvonen was pleased to have begun the day by setting the fastest time. The Finn thus ended the series of stage wins racked up by Sébastien Ogier. “It’s always nice to be the fastest, but no-one is really pushing that hard this morning,” played down the Citroën driver. “We’re all checking the split times of the others whilst we’re driving. Everything is good with the car; we want to make sure of this second place.”

After going off the road on day two, Kris Meeke rejoined the rally this morning. In accordance with the Rally2 regulations, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s eight mechanics had rebuilt his DS3 WRC in less than three hours. First on the road, the Northern Irishman took no risks during the morning. “It was something special to see my car repaired in parc fermé. The team did an incredible job and everything is working perfectly again. It’s very difficult to carve out the line for the other guys; I don’t think there’s another rally where road position is so important. I can’t go for any really fast times, but I’m just pleased to be back behind the wheel.”

The race progressed quietly until the Power Stage, which had the possibility of deciding the outcome of the drivers’ world championship. Although Kris Meeke made it across the finishing line, his car only had three wheels left. The British driver was once again forced to retire and was therefore not classified in the overall standings. His misfortune triggered a series of incidents that didn’t work out very well for the Citroën camp.

Half-way through the stage, Mikko Hirvonen was forced to slow down after picking up a puncture. The Finn conceded almost a minute, losing second place in the process to Thierry Neuville! “It’s just unbelievable. I wasn’t taking any risks, because the bonus points from the Power Stage don’t count towards the Manufacturers’ standings. I was driving in the middle of the road, without pushing. I really cannot say where the puncture came from, especially as the tyre blew up on a long straight section. I can’t seem to shake off my run of bad luck this season,” said a rather disheartened Finn at the stop control.

Whilst sharing the sense of disappointment with the rest of the Citroën Racing team, Khalid Al-Qassimi assessed his own race, in which he finished ninth overall: “It was another difficult day, especially because of the sweeping. I felt there was more progression on the stages today, insofar as I managed to differentiate between the points at which I could push and those where I had to manage my pace in order not to make any mistakes. I enjoyed driving the car.”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 3:19:55.0
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:32.1
3 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +2:02.1
4 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +2:57.4
5 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:17.2
6 Mikkelsen / Nagle VW Polo R WRC +3:37.6
7 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7:31.2
8 Quinn / MacNeall Mini JCW WRC +13:10.2
9 Al-Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +15:17.6
10 Al-Kuwari / Duffy Ford Fiesta RRC +17:27.7

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Mikkelsen – SS2 to SS9: Ogier – SS10: Latvala.
Day 2 – SS11 to SS16: Ogier.
Day 3 – SS17: Hirvonen – SS18 to SS22: Ogier.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 19 fastest times – Hirvonen, Latvala and Mikkelsen, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1: Mikkelsen – SS2 to SS22: Ogier.

WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
DRIVERS
1. S. Ogier, 212 pts
2. T. Neuville, 129 pts
3. JM. Latvala, 110 pts
4. M. Hirvonen, 103 pts
5. D. Sordo, 96 pts
6. M. Østberg, 77 pts
7. S. Loeb, 68 pts
8. M. Prokop, 49 pts
9. E. Novikov, 47 pts
10. A. Mikkelsen, 34 pts
11. N. Al-Attiyah, 30 pts
12. E. Evans, 16 pts
13. R. Kubica, 14 pts
14. B. Bouffier, 10 pts
15. J. Hänninen, 8 pts
16. C. Atkinson, 8 pts
17. M. Kosciuszko, 7 pts
18. K. Block, 6 pts
19. J. Ketomaa, 6 pts
20. K. Al-Qassimi, 5 pts
21. S. Wiegand, 4 pts
22. H. Solberg, 4 pts
23. B. Guerra, 4 pts
24. PG. Andersson, 4 pts
25. H. Paddon, 4 pts
26. N. Quinn, 4 pts
27. O. Burri, 2 pts
28. E. Lappi, 1 pts
29. Y. Al Rajhi, 1 pts
30. K. Al-Kuwari, 1 pts

MANUFACTURERS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 299 pts
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 251 pts
3. Qatar WRT, 145 pts
4. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 142 pts
5. Jipocar Czech National Team, 51 pts
6. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 41 pts
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 38 pts
8. Lotos WRC Team, 20 pts
13-09-15 Best Result of Season for Quinn and Motorsport Italia
In what has been the dream run for Coffs Coast local 27 year old Nathan Quinn, he and fellow Austrailian Glenn MacNeall have done a fantastic job bringing the Motorsport Italia MINI John Cooper Works WRC home in 8th place outright, Motorsport Italia's best performance for 2013 so far.

"Ever since we signed to do this event with Motorsport Italia I have been unable to wipe the smile from my face. Of course it wouldn't have been possible without all my supporters, especially my family who've always backed me and also the support of Coffs Coast Council and Rally Australia. After that, it was over to me and Glenn! If you had said to me a month ago that not only would we finish but we would be eighth there's no way I would have believed you" explained an elated Quinn.

In a drive that proved he had a clear objective to finish the rally and learn as much about the car and this level of competition as he could, Quinn has impressed many around the Championship. Speaking of his approach he said: "After the first full day of stages it was pretty obvious that these guys have been doing this for a fair while longer than me. So, after speaking with *Bruno [De Pianto*, Motorsport Italia Team Manager] we came up with a strategy to drive fast but not take any chances. We knew that if we had a solid drive, we would achieve a good Top Ten finish."

Driving the MINI has been a steep learning curve for Quinn who has previously been competing in an Group N production car on Australian and Chinese event: "I've only scratched the surface in this car. There is so much more to it than what I got out of it this week and now I am just so hungry now to get back in that driver's seat. To see it packed up tonight ready to leave is something I don't think I can watch."

Just as Quinn has learnt a lot this weekend, Alexander Gelvez has also had his work cut out coming to grips with his RRC specification MINI John Works Cooper.

After retiring yesterday due to gearbox issues, Gelvez and Spanish co-driver Borja Rozada were back on the stages today looking to build on their experience in the car and finish the event: "We had a very good rally and enjoyed the stages today. The car was perfect and we could not ask any more. We enjoyed getting more experience in the car and particularly enjoyed the final Power Stage of the rally."

Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was pleased to have both MINIs at the end of the rally and especially impressed with Quinn's performance: "Nathan really did a good job this rally. He had such a tall task working with a new car, new co-driver, and new team all in front of his home crowd and competing against the world's top drivers, but he was unphased. He knew he had a job to do and he did it. He drove his own rally with his eye on his own targets and eighth place with four WRC points to his name is a really fantastic result.

"Alex had a more eventful run, but also got a lot of invaluable experience during the rally. He's just starting his international rally career and every new event is a steep learning curve. I was pleased to see him safely over the finish ramp this evening and look forward to our next adventure with him. The only thing left to say is a big thank you to Venezuela and its Ministry of Sport for making this happen."
13-09-15 Fourth Day Lucky For Ralliart Italia Crews
After a mixed days for the Ralliart Italy teams of Carlos Garcia Fessman & Alex Haro and Alessandro Lombardo and Hugo Magalaes seem to have found their groove on Day Four of the Coates Hire Rally Australia.

Speaking with both drivers last night they shared the aim of having a steady run through today's fast, gravel roads just north of Coffs Harbour in order to get through the six stages and make it to that final time control.

Lombardo, who retired on Saturday afternoon and rejoined today under the Rally 2 regulation, achieved exactly what he wanted to today: "we had a good morning on the stages. It cost us a little bit of time on the 29 kilometre 'Shipmans' stage due to losing concentration, but generally it was pretty good on the fast stages today."

Like his team-mate, Fessman also had a positive day following a small excursion yesterday "After today's competition, we are more comfortable with the car. Our goal was to get better to improve our times. We enjoyed the last stage, which had jumps and water splashes and a lot of crowds"

Both Fessman and Lombardo are members of Rally Team Venezuela and were able to compete in Australia due to their strong support from both Venezuela and its Ministry of Sport.

Ralliart Italia Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was pleased to see them both arrive at the finish safely today: "Rally Australia is a unique event and was a new challenge for our drivers. Carlos is gradually learning the different challenges the WRC throws at its competitors, while this was only Alejandro's second WRC event. Both of them will take a lot of experience away from this rally ready to come back next year stronger. After this we head to France. Carlos put in a strong performance in Germany, which we hope he'll repeat on the Alsatian stages. It'll be Alejandro's first time on a WRC Tarmac event - another steep learning curve - but they, and we, can't wait!"
13-09-15 Midday quotes, Rally Australia, Day 4
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“The whole loop was incredible – really nice stages to drive. On the first stage [SS17] I hadn’t quite woken up, but apart from that we had a really good rhythm all morning. We went a bit wide on the first section of the last stage [SS19] and lost a couple of seconds. I wasn’t 100 per cent concentrated and missed the pacenote, but luckily there was no damage and no drama.

“Yes, I suppose I am the only one who can make Sébastien [Ogier] a little unhappy today, but to be honest, we are not thinking about that. For me, the most important thing is to finish in third position. If I feel OK, maybe we can get a couple of extra points on the Power Stage. But honestly I would be more than happy to finish with a podium – it certainly wouldn’t be so bad for my first time here in Australia!”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“Today has been quite good. Considering our start position I think the times have been pretty good. We’ll certainly try and steal a few points in the Power Stage, but it is going to be difficult with the road position that we have. In some sections it’s not too much of a drama, but in others there is a lot of loose gravel which is yet to be cleared. If we have a good run, there is a chance.

“The first day was very difficult, but we were a lot better yesterday. We’ve learnt a lot on our first time here and it’s good to see that we’re getting faster and faster. The pacenotes are getting better and better too so it’s not been a bad rally by all means.”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“I’ve really enjoyed the stages this morning – they’re really fast with a few technical sections which is what I enjoy. OK, we’ve not been able to push for the good times running so early on the road, but we are enjoying the stages.

“There isn’t much of a line clearing ahead of us, and it is quite slippery in places, but that is just the way it is. We’re just managing our own pace and concentrating on improving everything where we can.”
13-09-14 Neuville on course for Rally Australia podium
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville strengthened his third place at Rally Australia today. Venturing further south to the Macksville region of New South Wales, the Belgian was at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC and is now on course to secure a fifth successive podium in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)

With the crews tackling 132.68 competitive kilometres, proceedings were dominated by Nambucca – a huge 49.90 kilometre test accounting for more than 50 per cent of the day’s high-speed action. But the challenge was not to faze Neuville who managed his pace perfectly.

Pulling clear of their nearest rivals, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul proved their potential once again. Blisteringly quick whilst constantly in control, a string of top-three times over the afternoon loop saw the Belgians eke out a 36.2 second advantage over their championship adversary – Jari-Matti Latvala.

Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg was also looking at ease behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC. Having worked hard to amend what had been overly optimistic pacenotes, the Norwegian and his Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson were back on form. Despite being disadvantaged running earlier on the road, Østberg was quick through Valla 1 (SS12) – setting the third fastest time just 4.2 seconds shy of an advantageously placed Sébastien Ogier.

Having climbed to fifth place overall – with fourth well within his grasp – the Norwegian was set for a good result on his Australian debut. Unfortunately, his good work was undone on the second pass of Valla (SS14) when he ran wide on a tight left-hand corner. But with just 2.6 seconds separating the 25-year-old from a top-five result, Østberg remains on course for a good finish.

In the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta, road position was proving a real obstacle for Evgeny Novikov. As the third car on the road, there was nothing the Russian could do. Clearing a fine layer of loose gravel and dust for the following cars, he and co-driver Ilka Minor were left with no option other than to manage their pace.

Embarking on the second loop of stages, a puncture on SS13 cost the Muscovite almost four minutes. But having established a comfortable lead over the chasing pack, the time loss did not affect his position in the overall standings. Looking to maintain the same rhythm for tomorrow’s final day, Novikov will be eager to take advantage should an opportunity arise.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I really enjoyed this afternoon. Kris [Meeke] was pushing really hard on the long stage [SS13] so we decided to push a bit as well. I think we did a really good time whilst saving the tyres. OK, they [the tyres] weren’t perfect, but we managed to finish the second stage with no problems, and a pretty good time actually!

“Now, we just need to ensure that we maintain this position and keep Jari-Matti [Latvala] behind us. Whilst not taking any big risks, we had some good speed compared to him today so I hope we can continue like that tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“We went wide on a Tarmac corner on SS14 – quite a tight left-hander. I was obviously too fast into the corner because we went really wide and drifted down into the ditch. We hit the bank and spun. It was quite a big impact so it took a while to get back into the rhythm and ensure that everything was fine.

“The car is OK and we managed to take quite a lot of time out of Andreas [Mikkelsen] this morning so I hope we can continue like that and take back fifth place tomorrow. Of course it would have been nicer going into tomorrow with a 20 second advantage as opposed to a few seconds disadvantage, but we are still here and there is all to play for.”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“I’m not sure how it happened, but not far from the start of SS13 we felt that something wasn’t quite right with the rear of the car. At first I thought it was maybe something with the suspension, because it didn’t feel like a puncture. It was very strange. We kept going, and when it became worse we had to slow right down. Luckily, in the end, it turned out that it was just a puncture.

“It was quite difficult this afternoon because the lines of the cars in front were so different to the ones we would usually take. Like today, we just need to manage our pace and see what happens tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another really solid day for all three crews. All the cars have ran faultlessly and it’s great to see the team in such a strong position to challenge for tomorrow.

“Thierry [Neuville] has impressed me once again. He’s reinforced his position and increased the margin to Jari-Matti [Latvala]. He’s determined not to let go of second place in the championship, and he’s well on the way to achieving that goal.”
13-09-14 Mikko rides the waves to podium in OZ
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen consolidated their second position throughout day two of the rally. After Kris Meeke and Chris Patterson went off the road, all hopes of a good result for the Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team rest with the Finnish pair.

The second leg took the crews to the south of Coffs Harbour, on stages held on the gravel roads of New South Wales. The competitors kicked off the day by tackling the 50 kilometre-long Nambucca, the rally’s longest stage!

The first splits reflected the intensity of the battle between Mikko Hirvonen and Sébastien Ogier, who swapped the best virtual time on several occasions. The overall leader ended up having the final say, Mikko having eased off as they approached the end of the stage. “I was pushing really hard, but I had a bit of a scary moment on a hairpin. I came out of the corner too wide and the rear of the car wasn’t really on the road anymore. I had a lucky escape and eased off a bit at the end of the stage,” reported the Finnish driver. “There is still a long way to go, but I don’t think we can close the gap in normal racing conditions. I am going to maintain a good rhythm, without taking any major risks.”

Kris Meeke also consolidated his fourth position in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s other DS3 WRC: “As requested by the team, I’m not trying to battle with Thierry Neuville. My aim is above all to make it to the end of the rally. On these very fast stages, I’m especially cautious. I feel good in the car and hope to continue to rack up more experience this afternoon.”

Unfortunately, the Northern Irishman’s good intentions didn’t prevent him from going off the road on SS13. The no.3 DS3 WRC rolled seven times down a steep hillside, leaving the Brit no option but to retire from the leg. “It’s quite simple. I made a mistake by braking a little bit too late. The car turned into the corner, but we ran wide and slipped off the road and down a steep bank into a field. We rolled several times, very slowly,” explained Kris on his return to the service park. “I’m terribly disappointed, for myself but especially for the team who had put their trust in me. I’m just very sorry.”

Citroën Racing’s mechanics will do everything they can to repair the car in time for the crew to rejoin the race tomorrow under Rally2 rules.

This unfortunate incident meant Mikko Hirvonen had to be a little more cautious in holding onto his second position. Forty seconds off the pace, winning the rally seems beyond Mikko unless the leader runs into trouble. “There’s not much to say about this afternoon’s loop. The second runs were very hard on the tyres and so I tried to look after them,” explained Mikko. “My aim for tomorrow will be to hold onto second place. Another podium finish would enable us to score some important points.”

Continuing their disciplined race, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin moved up to ninth position following Kris Meeke’s retirement. “When I don’t feel confident, I find it hard to push,” admitted the Emirati. “Starting in first position on the road didn’t make my job any easier, especially on the first stage where there was a lot of loose dirt. I tried different driving styles and we have worked on the set-up. We’ll continue with the same approach tomorrow.”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 2:14:53.9
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +45.9
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:11.4
4 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +1:47.6
5 Mikkelsen / Nagle VW Polo R WRC +2:10.8
6 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:13.3
7 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:36.6
8 Quinn / MacNeall Mini JCW WRC +9:10.8
9 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +10:23.0
10 Al-Kuwari / Duffy Ford Fiesta RRC +12:00.1

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Mikkelsen – SS2 to SS9: Ogier – SS10: Latvala.
Day 2 – SS11 to SS16: Ogier.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 14 fastest times – Latvala and Mikkelsen, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1: Mikkelsen – SS2 to SS16: Ogier.
13-09-14 Midday quotes, Rally Australia, Day 3
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“In places, the stages were a lot more slippery than we had expected, but I really enjoyed this morning’s driving. Everything is working well and the stages are really beautiful. The long stage [SS11] in particular is really fast and flowing and that is what a driver enjoys the most – the road is really wide and you can attack into the corners.

“We’re fighting to keep our third position, all the while keeping a close eye on Jari-Matti [Latvala]. He made a mistake on the last stage [SS12] so the gap is a bit more comfortable now. Everything is going very well for us at the moment.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“I think we have done a good job this morning. The car is working well and everything is performing as it should. We did a lot of work on the pacenotes yesterday evening. We managed to change a lot from looking at the onboards and it is definitely a lot better today.
“We’ll go a bit stiffer with the set-up for this afternoon to try and gain a bit more grip through the second pass. There is quite a big battle unfolding, but our main objective is to find the perfect set-up with the car. This is our first time here, and results wise – for this weekend and the future – we know that the times will come once we’ve found the best solution.”

Evgeny Novikov (8th) said:
“It was very difficult and very slippery running so early on the road. I think that these are the most slippery conditions I have ever had to drive on! We tried to do our best and I was pushing on the first stage [SS11], but we could not do anything about the time loss. We just need to keep a good rhythm and see what happens on the next run through.”
13-09-13 Day Two Brings Mixed Bag For Ralliart Italy Crews
Day Two Brings Mixed Bag For Ralliart Italy Crews
It has been a demanding start to Coates Hire Rally Australia for Ralliart Italy and both of its Venezuelan drivers Carlos Garcia Fessman and Alessandro Lombardo in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X cars.

Fessman and co-driver Hugo Magalhaes started the day very well and were feeling comfortable on the Australian roads. However, following lunchtime service, in the second pass through the Bellingen stage, Fessman lost control of the gearbox in his Mitsubishi Evo X. "Unfortunately the gearbox just would no longer work and so we could not finish the stage. Our team came to collect the car and we decided to retire for today and restart under the Rally 2 regulation. I have much faith in the Ralliart Italy service crew and trust they will fix the problem so that we can start Day Two of the rally" he explained.

Fessman is looking forward to the roads on Saturday and the challenge of the 50 kilometre Nambucca stage: " I feel very comfortable in this kind of stage and will drive full throttle. I am better than the position I am currently in and will work hard to move up in the field and prove it."

Like Fessman, Lombardo's day started well. However, during one of the morning's stages he landed roughly after a jump which caused co-driver Alex Haro back pain due to a long-standing dormant injury. The pair continued through the day conservatively to protect Alex's injury from worsening and by the afternoon he was feeling much better: "We will stay steady tomorrow so that we don't hurt Alex again and can keep the good in-car relationship that we have built. Tomorrow we will try to keep the same pace that we held today with the aim of just making it to the finish. We hope that the dust will not be as bad as it was today. However, I do have a great co-driver, so it does not worry me too much,"

Motorsport Italia Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was sorry to see Carlos retire for the day, but encouraged by Lombardo's sure and steady progress: "It's always a shame when one of our drivers has a problem at any point in a rally, but we've seen Carlos' progress since he started driving with us in Sardinia and he shouldn't be discouraged by today's mishap. After all, that's rally! Meanwhile, it's Alejandro's first WRC event with the team and it's good to see him making steady tracks through the stages. It's of course unfortunate that Alex suffered a bit this morning, but we're all grateful he's OK now. His pedigree as a co-driver and winner of the 2010 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship for Co-drivers has been a big benefit to Alejandro so far and I'm sure it will continue to be!"
13-09-13 Positive Start For Quinny In His MINI
Aussie pairing Nathan Quinn and his co-driver Glenn MacNeall are probably the happiest team in the Coates Hire Rally Australia Service Park right now despite not being at the top of the leader board.

Quinn, who had driven the MINI John Cooper Works WRC car only 40 kilometres prior to the start of the rally has driven a very sensible, impressive rally throughout the day. "It has been a pretty awesome day for me out there, driving the stages I love in a car that just continues to blow my mind on every stage I do," Quinn explained. "I can guarantee you that I have had more fun out there today than anyone else at this event."

After six forest stages during the day and two runs through the Coffs Super Special Stage this evening Quinn is sitting a comfortable 9th overall.

Tomorrow will see the Aussie complete two runs through the gruelling 50 kilometre Nambucca stage. Stages of this length are both mentally and physically demanding and require complete focus from the crew. "Where we are sitting right now is a good place for us to be. If we can just sit tight and maintain our position then we will finish Day Two just as happy as today," says Quinn.

Fellow MINI driver and WRC 2 competitor Alexander Gelvez has driven Day One conservatively to bring home a straight car to the Motorsport Italia team. "It is a long rally and this is just the first day" explained the Rally Team Venezuela driver. "There is a big difference between a production car and an RRC car and we are just very focused on keeping the car in a straight line. Each stage we improve so we will try to keep doing this. As always, we're very grateful to Venezuela and the Ministry of Sport for making this opportunity possible."

Motorsport Italia Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was pleased with the performance of both his MINI drivers today: "Nathan's stage times today were very encouraging. We all knew that he had potential, but I was impressed with his positive attitude and competitive stage times. At the moment, there's a group of eight experienced WRC drivers sitting tight in front of him on the leader board, but the rally's long. With the 50km Nambucca stage run twice tomorrow, I wouldn't be surprised if we see things change up at bit on Day Two. Alex also realises that today was a short day compared to the weighty itinerary tomorrow and practised a sensible strategy to make sure he brought his MINI home safely to service this evening."
13-09-13 Citroën DS3 WRCs bunched at front
Fighting at the front throughout the day, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews finished the first leg of Rally Australia in second and fourth positions, with Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen ahead of Kris Meeke/Chris Patterson. Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin ended the day in the top 10 of the overall standings in the third DS3 WRC.

After the ceremonial start and rally show organised in the centre of Coffs Harbour, the rally got underway on Thursday evening with two runs on the super special stage held at Brelsford Park, next to the main service area. On Friday morning, the setting changed completely for the first few gravel stages.

Despite running fifth on the road, Mikko Hirvonen managed to compete with the drivers setting off after him – and who therefore benefitted from cleaner racing line. The Finn moved up into second position after SS3. On the next stage, he was overtaken by Kris Meeke, who held onto second place until the crews stopped for lunch.

“I tried to make the most of running in tenth position on the road,“ confirmed the Northern Irishman, who had set the fastest time in qualifying. “This was my first day with this kind of set-up. It was fantastic to drive, although I still feel like I’m learning about the car. I didn’t take any risks, but that didn’t prevent me from hitting a massive stone that was pulled out in the middle of the road on SS5. I thought I had broken the steering, but thankfully it’s a strong car and I’m still here!”

With conditions becoming more even on the second runs, Mikko Hirvonen moved back ahead of his team-mate on SS6. The four-time World Championship runner-up didn’t let up for a second, maintaining the pressure on Sébastien Ogier. “I’m pleased with today, although the leader has built up a gap a little bit quicker than I thought he would. We’ll have to push hard tomorrow,” analysed the Citroën driver. “More generally, it’s good for the team that both cars are proving to be competitive. Kris did a very good job today and we have the potential to secure an excellent overall result this weekend.”

Third throughout the afternoon, Kris Meeke fell back to fourth overall after two further runs on the Coffs super special stage. “I stalled at the start and that cost me ten seconds or so. It’s a shame, but I’m only five tenths off third place and it shouldn’t detract from what has been a very positive day. I found the second loop more difficult than the first loop, because the grip levels had changed quite a lot. In certain sections, there was a kind of powder on the surface that meant the road was very slippery. Despite my lack of experience, I’m not far behind Mikko and that’s good news for the team.”

Competing in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC, Khalid Al-Qassimi had a tough day. “I think we could have done better,” admitted the Emirati, who finished the day tenth overall. “But to do that, first of all, I would have needed to use the right-hand pedal a little bit more! I also think that we can do more work on the set-up of the car, so that I feel more confident.”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 58:46.6
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +20.0
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +38.1
4 Meeke / Patterson Citroën DS3 WRC +38.6
5 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +58.2
6 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:01.7
7 Mikkelsen / Nagle VW Polo R WRC +1:03.8
8 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:09.2
9 Quinn / MacNeall Mini JCW WRC +4:02.6
10 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +4:41.4

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Mikkelsen – SS2 to SS9: Ogier – SS10: Latvala.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 8 fastest times – Latvala and Mikkelsen, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1: Mikkelsen – SS2 to SS10: Ogier.
13-09-13 Mission accomplished for Qatar M-Sport
It was mission accomplished for the Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRCs on the first full day of competition at Rally Australia today. Tackling 91.34 kilometres of technically challenging stages to the south of Coffs Harbour, all three crews defied their inexperience to finish the day in third, sixth and eighth respectively.

Making their debut on the Australian stages, Thierry Neuville and Mads Østberg were initially hampered by the unfamiliarity of the stages. Both 25-year-olds commented that their pacenotes had been overly optimistic in places. But determined as ever, they weren’t going to let that stand in the way of a good result and quickly adapted to the conditions.

Neuville in particular was straight back on the pace for the second pass. Indeed he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were back in style this afternoon – setting a string of top-three stage times and climbing into a podium position on the final test (SS10). The Qatar World Rally Team driver maintains that beating his championship rival – Jari-Matti Latvala in fifth – is his sole objective. But thanks to his blistering pace, the Belgian is on course to clinch a fifth successive podium.

By comparison, Østberg did well to avoid the pitfalls on SS8 when he and co-driver Jonas Andersson encountered a huge rock some 10 kilometres into the stage. Hitting the pairing’s Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC side-on, the impact was heavy enough to force the driver’s door open. Regrouping for the end-of-day super specials, the Norwegian brought his Fiesta home in sixth – ready and eager for tomorrow’s high speed tests.

Disadvantaged running earlier on the stages, Østberg’s team mate Evgeny Novikov had to contend with treacherous, slippery conditions. But the Russian was keeping his own – matching the times of Latvala while running in a similar position on the road.

Softening the set-up of his Fiesta RS WRC, he and co-driver Ilka Minor maintained their speed over the afternoon loop to finish the day in eighth place – just over 10 seconds shy of the top-five.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“It almost feels like we have been driving completely different stages this afternoon! My usual feeling and confidence with the car is certainly back. We worked hard to amend the pacenotes during midday service, but I think that maybe I was just struggling to get back into the rhythm of gravel driving this morning.

“Now, I feel much better and the handling of the car is great. I really enjoyed this afternoon’s stages. The times were quick, yes, but we were not pushing and not taking any big risks. My aim is to finish the rally – for experience, but also to increase my second place in the championship.”

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“I think the driving has been good this afternoon, but for some reason the times just aren’t coming. I have no answer as to why they are not. The car felt OK. The only thing I’m not 100 per cent confident with is turning into the high speeds corners – but there have not been a lot of those out there today. It’s a strange one for sure.

“The pacenotes were certainly a lot better, but on SS8 we hit a huge rock. It was so big that the impact opened the [driver’s] door. There was no way of avoiding it. It was in the middle of the line going into a right-hand corner and we hit it side-on. We were very lucky to get away with that one!”

Evgeny Novikov (8th) said:
“We changed the set-up of the car in service which was OK, but I didn’t like the balance. I think we will go back to the original set-up for tomorrow – this one wasn’t necessarily worse, but I preferred the handling this morning.

“There was some dust on the second loop – sometimes it settled and sometimes it was blown away much quicker so it was not the same for everyone. The first two stages [SS6 and SS7] had much better grip levels, but on the last stage [SS8] especially it was much slipperier than it had been this morning.

“We have a long day tomorrow with two long stages, so I think we just need to continue managing our pace and see what happens.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I am really pleased to see all three cars finishing Day 1 in such a strong position – especially considering how little experience they [the drivers] have on these stages. We’re certainly ahead of our goal for this rally. We always hoped a podium would be possible, but to be in a top-three position at the end of the first [full] day is very encouraging.”
13-09-13 Midday quotes, Rally Australia, Day 2
Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“We did not expect the conditions to be as slippery as they were this morning. The road and the lines look completely different to what we saw on recce and my pacenotes are two-times too quick in places! I had to adapt my driving and I struggled to find a good rhythm in the first two stages [SS3 and SS4]. The last one [SS5] was better, but there is still some work to do before we are perfect.

“This afternoon we have only one plan, and that is to keep Jari-Matti [Latvala] behind us. So far that plan seems to be going our way, so we just need to continue at our own pace and see what happens.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“The conditions are very difficult and it is hard to find the perfect rhythm. With the pacenotes too, I have no idea why they are not so good here! Normally I make quite good notes, but it seems like I have struggled a lot more than usual. On SS5 especially, they were perfect in some places and just far too optimistic in others.

“The first two stages [SS3 and SS4] were not so bad, but you need perfect notes to be fast here. It would be perfect if Jonas [Andersson, co-driver] could just fix them over lunch, but unfortunately it’s down to me to do all the changes! It’s a lot of work, but we have amended all the big things and now just need to adapt for the second pass.”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“This morning was OK. We took it quite cautiously because it was a lot more slippery than I had expected. Also, we maybe don’t have the best set-up for these conditions. We took a similar set-up to what we had in Finland and it is quite stiff with not so much traction.

“We’ll make some changes for the second loop – to make the handling of the car a lot softer – and see how we go. This is still only our second time in Australia, so to be matching Jari-Matti [Latvala] on a similar position on the road is not too bad.”
13-09-12 Start order quotes, Rally Australia
Thierry Neuville (3rd in Qualifying, starting 8th on the road) said:
“Of course the second fastest time in Qualifying would have been better than third, but Kris [Meeke] was on a really big push and I am happy with my position. It was not a perfect run, and we could have gone faster in places, but eighth on the road is not a bad place to be.

“Now, we just need to get a good rhythm from the start and take each stage as it comes. My main aim this weekend is to keep hold of my second place in the championship so we will be keeping a close eye on Jari-Matti [Latvala].”

Mads Østberg (4th in Qualifying, starting 7th on the road) said:
“I think we had a good run in Qualifying. We decided to go on the hard tyre which will give us more options for the rally. We were the only ones to do that and I think it was a clever choice. The time was good, and I think we are in a really good position for the rally.

“We’ll start seventh on the road which should hopefully give us a cleaner road, and with three minute gaps on the kind of stages we will see tomorrow, I don’t think dust will be a problem.”

Evgeny Novikov (7th in Qualifying, starting 4th on the road) said:
“The first two runs in Free Practice were OK, but I was a bit too ‘sideways’ in a corner on the second pass. I had to drop two gears and lost a bit of time, but still it was OK. On the Qualifying stage, I felt as though we were a lot faster through the corners, but the time was not there. It’s not a big problem and the stages tomorrow are very technical so anything can happen. We just need to see how it goes.”

13-08-26 Kubica grabs lead in WRC
Playing their part in Citroën Racing’s dominant performance at this year’s Rallye Deutschland, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran took their third WRC2 win. This first win on tarmac means that the DS3 RRC crew now lead the championship standings.

The first rally this season to be held exclusively on tarmac roads, Rallye Deutschland provided Robert Kubica with yet another challenge. Winner in Greece and Sardinia, and then runner-up in Finland, the Pole hoped to maintain his rich vein of form on his first appearance at this rally.

The rally got underway on Thursday afternoon in Cologne. On the roads leading the crews to Trier, two stages enabled an initial pecking order to be established. Robert Kubica set the fastest time on both stages to take the early lead in the category, around fifteen seconds ahead of Elfyn Evans. ”It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t expecting conditions to be like this,” played down the DS3 RRC driver. “It was pretty cold and I was struggling to keep the tyres at temperature, so the car was sliding around a lot.”

The rally stayed in the Trier region the next day, the stages held on roads winding through the Mosel vineyards. Hampered by problems with the handbrake throughout the entire first loop, Robert Kubica was occasionally forced to put the car into reverse to get around the tightest hairpins. He still managed to hold onto the lead by a few seconds. The Pole managed to win three stages in the afternoon, despite having to deal with further incidents: “On SS6, we damaged the spoiler and broke the rear window in a compression. We repaired it before the next stage, but we forgot to fasten the boot properly and drove the next stage with it flapping open. SS8 went okay, with no problems!”

The setting changed completely for day three, as the vineyards were replaced by the countryside roads of the Rhine region and the tarmac of the Baumholder military base. The day was dominated by a thrilling head-to-head battle between Robert Kubica and Elfyn Evans for the WRC2 class lead, which changed hands on no fewer than four occasions! Despite heavy rain making for worsening conditions, the Citroën driver had the final word and drove into parc fermé with a… 7.8s lead.

Only two stages were left on Sunday to separate the two rivals. Robert produced a superb effort on Dhrontal 1, enabling him to extend his lead to around ten seconds. The final stage did not go quite according to plan, however: “We heard some noise from the transmission and I was worried that we had broken something! But fortunately we’re here and all is good. I’m pleased with the result, especially as we have finished fifth overall. It was a good win, because Evans gave us a lot of problems. We’re now leading the championship, but my main goal is to keep learning at each rally. Experience is the key in WRC and every stage gives me the chance to improve.”

With five rallies under his belt, the DS3 RRC driver therefore holds an eight-point lead over Al Kuwari, who has the same number of results. “Robert continues his programme of accelerated learning. He had a great race. Although he was constantly under pressure, he was able to manage his form. He is now very well placed to win the championship,” emphasized Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal.

As they aren’t competing at Rally Australia, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran’s next event will be Rally Poland (ERC), due to take place on 13-15 September. They will be back in action in the WRC at the Rallye de France (3-6 October).
13-08-26 Volkswagen behåller ledningen i rally-VM
Inför VM-rallyt i Tyskland hade Volkswagen Motorsport vunnit sex av årets åtta deltävlingar i WRC, men i hemmarallyt infriades inte de höga förväntningarna. Små, men ödesdigra misstag från båda förarparen gjorde att Volkswagen missade pallen för första gången i år. Trots detta behåller man ledningen i både konstruktörs- och förarmästerskapet.

Det tyska asfaltsrallyt, 22-25 augusti, följdes av en publik på 200 000 personer där många förstås hejade fram Volkswagen Motorsports två Polo R WRC. VM-ledaren i förarmästerskapet Sébastien Ogier och kartläsaren Julien Ingrassia fick en perfekt start och ledde efter den första dagen. På fredagen kom dock den franska duon utanför vägen på ett halt avsnitt och skadade hjulupphängningen på sin Polo. Detta resulterade i att de var tvungna att bryta rallyt. I enlighet med Rally2-reglerna, med tidstillägg som följd, återupptog de tävlingen på lördagen och vann därefter flera specialsträckor. Ogier/Ingrassia vann också söndagens Power Stage som belönar de tre bästa förarna med extra poäng. Ogier/Ingrassia kunde därmed säkra tre VM-poäng. Paret slutade på en 16:e plats i rallyt.

Den andre Volkswagen-föraren Jari-Matti Latvala och hans kartläsare Miikka Anttila visade bra form på asfalten. Efter att ha tagit ledningen i början av den andra dagen, fortsatte det finska paret att utöka sin ledning tills den elfte etappen. På specialsträckan "Arena Panzerplatte” slog Latvala/Anttila i en av de ökända betongblocken och skadade passagerardörren. Detta resulterade i att kartläsaren Anttila under de följande specialsträckorna tvingades hålla dörren stängd med en hand samtidigt som han försökte läsa noterna. Denna situation visade sig vara alltför svår och vid ett tillfälle blev det en viss fördröjning i instruktionerna. Latvala/Anttila gled då av vägen och tvingades bryta. Precis som sina lagkamrater gjorde dagen innan, återupptog det finska paret rallyt under Rally2-reglerna och slutade till sist på en sjunde plats. De tog sex värdefulla VM-poäng och belönades dessutom med en extra poäng efter att ha kommit trea på Power Stage.

Den tredje Polo R WRC med Andreas Mikkelsen och Mikko Markkula (Norge/ Finland) deltog inte i rallyt på grund av hälsoproblem.
Rallyt vanns av Dani Sordi (Citroën), som därmed tog sin första WRC-seger. Volkswagen Motorsport behåller trots detta ledningen i konstruktörsmästerskapet där man leder med 26 poäng före Citroën.

Nästa VM-tävling körs i Australien den 12-15 september. Inför detta rally har Ogier/Ingrassia fortfarande en betryggande ledning i förarmästerskapet. De leder med 75 poäng före Fords Thierry Neuville. Om Ogier/Ingrassia lyckas utöka sin ledning till 84 poäng eller mer efter Rally Australien, kan de säkra VM-titeln. Latvala ligger på tredje plats i förarmästerskapet, 11 poäng efter Neuville.

Citat efter tyska VM-rallyt
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 7
– Låt oss börja med det positiva: Jag har förbättrat mina prestationer på asfalt. Jag hade aldrig lett ett asfaltsrally tidigare och tiderna visar att jag blir bättre på detta underlag. Efter gårdagens besvikelse är jag glad att jag kunde ta några poäng för teamet i konstruktörsmästerskapet, trots att resultatet blev allt annat än perfekt för mig personligen. Ändå kommer jag att gå in i de kommande rallyn med självförtroende och kommer att göra allt jag kan för att ge mitt team den bästa chansen i kampen om konstruktörs-VM. Jag är glad för Dani Sordo, han förtjänade segern!

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Naturligtvis var det inte så vi hoppades att rallyt skulle gå, men med tanke på vad som hände gjorde vi gjorde det bästa av det. Segern i Power Stage en fin framgång och kan visa sig vara viktig i slutskedet i mästerskapet. Jag är ledsen för att teamet inte vann sitt hemmarally, men är verkligen glad för Dani Sordo. Jag ser nu fram emot rallyt i Australien och Julien och jag kommer att försöka att ta oss ännu närmare VM-titeln.

Jost Capito, chef för Volkswagen Motorsport
– Att vinna åtta av de femton specialsträckorna är ett gott tecken och motsvarar vad vi hade satt upp inför rallyt. Polo R WRC är också konkurrenskraftig på asfalt, men vårt hemmarally gick inte som vi hade tänkt eller hoppats och det är en besvikelse för oss. Både Sébastien Ogier och Jari-Matti Latvala ledde rallyt i något skede, men båda tvingades bryta i detta läge. Vi var nära att vinna, men missade på grund av några små misstag. Inom idrotten kan man dock inte ta något för givet. Detta är särskilt fallet i WRC där det handlar om varje liten detalj och inga misstag kan göras. Och det är just detta som gör vår sport så fascinerande. Vi kommer nu att arbeta hårt för att bli framgångsrika i Rally Australia. Vi skickar våra gratulationer till Dani Sordo för hans välförtjänta seger.

Resultat FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), ADAC Rallye Deutschland
1. Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën 3h 15m 19.4s
2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 53.0s
3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën + 2m 36.1s
4. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford + 8m 00.8s
5. Robert Kubica/Maciek Baran (PL/PL), Citroën + 9m 01.3s
6. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 9m 14.2s
7. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Anttila (FIN/FIN), VW + 9m 55.0s
8. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Škoda + 13m 01.2s
9. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 13m 28.1s
10. Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A) + 15m 17.9s

Ställning förarmästerskapet, efter 9 av 13 deltävlingar
Poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen 184
2. Thierry Neuville, Ford 109
3. Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen 98
4. Dani Sordo, Citroën 96
5. Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën 88
Ställning konstruktörsmästerskapet, efter 9 av 13 deltävlingar

Poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 262
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 236
3. Qatar M-Sport WRT 129
4. Qatar WRT 124
5. Jipocar Czech National Team 51
6. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT 37
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II 26
8. Lotos WRC Team 20

Mer information
www.wrc.com
www.volkswagen-motorsport.com
13-08-25 Chardonnet wins the battle!
The first round of the Citroën Top Driver contested on tarmac proved to be particularly demanding and difficult for the crews taking part. Quick and efficient, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault de la Haye managed to keep out of trouble and enjoyed an error-free rally. Keith Cronin/Marshall Clark and Christian Riedemann/Lara Vanneste claimed the other places on the WRC3 podium in their DS3 R3s.

Four days of racing were completed at a frantic pace with the weather providing dry and wet conditions. The unpredictable weather was largely responsible for spicing up conditions on the final day. The crews set off for two runs on the 25 kilometre-long Dhrontal stage, with no service break. Tyre choice was therefore a key factor in terms of race management.

For Sébastien Chardonnet, the final leg was not all about pushing hard. Armed with a comfortable lead, acquired during the first three days and thanks to his eight stage wins, the French driver just needed to hold position. He took no risks, so it was therefore no surprise that he went on to claim the win. This fine performance also meant he reclaimed the lead in the Citroën Top Driver championship standings.

“We can be pleased with the result this weekend. The conditions were really tough and we managed to keep out of trouble,” analysed Sébastien Chardonnet. “You had to make the right calls, at the right time. We did just that, and it paid off. We wanted to get the lead back in the Top Driver standings and we have achieved just that. I’d really like to thank Thibault and the team who did a great job and gave me a fantastic DS3 R3!

Quite a way back in second, Keith Cronin admitted he had been fortunate to finish as the runner-up here in Germany. After picking up a puncture on the 14 kilometre-long Sauertal stage, the three-time British Rally champion lined up at the start of Moselland nine minutes late having repaired a technical problem on his car. He managed to maintain good pace to hold onto his second position even though he was hampered by another car which went off on Sunday’s first stage.

“We’re pleased with the result. The conditions were really tough but the rally worked out well in the end. We have lost the lead in the championship but there are still two rallies left to try and get it back!” commented the Irish driver.

After going off on SS4, the talented young German driver Christian Riedemann certainly wasn’t expecting to finish on the final podium. However, having rejoined the rally under Rally2 rules on Saturday morning, he matched the pace of the leaders and it gradually closed on Mohammed Al Mutawaa. After claiming the fastest time on the first run on Dhrontal, he managed to snatch third place from the Emirati driver.

“What a weekend! Obviously, we’re disappointed with this result at our home event, but we’re not giving up yet, however. We’ll be trying to win in France.”

Meanwhile, the winner of the Abu Dhabi Young Driver Selections said he was “thrilled with his first experience on tarmac in the DS3 R3”. He finished fourth in the Citroën Top Driver standings.

Quentin Gilbert rounded off the top five after a testing rally. Forced to retire after a technical problem before starting the second loop on Friday, the young man from the Vosges region rejoined on Saturday under Rally2 rules. Unfortunately, he hit a rock within the first few kilometres of Saturday’s first stage and had to retire for a second time. On Sunday, the winner of the 2012French Citroën Racing Trophy was hampered by a puncture. A rather unsuccessful weekend for the Frenchman, who was unable to hide his disappointment.

In the teams’ championship, Top Teams continue to head the standings, with a five-point lead over Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast.

Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroën Racing gave us his assessment of the weekend: “This first tarmac round has proven that the DS3 R3 can win on any surface. It has won the WRC3 category for the fourth time running. The DS3 R1s also produced some fine performances in winning their category. Our hearty congratulations to Julius Tanner and Jordan Berfa, who did especially well this weekend.”

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Chardonnet – SS2: Campedelli
Day 2 – SS3 to SS6: Chardonnet – SS7 and SS8: Cronin
Day 3 – SS9: Cronin – SS10 and SS11: Chardonnet – SS12: Riedemann – SS13: Chardonnet – SS14: cancelled.
Day 4 – SS15: Riedemann – SS16: Riedemann and Gilbert

BEST PERFORMERS
Chardonnet, 7 fastest times – Cronin and Riedemann, 3 each – Campedelli and Gilbert, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS16: Chardonnet

RETIREMENTS
DAY 2
Simone Campedelli: Minor off on SS3
Federico Della Casa: Minor off on SS3
Christian Riedemann: Minor off on SS4
Quentin Gilbert: Retired before the second loop – Technical problem

DAY 3
Quentin Gilbert: Minor off on SS9

CITROEN TOP DRIVER DRIVERS’ STANDINGS AFTER ADAC RALLYE DEUTSCHLAND
1. CHARDONNET : 73 pts
2. CRONIN : 69 pts
3. GILBERT : 36 pts
4. RIEDEMANN : 35 pts
5. BOUFFIER : 27 pts
6. CAMPEDELLI : 18 pts
7. VAINIONPAA : 15 pts
8. FISHER : 13 pts
9. DELLA CASA : 8 pts
10. CONSANI : 6 pts
11. PARLI : 4 pts
12. AL MUTAWAA : 0 pts

TEAMS’ STANDINGS AFTER ADAC RALLYE DEUTSCHLAND
1. Top Teams : 109 pts
2. Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast : 104 pts
3. Delta Rally Team : 33 pts
4. Sainteloc : 31 pts

13-08-25 Dani Sordo secures hist first WRC win with Citroën
Leaders on the final morning of Rallye Deutschland, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio sweated blood and tears on the fourth leg to secure their maiden World Rally Championship win. Citroën Racing thus claimed its thirteenth consecutive win in Germany, the twelfth since the rally joined the WRC calendar. Thanks to the third place secured by Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has cut a large part of their rival’s lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship.

The situation going into day four of the rally was straightforward enough. With a lead of just 8/10ths of a second over Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo had to push all the way on the two runs on the 24.58km-long Dhrontal stage. As the roads were dry when the drivers chose their tyres, everyone went with soft-compound Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.

In the service park, all eyes were focussed on the green and red squares on the timing screens, which indicate the split times. The start of SS15 went well for Neuville, but Sordo fought back to win the stage by 2.2 seconds. “I made a minor mistake in the first few kilometres of the stage,” reported an out of breath Dani at the stop control. “It was very slippery, with quite a lot of mud towards the end. I concentrated and pushed hard to try and get ahead, but it’s going to go down to the wire!”

At the start of SS16, in which the Power Stage bonus points were up for grabs, Dani Sordo therefore held a three second lead over Thierry Neuville. In other words, not a lot! Quicker on the opening two ‘splits’, Dani could see his rival was slightly ahead of him by the half-way point of the stage. Tied with four kilometres to go, the two drivers were responsible for many a sweaty brow in the service park! In the end, Neuville faltered and went off the road, leaving Dani to win by 53 seconds!

“It’s fantastic to claim my first win after such a close fight,” commented the delighted Spaniard. “We had no choice but to keep applying the pressure and in the end, Thierry was forced into a mistake. We didn’t get off to a particularly good start, but we all worked together to improve. We did the hardest part yesterday, but we had to maintain our form today and that’s exactly what we did. Now that I have my first win, I want some more!”

A long way clear of the fourth-placed driver, Mikko Hirvonen wasn’t competing in the same race as the front two. Adopting a sensible pace, dictated by the split times, he drove in controlled fashion to the end to secure third place. On the podium for the first time since Rally de Portugal, the Finn enjoyed the moment: “Above all, I’m pleased that Dani has finally won his first WRC rally. Of all the WRC drivers, he’s the one who deserves it the most! My result means that the team has closed the gap in the Manufacturers’ World Championship, so the end of the season should be interesting. It’ll be my turn to win in Australia!”

“It’s a great day for the entire team,” concluded Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Dani has competed in so many rallies with us that we are particularly pleased to have supported him in winning a round of the World Championship. This win ensures that Citroën maintains its unbeaten record in Germany and it equally shows that the DS3 WRC can also win without Sébastien Loeb. We were right not to give up; we’ll be pushing hard in the final part of the season and have every intention of fighting our corner right to the end!”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC 3:15:19.4
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +53.0
3 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +2:36.1
4 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:00.8
5 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +9:01.3
6 Evans / Barritt Ford Fiesta R5 +9:14.2
7 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +9:55.0
8 Paddon / Kennard Skoda Fabia S2000 +13:01.2
9 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +13:28.1
10 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15:17.9
11 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +17:46.9

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1 and SS2: Ogier.
Day 2 – SS3 to SS6: Neuville – SS7 and 8: Latvala.
Day 3 – SS9: Ogier – SS10: Sordo – SS11 and SS12: Ogier – SS13: Sordo – SS14: cancelled.
Day 4 – SS15: Sordo – SS16: Ogier.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 6 fastest times – Neuville, 4 – Sordo, 3 – Latvala, 2.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2: Ogier – SS3 to SS11: Latvala – SS12: Neuville – SS13 to SS16: Sordo.

WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
DRIVERS
1. S. Ogier, 184 pts
2. T. Neuville, 109 pts
3. JM. Latvala, 98 pts
4. D. Sordo, 96 pts
5. M. Hirvonen, 88 pts
6. S. Loeb, 68 pts
7. M. Østberg, 67 pts
8. M. Prokop, 49 pts
9. E. Novikov, 40 pts
10. N. Al-Attiyah, 30 pts
11. A. Mikkelsen, 26 pts
12. E. Evans, 16 pts
13. R. Kubica, 14 pts
14. B. Bouffier, 10 pts
15. J. Hänninen, 8 pts
16. C. Atkinson, 8 pts
17. M. Kosciuszko, 7 pts
18. K. Block, 6 pts
19. J. Ketomaa, 6 pts
20. S. Wiegand, 4 pts
21. H. Solberg, 4 pts
22. B. Guerra, 4 pts
23. PG. Andersson, 4 pts
24. H. Paddon, 4 pts
25. K. Al-Qassimi, 3 pts
26. O. Burri, 2 pts
27. E. Lappi, 1 pts
28. Y. Al Rajhi, 1 pts

MANUFACTURERS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 258 pts
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 236 pts
3. Qatar WRT, 127 pts
4. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 126 pts
5. Jipocar Czech National Team, 51 pts
6. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 37 pts
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 30 pts
8. Lotos WRC Team, 20 pts
13-08-25 Neuville secures second in nail-giting fight to the finish
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul put in another sensational performance this weekend to finish second overall at ADAC Rallye Deutschland. In a nail-biting fight to the finish, the duo secured the runner-up spot for the third event in succession and strengthened their hold on second position in the FIA World Rally Championship’s driver and co-driver standings.

Heading into the final day showdown, Neuville was locked in an epic battle for the lead. As the stages ventured back to the Belgian’s favoured hunting ground in the Mosel vineyards, he went into the last two tests with all to play for – just 0.8 seconds separating him from securing the top-step on the podium.

Using the first pass as a high-speed recce to double check the notes he lost just 2.2 seconds to rival Dani Sordo – a feat made all the more impressive considering he was also nursing a slow puncture. That left only a three-second deficit going into the final speed test.

As the Belgian fans roared at the stage end, the leading pair traded fastest splits throughout the 24.58 kilometre stage – it all coming down to the final five kilometres. Ultimately, the battle came to an end some three kilometres from the finish line. Pushing to the limit, Neuville put his Fiesta RS WRC slightly off-road – gifting 50 seconds to his rival and forfeiting a potential first win.

Regardless of the outcome, Neuville and Gilsoul were outstanding in their pursuit of victory. Determined to the end, the duo were a firm favourite amongst the adoring fans and are thoroughly deserving of their second place in the championship.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and Evgeny Novikov were on damage limitation following some time loss earlier in the event.

The Norwegian had been running in a strong fifth place before falling foul to the treacherous conditions on SS12. Sliding off the road, the gravel-expert was unable to right his stricken Fiesta RS WRC and had to settle for Rally 2 on the final day. Mission accomplished, he and co-driver Jonas Andersson salvaged valuable points in ninth place and will be hoping for better fortune as the championship returns to their favoured surface next month.

Similarly, having slid off the road on the opening test, Novikov’s task remained much the same. Disadvantaged with ten minutes of Rally 2 time penalties, he and co-driver Ilka Minor used their time wisely to perfect their pacenotes. With his strategy paying dividends, the Russian climbed an impressive 61 places over the course of the weekend to finish in a points-scoring tenth place.

In the sister Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini had to settle for 13th place overall. The Qatari had been on course to secure his best result on asphalt before damaging the steering of his Fiesta when hitting an unsighted rock through the first pass of ‘Arena Panzerplatte’ (SS11).

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, the battle for the top-stop was as exciting as the fight at the head of the field. Challenging Robert Kubica from the opening test, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt ably demonstrated the Ford Fiesta R5’s impressive performance on asphalt.

Having had the better of the Formula 1 race-winner during yesterday’s high-speed tests, the Welshman had to settle for the runner-up spot today. That said, his performance this weekend was nothing short of superb – equalling his best ever showing in the WRC with sixth place overall and showcasing the Fiesta R5’s huge potential on asphalt.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“This was an incredible weekend and I feel we proved a lot again, even if we did ultimately just miss out on the win. The battle with Dani [Sordo] reminded me of some of the fights I used to have in the IRC! Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] and I decided we were going to go for it on the final stage, but there was a corner towards the start that was much dirtier than I’d expected and I went slightly wide, which cost me two seconds.

“We then gave it everything – driving flat-out to regain the time we had lost and try to win in front of all our supporters. The split-times showed that approach was working well, but then coming out of the forest, I mistook one fast left-hand corner in the vineyards for another and we went off. By the time Nicolas announced the pacenote, it was already too late. Luckily we were able to rejoin the road and make it to the finish without losing position.

“Dani drove really well all weekend, setting consistently fast times and making no mistakes. I can only congratulate him and Carlos [del Barrio] and hope that soon it will be our turn. Second place is still a great result for us and I’m very satisfied with our performance in Germany. At least we tried, and our time will come.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“Well, considering the off yesterday, finishing ninth isn’t so bad at all! It has been a difficult weekend, but there are also some positives to take away. I think we improved throughout the rally and we have certainly learnt a lot along the way.

“When we get a bit of distance and start to look at everything in a bit more detail I’m sure we will find out what to do. The car is good, we know that. This weekend I just needed the car to assist me more, but instead we ended up adjusting the set-up a bit too much and I struggled to match it with my driving style 100 per cent.

“I think now we need to concentrate on Australia – and getting back to gravel which I am really looking forward to! It will be a new event for us, but Jonas [Andersson, co-driver] and I are used to new events so I don’t think that will affect us too much. Hopefully there we can have a really good run and get back to the podium which is, ultimately, where we want to be.”

Evgeny Novikov (10th) said:
“I think it is fair to say that this has not been a good event for us. After the time loss on the first day, there was nothing left for us to fight for. We just had to concentrate on getting through all the stages and getting back into the points – we managed that, so that is one positive at least.

“Today I couldn’t get the right feeling with the brakes so it was hard to do anything other than just get through the day.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (13th) said:
“This is a really good event and I think we improved our Tarmac driving a lot this weekend. Of course it was very disappointing with what happened yesterday, but we were setting some good times and on course for what would have been a really great result for us.

“The team are working very hard and everything is going in the right direction. Thierry [Neuville] put in a great performance this weekend. OK, he could have won if everything had gone his way, but second position is another brilliant result for him and we are all extremely proud of what he has achieved.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“This has been a really enjoyable rally – we had a great fight with Robert [Kubica] from start to finish. There were a couple of small errors from my side which cost us pretty dearly to be honest, but other than that I think we can be really happy with what we achieved here.

“We were a bit too cautious on the first stage this morning [SS15]. Robert really pushed on and took a good ten seconds out of us there so that was really the end of our hopes. We had a decent run through the last stage [SS16] – taking six seconds out of him – but it wasn’t quite enough.

“The car has been absolutely sensational all weekend. We already knew how good it was on gravel, and I think now we’ve proved that it is just as competitive on Tarmac… everyone should go out and buy one! It’s been a really enjoyable weekend and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel in France.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It was another truly outstanding drive from Thierry [Neuville]. For him to be battling for victory right down to the wire on the final stage – and lying second in the championship – is an absolute dream which I didn’t think was possible when we started the season back in Monte-Carlo.

“To rise up the ranks as quickly as he is doing is something I haven’t seen in all the time I’ve been doing this job. Second place is still an incredible result when you consider the level of experience he has – and he is only going to get better.

“In WRC 2, it was another extremely strong performance from Elfyn [Evans] as he demonstrated the [Ford Fiesta] R5’s potential on asphalt as well as gravel – proving that it’s the car to have on all surfaces. He produced a very mature and sensible drive in difficult conditions.

“To be exchanging the lead with somebody like Robert Kubica whilst not allowing himself to get sucked into making any mistakes in the heat of the moment was very impressive. I’m sure he will go away from here having learned a lot, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he fares against Robert over the remaining two rounds.”
13-08-25 Production Cup Podium for Fessman
After a long and tricky rally, Carlos Fessman was jubilant to finish his first ever WRC Tarmac event in the top three of the WRC 2 Production Cup after safely completing every day of ADAC Rallye Deutschland in his Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Following a difficult Day Four, Fessman was pleased to be fighting for the Production Cup win until the very end.

The Venezuelan was surprised by his own performance on Tarmac and pleased to be able to tackle the many and varying challenges the Trier-based event threw at him: “If I reflect on the event, it’s a shame that I lost time yesterday stopping to help another crew, because without that I really could have fought to win the Production Cup, but I know that safety is important in any sport, so I don’t regret my decision. This is just the beginning of my career on Tarmac and this rally already exceeded my expectations, so in the end I can’t be anything except happy with my result!”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is encouraged by Fessman’s performance and feels positive looking ahead to the Tarmac events later this season: “Carlos really impressed me this weekend. None of us knew what to expect. We didn’t have time to do a pre-event test and we knew he hadn’t got much experience on asphalt, but he seemed comfortable with his car and the roads from the start. To navigate all the stages successfully on your first outing at Rallye Deutschland is no mean feat and Carlos stayed calm and in control throughout. Without the support of Venezuela and their Ministry of Sport none of this would have been possible and we’re very grateful for the opportunity they’ve given both Carlos and Ralliart Italy.”
13-08-25 Pontus Tidemand tog sin första JVM-seger på asfalt i Rally Deutschland
Det tyska VM-rallyt var ingen lätt match för merparten av deltagarna. Men 22-årige värmlänningen Pontus Tidemand fick en tävling utan problem och tog många kliv framåt när han visade prov på såväl taktisk körning som förbättrad teknik på underlaget. Det gav honom hans första vinst på asfalt i Junior-VM och segermarginalen uppgick till närmare två minuter.

Pontus och co-drivern Ola Fløene inledde Rally Deutschland med samlad och säker körning i sin Ford Fiesta R2 på torsdagen. När de två första sträckorna var körda låg de på andra plats över natten och Pontus var nöjd med att inte ha mer än 10,7 sekunder upp till ledande José Suarez, som har stor erfarenhet av asfalttävlingar.

På fredagen hittade Pontus snabbt ett bra tempo och på dagens andra sträcka övertog han ledningen och den ökade betydligt under dagen när allt fler råkade i trubbel. Suarez, som är främsta konkurrenten i den totala ställningen i mästerskapet, var av vägen och Yeray Lemes, som under förmiddagen låg tvåa efter Pontus, fick problem med växellådan. När den sjätte och sista sträckan för dagen var körd hade Pontus kammat hem tre sträckvinster och ledningen hade växt till hela två och en halv minut.
- När vi startade i torsdags fanns inte självförtroendet där till hundra procent, säger Pontus. Men både bilen och känslan var bra och det blev allt bättre när jag såg att vi hängde med i toppen. Fredagen klarade vi av i stort sett felfritt, vilket gjorde att vi fick ett övertag när många av de andra fick problem.

Lördagen var med sina sex sträckor JVM- deltagarnas sista tävlingsdag. Väderförhållandena var minst sagt snabbt växlande och med dem blev även svårigheterna större. Men för Pontus del var den främsta uppgiften att ta hand om ledningen och se till att nå mållinjen på den sista sträckan. Det gjorde att han inte behövde ta de största riskerna, men fick istället annat att tampas med.
- Personligen föredrar jag att ha en kamp om sekunderna, så den största utmaningen var att behålla koncentrationen när vi hade en såpass stor ledning, berättar han. Tävlingsmässigt var det till min fördel, men jag känner med både Suarez och Lemes och tycker det är synd att vi gick miste om fighten.

En fatal olycka i den historiska uppvisningsklassen utom tävlan gjorde att sträcka 14 blev struken av respekt till de anhöriga och juniorerna avslutade därmed sitt rally en sträcka tidigare än planerat. Pontus slutade som segrare med en minut och 47 sekunder tillgodo till tvåan Michel Burri medan Yeray Lemes kom på tredje plats.
- Jag har byggt upp erfarenheten på asfalt det senaste året och det är kul att äntligen få en vinst. Trots att vi inte har kört på maxfart så tar vi med oss ett problemfritt asfaltrally och det är lovande inför nästa deltävling i Frankrike, avslutar Pontus, som har EVEN Management och Tätab att tacka för sin medverkan i Junior-VM.

Nästa event i Junior World Rally Championship är Rallye de France-Alsace i början av oktober, men redan om två veckor deltar Pontus och Ola i SM-deltävlingen East Sweden Rally.

Resultat FIA Junior WRC ADAC Rallye Deutschland 2013
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) / O. Floene (NOR) 3:09:26.8
2. M. Burri (SUI) / G. Moreau (FRA) +1:47.5
3. Y. Lemes (ESP) / R. Penate (ESP) +2:11.2
4. M. Koci (SVK) / P. Stary (CZE) +2:57.5
5. J. Suárez (ESP) / C. Carrera (ESP) +4:31.6
6. S. Pärn (EST) / K. Järveoja (EST) +7:05.1
7. M .Bostanci (TUR) / O. Vatansever (TUR) +11:58.9
8. N-P. Nieminen (FIN) / M. Korhonen (FIN) +12:22.1
9. P-J-M. Cracco (EST) / F Miclotte (BEL) +17:59.0
10. M. Aasen (NOR) / M. Engan (NOR) +39:36.3

Ställningen i FIA Junior WRC efter fjärde deltävlingen av sex
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) 105
2. J. Suárez (ESP) 63
3. S. Pärn (EST) 51
4. Y. Lemes (ESP) 51
5. M. Burri (SUI) 38
6. M. Koci (SVK) 36
7. N.Nieminen (FIN) 24
8. M. Aasen (NOR) 20
9. A. Amberg (FIN) 17
10. M. Bostanci (TUR) 7
13-08-24 Chardonnet holds onto lead
Whilst Dani Sordo grabbed the overall lead in his DS3 WRC on day three of Rallye Deutschland, the Citroën Top Driver standings remained largely unchanged. Sébastien Chardonnet held onto the lead, with Keith Cronin and Mohammed Al Mutawaa completing the podium places in the WRC3 provisional standings.

Held on roads leading from Trier to Baumholder, the third day’s racing featured six timed stages, including the legendary “Arena Panzerplatte”, a 41-kilometre test on the slippery and treacherous tarmac roads at the military base. To spice up the action, heavy rain began to fall during the midday service, making conditions even more difficult.

The Citroën Top Driver field featured five crews at the start of “Stein&Wein 1”. After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Quentin Gilbert was caught out within the first few kilometres and forced to retire, whilst Keith Cronin took the day’s first stage win. The Irishman held onto his second place despite running into trouble on “Peterberg 2”, losing over a minute in the process.

Leaders since the start of the event, Sébastien Chardonnet and his co-driver Thibault de la Haye produced another impressive performance in the morning, especially in setting a superb time on the first run through Panzerplatte. They maintained their pace in the afternoon loop and made it back to the service park without returning to the military base, as the second run on Arena Panzerplatte was cancelled after an accident occurred involving a historic car taking part in a non-competitive demonstration.

After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Christian Riedemann rebuilt his confidence and stayed in touch with the leaders. He ended the day in fourth position.

For Mohammed Al Mutawaa, today’s leg was yet another useful learning experience. The young Emirati driver managed to hold onto third place and admitted he was delighted with the feeling in his DS3 R3.

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Chardonnet – SS2: Campedelli
Day 2 – SS3 to SS6: Chardonnet – SS7 and SS8: Cronin
Day 3 – SS9: Cronin – SS10 and SS11: Chardonnet – SS12: Riedemann – SS13: Chardonnet

BEST PERFORMERS
Chardonnet, 7 fastest times – Cronin, 3 – Campedelli and Riedemann, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS13: Chardonnet

RETIREMENTS
DAY 2
Simone Campedelli: Minor off on SS3
Federico Della Casa: Minor off on SS3
Christian Riedemann: Minor off on SS4
Quentin Gilbert: Retired before the second loop – Technical problem
13-08-24 Neuville fired-up for final day fight
Thierry Neuville produced another sterling performance on the third day of competition at ADAC Rallye Deutschland today. Continuing to impress behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Belgian goes into the final day just 0.8 seconds adrift of the lead.

Neuville started the day in near-perfect fashion, consolidating his second place with a composed drive through the morning loop. But as the heavens opened for the second pass, the rain was to have a huge impact on the time sheets.

When rally-leader Jari-Matti Latvala’s event came to an untimely end on SS12, Neuville was propelled into the overall lead. Unfortunately, the same corner that caused his rival so much woe threatened to do the same to the Belgian. Although making it through the stage, he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had been forced wide in the treacherous conditions and suffered damage to the exhaust of their Fiesta RS WRC.

Thanks to a big effort from the crew on the liaison section, the pairing made the necessary repairs to aid a supreme drive through SS13. Limiting the time loss, Neuville ends Day 3 in the same position as yesterday, albeit less than a second shy of the lead this time around.

Also falling foul to the horrendous conditions on SS12, Qatar World Rally Team driver Mads Østberg slid off the road just over five kilometres into the stage. The loose-surface specialist had been going well in a strong fifth place, but unable to right his stricken Fiesta, he and co-driver Jonas Andersson had to settle for ninth position and Rally 2.

In the second Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta, there was misfortune too for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini. On course for their best ever result on Tarmac, the pairing were forced to retire for the day on the first pass of ‘Arena Panzerplatte’ (SS12). Hitting a rock when cutting a tight, 90-degree junction, the pairing damaged the steering of their Fiesta and currently hold 15th place overall.

By contrast, Qatar World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov was making the most of his risk-free strategy. As the front-runners faltered, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor kept their Fiesta RS WRC firmly on the road. Acting as some consolation for their time loss on the opening day, the pairing now find themselves in a points-scoring tenth position.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, Elfyn Evans continued to put in an outstanding performance behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5. In an epic battle with Robert Kubica, the pairing traded the lead no fewer than four times throughout the day.

Currently holding the runner-up spot, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt go into tomorrow’s final day with a 7.8 second deficit to the Formula 1 race-winner. More impressively however, the Welshman is on course to equal his best ever result of sixth place overall and crown a fantastic showing for the Ford Fiesta R5 on its asphalt debut in the WRC.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“It was a difficult afternoon. Where we had the problem on SS12, I was already 20km/h slower than usual but I think we should have probably been another 20km/h slower than that! We were very lucky because it could have been easy to lose the whole rally there.

“Jari-Matti [Latvala] had brought a lot of mud onto the road which sent me sliding wide. We hit a log pile which damaged the exhaust and left us slightly down-on-power for the remainder of the loop. But I think we managed the situation well and we achieved the maximum in the circumstances.

“We are definitely going to push tomorrow and we will attack from the start. But we won’t take any unnecessary risks – especially if the weather is as tricky as it was this afternoon. We need to be clever and keep all four wheels on the road. It will not be an easy day, but we are ready to fight and give it our all.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“It was so slippery on the first stage [this afternoon, SS12] and we slid off the road. We lost the back end of the car about five kilometres into the stage and got pulled down into a ditch. There was hardly any damage to the car and it would have been no problem to continue, but we were completely stuck. We tried with the spectators to get the car back on the road, but it just wasn’t moving at all.

“Obviously it’s a big shame because we were in a really strong fifth place. But this is rallying and these things happen – we’ll just have to come back tomorrow and drive our best.”

Evgeny Novikov (10th) said:
“It was very slippery out on the stages so we didn’t take any risks at all. That strategy has worked for us these past two days and we’re back in the points now which is a good thing.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (14th) said:
“We hit a stone on the inside of a tight 90-degree junction on SS11 and unfortunately that was the end of the day for us. It was a real disappointment because we were on course for another strong result and the car and Michelin tyres were both working really well for us.

“As I said it is a huge shame for us, but Thierry [Neuville] is still in the hunt for victory. He has been driving really well and even with some problems this afternoon, he overcame them. I really hope that he can hold on to his position and push for victory tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“We took it quite cautiously in both stages this afternoon [SS12 and SS13]. We didn’t take any unnecessary risks at all really. But on the second one [SS13] especially there was a bit more grip on offer and we didn’t make the most of it. We were too careful, and Robert [Kubica] pushed on so he got a big advantage over us on that stage.

“There is still a long stage to run twice tomorrow so it is not over by any means. There is still all to play for and we’ll be aiming to claim that time back.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m relieved that Thierry [Neuville] made it back to service – and with so little time lost! He drove the last 10km of SS12 with a tree trunk hanging out of the back of the car which cost him a little bit of performance through the next stage, so we are pleased to be going into the final day so close to the lead. Tomorrow there can only be one goal – we are going to push and try to claim the victory.”


13-08-24 Midday quotes, Rallye Deutchland, day 3
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“This was our first time through all of ‘[Arena] Panzerplatte’ so it was always going to be a bit more of a challenge for us. I tried to manage the tyres and not push too much and in the end the time wasn’t too bad.

“I had a good start this morning and now I am really looking forward to the afternoon. If it is wet, I think it will be really interesting. I can definitely do more, especially on the twisty sections. Of course we will need to be careful, but I think the Fiesta will be really good in the rain and I hope I can also prove my ability in those kinds of conditions.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“We had a massive jump on the first run through Panzerplatte [SS11]. I actually blame Jonas [Andersson, co-driver] because I asked him if I should take it flat-out and he said ‘it’s your choice’ – us drivers, we always choose flat-out! It’s always fun to have a big jump like that, but maybe I was a bit too enthusiastic with that one!

“But overall I think we have had a good morning. I missed a junction on SS10, but otherwise I am feeling a lot more comfortable with the car in the types of sections I was struggling with yesterday.”

Evgeny Novikov (14th) said:
“We’ve found a good rhythm now and we will just keep going like that. There is no reason to take any big risks or to try and push the limits. Especially with a risk of rain in Panzerplatte, the best strategy for us will be to stay comfortable at the pace we have at the moment.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (Rally 2):
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini damaged the steering arm of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC through the first pass of ‘Arena Panzerplatte’ (SS11). Hitting a rock whilst cutting a 90-degree corner, the pairing were forced to retire for the day. Both driver and co-driver were unharmed and will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2):
“This loop went OK, but there were a few small errors from my side. I’m kicking myself really because we would have had a bit of an advantage by now rather than still trailing. Having said that, we’re still well in touch with Robert [Kubica] and we‘ll keep pushing this afternoon.

“The car has been very good all morning. We seemed to have some low grip levels in Panzerplatte, but I think that was more to do with the surface than anything – it’s so changeable through there. The run we had through Panzerplatte last year was mostly dry, so this afternoon will be a new experience for me!”
13-08-23 Chardonnet keeps out of trouble
Dominated by Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault de la Haye, day two of the German round of the Citroën Top Driver also saw several retirements. Events conspired to leave the route clear for Keith Cronin and Mohammed al Mutawaa to take the second and third positions in the competition’s provisional standings.

The second leg featured six timed stages, contested in the heart of the German vineyards and in changeable weather conditions as a few showers fell towards the end of the morning. With just nine seconds between the four leading crews, it promised to be a close battle.

One of the leading drivers, Simone Campedelli was the first to call it a day as he went off at the start of Mittelmosel. The young Italian driver was soon joined by Federico Della Casa, who went off later on the same stage.

At the start of Moselland, Irishman Keith Cronin checked in at the control point over nine minutes late after he tried to repair a brake line whilst the event’s local boy, Christian Riedemann, was forced to retire after a minor impact.


a Meanwhile, Sébastien Chardonnet consolidated his position as leader by winning all three of the morning’s stages, enabling him to extend his lead over his nearest challenger, Quentin Gilbert. The young man from Vosges wasn’t faring too badly, however, moving into second place. But luck proved not to be on his side this time, as he was unable to line up for the start of the second loop due to a technical problem.

Despite suffering an accident involving a dog on the sixth stage that damaged the radiator of his DS3 R3, Sébastien Chardonnet ended this first full day with a lead of 1m 56s over Keith Cronin. Meanwhile, the Irishman won the final two stages of the day to take a solid second place.

The young Emirati Mohammed Al Mutawaa drove consistently and was thrilled with the experience gained on the 131 kilometres covered today. He ended the day in third position in the provisional standings for the event
13-08-23 No let up in Hostilities!
2013027866Held on roads along the banks of the Mosel river, the second leg of Rallye Deutschland provided a thrilling four-way contest at the front of the field. In the thick of the action, the two Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews ended the day in third and fourth positions, with Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio ahead of Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen.

With six special stages over a total of 131km of timed sections, day two of Rallye Deutschland served up the first big chunk of the rally. Held on roads winding through the vineyards, the Mittelmosel, Moselland and Grafschaft stages were damp in places when the crews had to choose their tyres for the first loop. The Citroën Racing decided on different options, with five hard Michelin Pilot Sport tyres for Mikko Hirvonen and a mix of four hard and two soft tyres for Dani Sordo.

And yet the gaps between the four leading drivers remained very small after Sébastien Ogier went off. At the midday service, Latvala held first place ahead of Neuville, Sordo and Hirvonen. 15.1s off the pace, the Spaniard was pleased with his performance: “It’s a really exciting fight. Despite carrying a second spare wheel and have a set-up that could be improved, I managed to set some times that were similar to those of the leaders. I think I can go even quicker on the second runs.”

“This is definitely one of my best performances on tarmac,” commented a delighted Mikko. “I had good pace and I think there is still room for improvement. The margins are so fine, sometimes, though. Just by taking your foot off the gas a little bit too early on a corner leading into a long straight, you can end up losing several tenths of a second. I have to be more consistent, sometimes by being a bit braver, sometimes by adopting driving more cleanly.”

Still within striking distance at the start of the afternoon, Dani Sordo lost a few seconds on the final stage of the day. He ended the leg in third position, 26.3s behind Latvala: “I kept pushing hard, but I braked too late and ended up overshooting a hairpin. I now have to concentrate on tomorrow’s leg, which will be very different with the stage in the Baumholder military base. We have to remain confident and keep pushing all the way.”

Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen saw the gap to the top three grow throughout the afternoon: “It has been a pretty positive day, but I didn’t manage to improve as much as I would have liked. The others are also really pushing hard! I expect the third leg to be tough. The weather forecast doesn’t look too good, so there may well be other incidents tomorrow.”

Continuing to acquire experience in the DS3 WRC on tarmac, Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin finished the day in 12th place overall. “I tried to push a bit more on the second runs but driving on these stages, which combine quick sections and hairpins, does not really come naturally to me.”

An ending the day an excellent eighth overall, Robert Kubica still tops the WRC2 standings with a 12.4s lead over Elfyn Evans: “It wasn’t an easy day, as I had some problems with the handbrake this morning. I had to put the car into reverse on some of the hairpins. The afternoon went better, although I was hampered by damage to the rear spoiler and a broken rear window after a big compression. So, it’s positive to be still in front!”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC 1:38:04.1
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7.3
3 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +26.3
4 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +47.6
5 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:12.3
6 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:17.6
7 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:52.1
8 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +4:59.5
9 Evans / Barritt Ford Fiesta R5 +5:11.9
10 Wiegand / Christian Skoda Fabia S2000 +6:53.7
11 Paddon / Kennard Skoda Fabia S2000 +6:57.4
12 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +8:33.0
13-08-23 Neuville and Evans in the hunt for Rallye Deutschland Silverware
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville produced in a near-perfect performance on the second day of ADAC Rallye Deutschland today to put himself well and truly in the hunt for victory. Securing no fewer than four stage wins, the Belgian was outstanding on what is his pure-asphalt debut with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Following an early exit for championship leader Sébastien Ogier, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were one of the crews to beat. Despite using the opening loop to perfect their new pacenote system which has become the norm of late, no one could demote the pairing from the top of the stage time sheets. Securing three back-to-back stage wins, the duo went into midday service just 2.4 seconds shy of the rally lead.

Chasing down rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala, Neuville continued where he had left off with another fastest time through SS6. Although the Belgian had to settle for the runner-up spot on the final two tests, the 25-year-old has put himself in the perfect position to hunt down a maiden victory 7.3 seconds adrift of the top-spot.

Getting back into the rhythm of asphalt driving, gravel-expert Mads Østberg kept his head to sit a creditable fifth overall.

Making some set-up changes during midday service, the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team driver altered the handling of his Fiesta RS WRC to harness his driving style through the vineyards. Despite losing touch with the front-runners, there remains all to play for as tomorrow welcomes one of the most challenging tests of the year – a daunting 41.08 kilometre run through ‘Arena Panzerplatte.’

In the second Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Nasser Al-Attiyah is on course for his best ever result on Tarmac. Partnered by co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini, the pairing put in an impressive performance to significantly improve upon last year’s performance.

Increasing his pace over the afternoon loop, the Qatari looked at one behind the wheel of his Fiesta and is determined to capture another strong result.

Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ilka Minor started cautiously following some significant time loss having slid off the road during yesterday’s opening speed test.

Using their time wisely to check their pacenotes over the morning loop, their observations were clearly paying dividends. Pacenotes perfected, the pairing upped their speed dramatically over the afternoon loop – clawing back an impressive 55 places in the process.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, Elfyn Evans was back behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5 and demonstrating the car’s performance on asphalt. Never out of the top-three in overall stage times, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt are also in the hunt for victory just 12.4 seconds adrift of Formula 1 race-winner Robert Kubica.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“I think I drove well. We still had a bit of understeer, but our pacenotes were better this afternoon. Now our objective is to hang onto second place. Tomorrow looks like being a difficult day, and it will be essential to avoid the pitfalls. In that respect, running second-on-the-road could actually help us as we will have somebody else’s lines to follow. The tyres will be a key factor, too.

“We’re definitely going to push though, and when the conditions are slippery – as we expect they might be – the Fiesta always shows great speed. Although I’ve never driven the car in the wet before on Tarmac, I’m sure I’ll be able to adapt pretty quickly. In France last year, I proved that I’m very fast in those conditions. There’s still a long way to go in this rally and a lot of unknowns.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“The changes we made in service helped on the first stage [this afternoon, SS6]. It was a lot better and I had much more confidence, although there were still some sections where I struggled.

“We changed the set-up a bit more for the second stage [SS7], but unfortunately we went the wrong way and the confidence was gone again. Then for the last one [SS8] we went back, and the confidence returned. We’re definitely onto something!

“Obviously I need to sync my driving to the car before I can do a better job – we’re friends again, but we’re not best friends just yet. We need to continue as we have today and hopefully my driving will change to suit the set-up. We will keep trying to improve and regain some confidence – we just need to focus on ourselves.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (7th) said:“I’m quite happy to finish the day with no major problems, and the car is working very well. We broke a [wheel] rim against a kerb on the last stage [SS8] which caused a lot of vibrations. I lost a little bit of concentration [because of that] and went into one of the following corners a little bit too deep which caused the engine to cut out briefly.

“But the most important thing is that we are still here and in a good position. Tomorrow my goal will be to catch Martin [Prokop] ahead.”

Evgeny Novikov (16th) said:
“We checked the pacenotes over the morning loop and the times have really improved over the afternoon which is a big positive. We have made up more than 50 places today so I can’t be too disappointed with that.

“Of course with the incident yesterday, there is no reason to push and take any unnecessary risks. We’ll just continue as we are and see if we can gain any more places tomorrow. There is a long way to go and with Panzerplatte still to come, anything can happen.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said:
“I don’t really know why we were losing time on the last splits this afternoon. It didn’t seem to be any reason in particular so it’s something we’ll need to look at in more detail. Yes, we had some issues with the brakes overheating this morning, but we combated that for the afternoon. We just need to try and understand why we are losing those seconds towards the end.

“Other than that, the feeling has been good and the car is working really well. I don’t know if Robert [Kubica] has got any more in the tank, but we will just continue as we are. We’re continuing to improve without taking any silly risks and that’s the way we’ll keep it tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m very happy with today. With four fastest times out of six, Thierry [Neuville] drove fantastically and is now in the perfect position going into tomorrow. We wanted to be second on-the-road as it means we can monitor what’s happening with Jari-Matti [Latvala] – and with the weather forecast that we have, it promises to be an interesting afternoon.

“Thierry has picked up here from where he left off in Finland, and if you look at his level of experience and the stage he is at in his career, he definitely has more to give. His potential is huge.

“Elfyn [Evans] too has been excellent and to be so close to [Robert] Kubica on this surface is extremely encouraging and once more proves the [Ford] Fiesta R5’s potential. We saw in Finland how competitive the car is on gravel, and now Elfyn is demonstrating its pace on asphalt.”
13-08-23 Pärn - Järveoja in a learning curve on the second day of rally Germany 2013
After the first two stages on thursday eavning Pärn - Järveoja started the second day of 2013 rally germany with a great battle ahead of them. Over 130 competitive stage kilometers for the newcomers on tarmac was in front of them.

Pärn - Järveoaja were on the 6th position overnight and remained on the same position after the second day. "Today was more difficult for us. Stages were harder and our notes were not the best either for those," explained Pärn. The young estonian added that they aimed to loose somewhere around one minute to the JWRC leaders, but the time loss were a little bit bigger. "The last stage was ok timewise, all others could have been driven faster," added Pärn.

"We are not so happy with the pace of the second day, but we are here to learn and there is still one day ahead of us. With every kilometer we drive, we gain more experience, so that we can be faster in the furuture," explained Pärn.

After the second day Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja are on the 7th position. They loose 5 minute
13-08-23 Pontus Tidemand i ledning efter Rally Deutschlands andra dag
Rally Deutschland har hittills varit ett problematiskt rally för många. Medan flera konkurrenter har hamnat i knipa, har Pontus Tidemand visat upp klok körning och växande självförtroende på asfalt. Efter tävlingens andra dag har han en ledning på nästan två och en halv minut.

Efter en odramatisk och samlad start på torsdagen låg Pontus Tidemand och Ola Fløene på en andraplats, dryga tio sekunder efter José Suarez, när Rally Deutschlands första dag var avslutad. Det var säker körning som gällde på de två sträckorna och trots att bilen kändes perfekt var Pontus positivt överraskad över att bara ha dryga tio sekunder till toppositionen.
- Det rätta självförtroendet har inte infunnit sig än så vi har medvetet kört på säkerhet. Men känslan har varit riktigt bra så om det känns likadant i morgon ska jag försöka sätta lite press på de andra två i topp tre.

På fredagen hittade Pontus snabbt ett bra tempo och på dagens andra sträcka övertog han ledningen med 15,7 sekunder, en differens som ökade betydligt under dagen när alltfler råkade i trubbel. Suarez, som är främsta konkurrenten i den totala ställningen i mästerskapet, var av vägen och Yeray Lemes, som under förmiddagen låg tvåa efter Pontus, fick problem med växellådan. När den sjätte och sista sträckan för dagen var körd, hade Pontus ledning växt till hela två och en halv minut.
- Vi har haft en bra dag utan incidenter eller misstag, säger Pontus. I det här läget måste man tänka till ordentligt och hålla sig borta från problem och det är vad vi ska försöka göra. Tävlingen är långtifrån avgjord så det är bara att fortsätta hålla fokus.

I morgon lördag körs de sista sex sträckorna med start klockan 08.03.
13-08-23 Back pain forces Kosiuszko retirement
Michal Kosciuszko and Maciej Szczepaniak have unfortunately been forced to retire their Lotos Team WRC Ford Fiesta RS WRC after the fifth stage of this weekend’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland.

Suffering from severe back pain following some heavy compression on SS4, Kosciuszko was left with no option as this afternoon’s tight hairpin junctions have the potential to cause further damage.

Following a consultation with the team physician, Kosciuszko has been taken to hospital for further checks and a decision remains as to whether he will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

His early retirement was a huge disappointment after what had been an impressive performance on his Tarmac debut with the Fiesta RS WRC. Fighting through the pain over the morning loop, the Pole was on course for anther top-ten result.
13-08-23 Midday quotes, Rallye Deutschland, day 2
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“It’s been a good morning and I think we made the right tyre choice. We started on used tyres, but I didn’t feel any loss of performance. We’re driving well and we set three fastest [stage] times, so we certainly can’t complain about that!

“I had a good feeling with the car – the only thing we need to resolve is a little bit of understeer. I’m still discovering this car on Tarmac, so our pace notes remain a little slow and we’re working on perfecting the set-up, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.

“It’s an enjoyable battle for the lead and we need to keep Jari-Matti [Latvala] under pressure this afternoon. It’s so close that we cannot afford to give away any time. But there’s a long way to go and I feel confident in the vineyards so I think we have the pace to challenge.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“Under braking, I understeered quite a lot going into a right-hand junction [on SS4]. I just went a little too wide and hit something. I’m not sure what it was but it was quite a big impact because it damaged the [wheel] rim and tyre. There was plenty of air left in the tyre so we made it to the stage end, but the vibration was quite bad. Then we only had two soft spares so we had to use those which made it quite difficult for the next two stages which were completely dry.

“I wouldn’t say that we are necessarily struggling with the set-up – it’s more the driving to be honest. I think we have quite a good set-up, but I’m just not able to use it properly. We’ll try and make the car a bit easier to drive in service and hopefully we can improve our times this afternoon.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (7th) said:
“It has been a good morning. It was a little bit damp in places but we opted for a risk-free strategy with the soft tyre which worked well for us. I am very happy with the pace we have shown so far and if we can play it clever and secure another top-five result, that would be another perfect weekend for us.

“Of course I am very happy for Thierry [Neuville] too. He is driving extremely well and I hope that he can continue with the same pace this afternoon because a podium – or even a win – would be a fantastic result for the team.”

Evgeny Novikov (30th) said:
“We went with the soft tyres this morning which was the wrong decision. The stages were almost completely dry, but after the time loss yesterday it is not too much of a drama and we are just concentrating on keeping the car on the road and gaining back as many positions as possible.

“It is very slippery with so many cars ahead of us, but I hope that we can improve our times this afternoon.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2):
“I was too heavy with the brakes on SS4 so we’ll need to work out a technique to combat that this afternoon. We need to make sure we don’t lose time – as opposed to gaining time – by pushing too hard.
“We didn’t get the tyre choice exactly right this morning, but we were fortunate that we had two hards which gave us an advantage over Robert [Kubica] who only had softs. It was just unfortunate that we weren’t able to capitalise on that a little bit more. We’ll have a look at the weather and stage reports for this afternoon, and hopefully we can build on the pace we’ve shown thus far.”
13-08-23 P-G Andersson kraschade in i vägräcket - bryter Rally-VM i Tyskland
P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson inledde Rally-VM i Tyskland på sämsta tänkbara sätt med en trasig vattenpump i går då två inledande sträckor kördes. De tvingades bryta efter första sträckan, men startade om idag.

Dessvärre kraschade de in i ett vägräcke och tvingades bryta rallyt. Någon omstart blir dessvärre inte aktuell för svenskarnas del.
- "Det var i en snabb höger där det nöp över ett krön. Vi hade med det i noterna och visste att det skulle komma" förklarar P-G "Men fästet bara dygnsläppte för oss, så vi klippte rakt in i ett vägräcke så bilen kröktes som en banan".

Tur i oturen att vägräcket stod där:
- "Hade inte vägräcket stått där, vet jag inte hur det hade slutat eftersom det var ett bergstup bakom det..." säger P-G.

P-G vet inte riktigt vad som orsakade att de tappade fästet:
- "Vi körde på mjuka däck och blev lite överraskade över att det var torrare än vi räknat med" säger P-G "Men jag har ärligt ingen aning om varför det släppte så".

Strax efter P-G och Emils krasch in i vägräcket, kraschade Amin Kremerin in på exakt samma ställe. Som tur var hade P-G och Emil hunnit rulla in sin bil på ett vägbyte.

Därmed var Rally-VM i Tyskland över för P-G och Emils del.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se.
13-08-23 Sebastien Chardonnet takes early lead
stopping off in Cologne for the ceremonial start, the Citroën Top Driver crews tackled the 37 kilometres of timed stages scheduled for today’s first leg. At the end of day one, the Sébastien Chardonnet/Thibault de la Haye crew leads the field, closely followed by Christian Riedemann/Lara Vanneste and Quentin Gilbert/Isabelle Galmiche.

Held on roads between Cologne and Trier, the first two stages of this year’s Rallye Deutschland were contested in blazing sunshine with temperatures approaching 30 degrees. The German roads welcoming the Citroën Top Driver’s DS3 R3s were left particularly dirty and slippery after the WRC and WRC2 cars had completed their runs.

Sébastien Chardonnet proved to be the most comfortable on the German tarmac roads, notably claiming the first stage win in the category. This advantage ensured he ended the first day on top of the provisional podium. Close behind, Christian Riedemann trailed the Frenchman by just 3.3 seconds after “Sauertal” and was in turn only 2.2 seconds clear of the man from the Vosges region, Quentin Gilbert, who ended day one in third place.

“We’re really pleased to be back on tarmac,” commented Sébastien Chardonnet. “We really enjoyed driving the DS3 R3 and the fight for the win is going to be close because there’s less than ten seconds between the first four cars. Anyway, we’re going to try and do just as well tomorrow.”

Simone Campedelli won the day’s second stage to lie fourth overall in the provisional Citroën Top Driver standings, whilst current championship leader, Keith Cronin, ended the day in fifth, after picking up a puncture on the second test.

Federico Della Casa and Mohammed Al Mutawaa complete the WRC3 provisional standings.
13-08-22 Strong Opener for Fessman
Carlos Fessman took to the opening two stages of 38km on his first WRC Tarmac event earlier today at Rallye Deutschland. He safely completed both tests in his Ralliart Italy run Mitsubishi with a strong pace and reach the overnight halt second on the WRC 2 Production Cup leader board. The Venezuelan was pleased with his speed on Day One and felt he had a good rhythm, but understands that the rally is long and that this was only the beginning: “I had a good day. I tried to improve throughout, but it wasn’t easy, because I didn’t have the chance to do a pre-event test. I’m happy with my pace though. I know it’s a tough event with more challenges to come, but I’m delighted to be second in the Production Cup at the moment and very pleased to be representing Venezuela as their first driver ever to compete here in Germany!”

The first two stages presented an interesting challenge, especially with SS2 being run in the dark, but Fessman took the opportunity to learn and always had in mind his strategy to reach the end of the event unperturbed: “On SS1, one kilometre from the end I lost some time when I stopped to let another car pass and lost between 10 and 15 seconds. On SS2, just after the middle of the stage, I lost some time because I slid a little on some loose gravel, but luckily I managed to control the car. That said, this did make me slow down and focus on arriving back to service safely.”

With Fessman’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X safely in the overnight parc fermé, Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto reflects on a positive opening day: “Carlos did a great job today. He took on guys in the Production Cup with much more Tarmac experience and was right on the pace. We were very pleased with his times. He really did Venezuela proud! With 333 kilometres left to run there’s still a big challenge ahead, but I’m confident that Carlos is up to the task and as always we’ll do our very best to help him any way we can.”
13-08-22 A short warm-up from cologne to Trier
Taking the crews from Cologne to Trier, the opening leg of Rallye Deutschland featured just two stages. After this brief introduction, Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen lie fourth and fifth overall in the DS3 WRCs of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
Having contested the shakedown on Wednesday afternoon, the crews headed for Cologne for the event’s ceremonial start. Late this afternoon, the cars finally set off on the Blankenheim stage, a brand new 23.54km test.

Dani Sordo set the fourth fastest time on this first stage, 15.4s behind the leader: “The first few drivers had left a lot of dirt and stones on the racing line after cutting the corners. In some places, I couldn’t even make out the road! I knew that this stage would be particularly difficult by I didn’t expect it to be like that.”

Just behind, Mikko Hirvonen finished fifth: “I dented one of the wheels on a bend. We ran over a hole that I had noted in recce, but didn’t expect to hit it so hard. Apart from that, I’m not on the pace as yet.”

The day concluded with another new stage, held in the hills around Trier. Sauertal continued the trend, enabling Dani and Mikko to consolidate their positions. “I feel good in the car and I’m pleased with my driving, but the others are going very quickly,” admitted the Spaniard. “I think it’ll be different tomorrow, the roads won’t get so dirty with the runs and I hope to get closer to the leaders.”

“The second stage was much better for me than the first,” commented a positive Mikko. “I think I was too cautious in the quick and muddy sections. I’ll have to be a bit bolder to up my pace. The car handled very well and I also think I can do better tomorrow.”

Taking part in his first tarmac rally for almost two years, Khalid Al Qassimi made a cautious start to his race. He currently lies 14th in the overall standings: “It wasn’t easy to get to grips with the DS3 WRC on such slippery roads. I had a bit of a scare right at the start of SS1 and that didn’t help boost my confidence.”

Competing in his DS3 RRC, Robert Kubica leads the WRC2 standings after going fastest on the first two stages: “I wasn’t expecting conditions to be like this, which are very different to what we had in testing and in the shakedown. I struggled to get the tyres up to temperature and as a result, the car tended to slide around.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 19:33.2
2 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +5.7
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7.0
4 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +20.5
5 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +25.7
6 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +30.6
7 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +41.4
8 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +51.0
9 Kosciuszko / Szczepaniak Ford Fiesta RS WRC +59.8
10 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +59.8
14 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +1:41.3
13-08-22 End of Day quotes, Rallye Deutschaland day 1
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I hope tomorrow will be a good day for us. We struggled a little with the set-up this evening and I lost some confidence in the first stage [SS1] as it was really slippery. Even with just two cars in front of me there was a lot of mud in the corners and you can see from the times that the conditions were getting much trickier further down the field.
“Of course it is a shame to lose 12 seconds after just two stages, but this is the game. Our time was OK in the last stage [SS2] and I think our set-up will be better suited to the kinds of roads we will see tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“We had some difficulties this evening, but the good thing is that we know where we struggled and where we can improve. We changed the set-up of the car dramatically after the first stage [SS1] – making it a lot harder – but it took a while to get used to the handling through the second [SS2].

“The second half of the last stage [SS2] felt a lot better and I think the speed improved too. We need to look at these details more closely to fully understand what was happening, but the splits matched my feeling so I think we will be OK. I think what we learnt today will help us tomorrow. It’s all about understanding simple things like confidence under braking and how to fully attack the corners – that can help us on tomorrow’s stages too.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (7th) said:
“The stages were quite fast this evening, but I think we found a good rhythm and I was happy with our speed. Compared to last year when we lost a lot of time, we are a lot closer. The car is working really well for me and I hope we can have another good day tomorrow.”

Evgeny Novikov (Rally 2):
Evgeny Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor slid off the road 1.5 kilometres into SS1. Both driver and co-driver were unharmed and the crew will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2):
“This evening hasn’t been too bad, but there were a few challenges to overcome along the way. We struggled a bit getting used to the Tarmac tyre on the first stage [SS1] as it got a bit too hot and over-pressured. But it’s something we’ve learnt and hopefully we can put that right for the rest of the rally.

“Things have been getting better and better and the car feels great. Not a bad start by all means, and we’ll look to build on that tomorrow.”
13-08-22 Problem redan innan start - P-G Andersson tvingas bryta rallyt efter första sträckan i Rally-VM i Tyskland!
P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson är på plats för att köra asfaltsrallyt under Rally-VM i Tyskland. Under den inledande shakedown fick de åttonde bästa tid och P-G var mycket positiv:
- "Det kändes bra, tycker jag" säger P-G "Vi fick en bra känsla".

Dessvärre inledde de rallyt med problem redan innan start:
- "Vi fick problem med vattentemperaturen redan på motorvägen ut till första sträckan" berättar P-G "Vattentemperaturen gick från 80-130 direkt, helt utan förvarning".

De ringde teamet för att rapportera att de skulle tvingas bryta, men helt plötsligt verkade det hela fungera som det skulle och det beslutades att de skulle köra:
- "Vi fick stressa som idioter för att hinna till start och hann inte sätta på asfaltsdäcken, utan vi fick bara köra raka vägen in på sträckan" säger P-G.

Väl inne på sträckan kände de att de inte hade full effekt:
- "Jag körde som en kratta helt enkelt" säger P-G "Men det är svårt att hålla upp koncentrationen när det blinkar rött hela tiden på instrumentpanelen".

Med fel däck och en bil som inte fungerade som den skulle gled de av vägen i en kurva och höll på att köra in i den ryska föraren Evgeny Novikov som åkt av vägen där strax innan. Men svenskarna lyckades ta sig upp på vägen igen och tog sig i mål på sträckan

Dessvärre tvingades de kasta in handduken på väg till andra sträckan med trasig vattenpump:
- "Förhoppningsvis har motorn inte tagit någon skada" hoppas P-G "Vattentempen gick idag från 80 till 130 grader, helt utan förvarning".

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se.
13-08-20 Tidemand redo för asfaltpremiär i Rally-VM
Tre av sex deltävlingar i årets Junior-VM i rally är avklarade och Pontus Tidemand har haft ledningen i mästerskapet sedan starten. Nu återstår tre tävlingar på asfalt och först ut är Rally Deutschland med start på torsdag. Det är ett långt och tekniskt rally som väntar, men Pontus känner sig beredd att anta utmaningen.

I de tre första deltävlingarna har Pontus och co-drivern Ola Fløene gått från klarhet till klarhet och tagit tre pallplatser av tre möjliga. Tillsammans med en god samling sträckvinster gör det att de leder Junior World Rally Championship inför de kommande eventen. Säsongen startade på grus och nu är det asfalt som gäller fram tills en juniorvärldsmästare koras i slutet av oktober.
- Vi har fått en bra start men än så länge är andra hälften kvar så det gäller att inte slappna av, säger Pontus. Dessutom får man räkna bort en tävling och det kan också påverka resultatet i slutändan. Men vi ska fortsätta att göra vårt absolut bästa och hoppas att det håller.

Den tyska VM-deltävlingen bjuder på väldigt varierande typer av asfalt samt både snabba och tekniska bitar, men mest karaktäristiskt är de många smala vägarna som kräver hög koncentration. Som uppladdning körde Pontus Rallye de la Famenne i Belgien under den gångna helgen och slutade fyra totalt och var bästa tvåhjuldrivna bil. I slutet av juni deltog han också i Ypres Rally, även det i Belgien, för att få chansen att känna in underlaget innan Rally Deutschland.
- Rally Deutschland är ett speciellt rally, berättar Pontus. Det är långt, tekniskt krävande och det är förmodligen detaljer och väderförhållanden som kommer vara avgörande. Det känns bra att vi har kört två tävlingar på asfalt, men motståndet kommer vara stenhårt. Många kommer vara väl förberedda och ha kört mycket asfalt så det blir helt klart tuffa dagar.

Tävlingen äger rum i Moseldalen och har staden Trier som bas, men för första gången sedan starten 2002 kommer man i år att börja med en startceremoni i Köln med den mäktiga katedralen Kölnerdomen som bakgrund. Efter den officiella starten på torsdagseftermiddagen väntar två specialsträckor innan nattuppehållet och sedan körs sex sträckor på fredag och ytterligare sex på lördag innan JWRC-deltagarna går i mål med sina Ford Fiesta R2. Totalt ska mer än 320 km klaras av och sträckorna är förhållandevis långa. Rallyts längsta sträcka, Arena Panzerplatte som uppmäter över fyra mil, körs två gånger under lördagen och andra gången är även den sista sträckan för juniorerna.

Liveresultat: www.wrc.com/jwrc/results/2013/adac-rallye-deutschland/stage-times/
13-08-04 Riku Tahko makes step improvement in spite of technical issues on Neste Oil Rally Finland
Jyväskylä, Finland, Saturday August 3, 2013. Multi-sport athlete Riku Tahko declared himself happy with his own performance on this weekend’s Neste Oil Rally Finland despite his Mini WRC suffering technical issues that prevented the Finn from achieving a representative overall result.

Keen to use Rally Finland as a marker event in his ambition to graduate to a full season of competiton, Riku recorded a significant improvement in his overall pace on the rally benchmarked against his performance here last year. However, two technical problems - on Thursday with a throttle sensor that cost a 12 minute delay and ultimately, a cracked steering column on Friday - forced his retirement. Unbowed, Riku rejoined the event on its final leg today under super rally regulations and enjoyed a competitive and clean run to the finish ramp, despite running first on the road and having to manage the slippery conditions as the road sweeper.

“It was good to have the experience of sweeping the road as the first car, it is another important experience to add to our preparations. The high point of today, when we didn’t have any technical problems, was taking 4.8s off Dani Sordo over the 33kms of the Ouninpohja stage,” he said. "It was amazing to arrive first on the road at the Kakaristo junction, there were huge crowds, in their thousands and with the whole experience of the huge jumps, it was all pretty wild," he added.

Reflecting on his rally from an overall standpoint, Riku said, “Okay, this is not perhaps the overall outcome I was looking for, but what is clear is that we have made a significant advance in our pace, and as we had less than two hours of testing before the rally, our competitive improvement has really come from building on the experience we gained on this event last year. So I know that those that have the knowledge and insight into all the factors that contribute to success in rallying at the top level will be able to read and see the improvements we have made as a crew here this weekend.”

Without the technical problems encountered, Riku would have been able to fulfil his planned goal of scoring points at Rally Finland, but his focus will now switch to his next event, which is under consideration, but may include an entry into the next round of the European Rally Cup in Turkey in September and there will be more exciting and challenging events added to the schedule in due course.

The preparation this season is focused on building a campaign in the FIA European Rally Championship for 2014.

Riku reflected, “ERC is definitely my aim, and every event we contest is part of the preparation for this goal. Of course in WRC, the only way to be fully competitive is to be part of a full factory programme, but ERC offers the scope to be challenging for wins and to be competitive from the very start, so this is our objective and we will take whatever prepatory steps required for the rest of this year to make this a reality for 2014.”
13-08-04 Sébastien Ogier och Volkswagen vann VM-rallyt i Finland
Volkswagen-föraren Sébastien Ogier var skogens konung när han i helgen vann VM-rallyt i Finland. Han tog därmed sin femte seger för säsongen i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – och tog ett stort steg närmare VM-titeln.

180 km/h genom de finska skogarna, upp till 60 meter långa hopp, blinda krön och en tjock vägg av träd: WRC bjöd på en spännande show för hundratusentals entusiastiska fans i Finland. Ledningen skiftades under de två första dagarna av rallyt, men på den sista dagen visade VM-ledaren klass. Tillsammans med sin kartläsare Julien Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike), tog Ogier sin femte seger för säsongen och utökade ledningen i förarmästerskapet till 90 poäng. Rally Finland har körts sedan 1951, och Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia blev i år det femte förarparet utanför Skandinavien och Finland att vinna rallyt. Vinsten var Volkswagen Motorsports sjätte, av åtta möjliga, med Polo R WRC hittills i år.

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) kom på 17:e plats, efter att ha kört på en sten vid sidan av vägen på den andra specialsträckan. De tvingades bryta men kunde starta igen på andra dagen. Till slut säkrade de sex värdefulla poäng i kampen om titeln i märkesmästerskapet. Volkswagen Motorsport utökade därmed sin ledning över Citroën med ytterligare nio poäng till 55. Latvala försvarade dessutom sin andraplats i förarmästerskapet, nu på samma poäng som Thierry Neuville.

Den tredje Polo R WRC som körs av Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (Norge/Finland) avslutade rallyt på tionde plats, vilket resulterade i ett VM-poäng i förarmästerskapet. Duon var på väg mot ett topp-fem-resultat, men drabbades av ett tekniskt problem.

Polo R WRC vann sammanlagt tolv specialsträckor och blev topp-tre 24 gånger. Sedan debuten i Monte Carlo-rallyt i januari 2013, har Polo vunnit otroliga 81 specialsträckor av 143 möjliga.

Fem deltävlingar återstår nu av årets säsong i WRC. Nästa rally är Volkswagens hemrally i Tyskland, 22-25 augusti. Redan där har Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia en matematisk chans att säkra titeln i förarmästerskapet.

Citat efter Rally Finland
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 7
– Generellt sett är jag inte glad, eftersom jag hade höga förhoppningar. Rallyt började med ett misstag som kostade oss alla chanser till en pallplats. Dock kunde vi öka farten i slutet av rallyt och ändå bidra med sex poäng till märkesmästerskapet. Vi har också använt rallyt till att prova olika inställningar, i syfte att förbereda oss för de kommande tävlingarna. Jag hoppas verkligen att vara tillbaka på prispallen i Tyskland.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Det är omöjligt att beskriva hur jag känner! Segern här i Finland och tidigare i Sverige är en dröm för mig. Det är en härlig känsla att vinna dessa två rallyn inför de nordiska förarna. Med en ledning på över 30 sekunder från de första två dagarna, ville jag inte ta för många risker under sista dagen. Men på specialsträckan "Ouninpohja” pushade jag verkligen mig själv till yttersta gränsen, eftersom denna sträcka är helt fantastisk. Hastigheten med Polo R WRC gjorde mig mållös. Pulsen och adrenalinet pumpade och jag njöt av varje hopp och varje meter. Min ledning i förarmästerskapet har ökat, men idag vill jag bara njuta av segern tillsammans med teamet. Utan vårt vältrimmade team skulle jag inte vunnit här.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 9
– Vi lärde oss en hel del här i Finland. "Ouninpohja" var helt enkelt otroligt. Jag minns hur det var att köra den sträckan i S2000 Škoda förra året, men jag har så mycket bättre grepp i Polo R WRC. Trots fjädringsskadan, som tyvärr grusade förhoppningarna om ett topp-fem-resultat, är vi nöjda med vad vi åstadkommit här.

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport
– Rally Finland är en sann klassiker och att vinna det är väldigt speciellt. Vi har ett bra team som gjorde allt detta möjligt, jag är väldigt stolt över allihop. Men den här gången måste man verkligen hylla Sébastien Ogiers körskicklighet. Rally Finland visade att det är jämnt mellan Ford, Citroën och Volkswagen men Sébastien var skillnaden denna gång. Segern tar honom ett stort steg närmare en välförtjänt VM-titel. Jari-Matti Latvala hade definitivt inte en rolig helg. Som ett team måste vi lära oss av det som hände och våra tekniker kommer att analysera händelsen i detalj för att ytterligare förbättra Polo R WRC. Andreas Mikkelsen utvecklades väl under hela rallyt och var i nivå med de bästa förarna i VM. Det är imponerande!

Resultat – FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Neste Oil Rally Finland
Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 2h 43m 10.4s
Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 36.6s
Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 57.6s
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën + 1m 21.6s
Daniel Sordo/Carlos Del Barrio (E/E), Citroën + 6m 06.5s
Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A), Ford + 8m 39.7s
Jari Ketomaa/Marko Sallinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 11m 19.2s
Per-Gunnar Andersson/Emil Axelsson (S/S), Ford + 11m 41.5s
Robert Kubica/Maciek Baran (PL/PL), Citroën + 12m 48.1s
Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen + 13m 42.0s
Resultat Power Stage
Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford 3m 46.6s
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 0.3s
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 0.8s
Ställning förarmästerskapet

Sébastien Ogier, 181 poäng
Jari-Matti Latvala, 91
Thierry Neuville, 91
Mikko Hirvonen, 73
Daniel Sordo, 69
Sébastien Loeb, 68
Mads Østberg, 65
Evgeny Novikov, 39
Martin Prokop, 37
Nasser Al-Attiyah, 30
Andreas Mikkelsen, 26
Ställning märkesmästerskapet

Volkswagen Motorsport, 251 poäng
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 196
Qatar M-Sport WRT, 112
Qatar WRT, 107
Jipocar Czech National Team, 39
Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 33
Volkswagen Motorsport II, 26
Lotos WRC Team, 20
13-08-04 Utökad ledning för Pontus Tidemand i JVM efter Rally Finland
Rally Finland, den tredje deltävlingen av Junior-VM i rally, är avverkat och efter att ha kammat hem ännu en pallplats, har Pontus Tidemand utökat sin ledning i mästerskapet inför de kommande asfalttävlingarna. Precis som han förutspådde blev det en tuff tävling och efter en problematisk andra dag avslutade han på bästa möjliga sätt och är nöjd med tredjeplatsen och den fortsatta ledningen.

Sex sträckor stod på schemat när Rally Finland drog igång på torsdagen. Mestadels kortare sträckor på under milen, men det gjorde inte dagen mindre utmanande. Sol blev till regn och många hade problem med det hala underlaget framåt kvällen. Pontus och co-drivern Ola Fløene lyckades hålla ett jämnt tempo och var nöjda med tävlingens första dag.
- Vi har haft en bra start idag, sa Pontus på torsdagskvällen. Vi hittade ett fungerande tempo och höll oss där utan att pusha och ta onödiga risker. Vi får anpassa oss efter resultatlistan och se vad vi kan göra, men vi vill inte ta alltför stora risker.

På fredagen gick de finska vägarna hårt åt Pontus Ford Fiesta R2. Problemen började redan på dagens första sträcka - en punktering och en böjd länkarm saktade ner honom och orsakade svårigheter på de fyra förmiddagssträckorna. Ändå var Pontus uppe på andra plats vid lunchservicen. Men tyvärr tog det längre tid än tillåtet att få ordning på bilen, vilket gjorde att Pontus och Ola blev sena ut från service och fick därmed tre minuter och tio sekunders tidstillägg.

Trots det visade Pontus prov på sitt otroligt starka psyke genom att komma tillbaka och direkt ta en sträckseger på sträcka 11. Tidstillägget gjorde dock att de gled ner till sjätte plats och mer problem väntade.
- Det var verkligen tufft, berättade Pontus. Vi försökte undvika stenar, men lyckades ändå plocka upp en punktering och tappa tid på sträcka 12 och sträcka 13 var en riktig utmaning.

På sträcka 14 blev det ännu en sträckvinst när Pontus var hela 17 sekunder snabbare än tvåan Yeray Lemes. Precis som på torsdagskvällen, avslutades fredagen med superspecialen Killeri och trots att Pontus ville lite för mycket, satte han en tredjetid och var bara dryga sekunden efter sträckvinnaren. Innan nattuppehållet var Pontus tillbaka på tredje plats.

När lördagens sträckor kom igång var de tidigare problemen som bortblåsta. Juniorerna deltog i de fyra första sträckorna och Pontus var snabbast på alla fyra, vilket innebar att han knep alla dagens poäng för sträckvinster och slutade på tredje plats i klassen.
- Vi kan inte annat än vara nöjda med resultatet, särskilt med tanke på tidstillägget från fredagen, säger Pontus. Vår plan var att inleda rallyt på den säkra sidan, vilket vi också gjorde. Problem är aldrig roligt, men det är helt enkelt sådant som inträffar och man får göra det bästa av situationen. Sista dagen siktade vi på att komma i mål och försöka få med oss så många poäng som möjligt för sträckvinster. Att vi lyckades ta hem sex poäng för sträckorna är positivt för den totala ställningen i mästerskapet och jag är väldigt glad över att ha ökat ledningen.

Rally Finland var alltså det tredje rallyt av sex i årets JVM-serie och efter att ha slutat på pallen i alla tre tävlingarna, drygar Pontus ut sin ledning i mästerskapet med 29 poäng före José Suarez, som endast fick med sig två poäng från Finland. I och med det går Pontus in i andra halvan av JVM-säsongen med en god ledning när tre asfaltrallyn på rad väntar. Först ut är Rally Deutschland om tre veckor.

Resultat FIA Junior WRC Neste Oil Rally Finland 2013
1. A. Amberg (FIN) / M. Lukka (FIN) 2:34:51.9
2. S. Pärn (EST) / K. Järveoja (EST) +2:24.6
3. P. Tidemand (SWE) / O. Floene (NOR) +2:52.5
4. Y. Lemes (ESP) / R. Penate (ESP) +3:41.8
5. M. Aasen (NOR) / M. Engan (NOR) +3:52.1
6. M. Burri (SUI) / G. Moreau (FRA) +11:04.6
7. M. Koci (SVK) / P. Starý (CZE) +13:30.4
8. N. Nieminen (FIN) / M. Korhonen (FIN) +20:24.9
9. Suarez (ESP) / C. Carrera (ESP) +45:57.2

Ställningen i Junior WRC efter tre av sex deltävlingar
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) 77
2. J. Suarez (ESP) 48
3. S. Pärn (EST) 43
4. A. Amberg (FIN) 42
5. Y. Lemes (ESP) 31
6. M. Koci (SVK) 24
7. M .Burri (CHE) 20
8. N. Nieminen (FIN) 20
9 M. Aasen (NOR) 19
10. M. Bostanci (TUR) 1
13-08-03 Robert Kubica secures another podium finish
After wins at the Acropolis Rally and Rally d’Italia Sardegna, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran finished as runners-up in the WRC2 category in Finland. The Poles produced a flawless performance on what is without doubt the most difficult course to get to grips with, taking them ever closer to the top of championship standings.

With some twenty crews taking part in Rally Finland, the WRC2 category boasted a strong line-up, especially as the list of entrants featured some of the best local specialists, including Jari Ketomaa and Esapekka Lappi. Such stiff opposition could only be welcomed by Robert Kubica, who knows he must face increasingly difficult challenges if he is to keep learning about rallying. Aside from the competition, the Citroën DS3 RRC driver admitted he was somewhat in awe of the stages: “As you might expect, it is very difficult to predict how the car will handle by completing the recce runs at low speed. I don’t know whether to be excited or scared by what lies ahead!”

The race began on Thursday with a leg made up of six stages. Improving quickly throughout the day, the Pole moved into second position, 24s behind Ketomaa: “We haven’t covered many kilometres, but it was still difficult, especially when it started raining towards the end of the day. The second leg will be more complex. We have to keep calm, because it seems easy to make minor mistakes, which can be very costly.”

Friday’s leg enabled Robert to consolidate his position. Constantly among the leaders, he withstood the pressure applied by Hayden Paddon. In fact, it was the 2011 World P-WRC Champion that ended up making a mistake at the end of the day. One minute behind Ketomaa, Kubica held a two-minute lead over his nearest challenger.

“I was surprised by how much the stages changed between the morning and the afternoon, when there were deep lines. I don’t know if it is like this every year, because I have no experience to go on – I have only seen Rally Finland on television,” he commented after he arrived back in Jyväskylä. “In fact, I was caught out on the first stage in the afternoon. The car was too low. On one corner, we hit the lines and the front of the car lifted and we went straight on and into the trees! We then changed the set-up, raising the ride height, and after that everything went well. It was a good lesson. When you have zero experience on stages as specific as these, every kilometre makes a huge difference.”

Despite there being significant gaps between the leading drivers, Robert continued at a strong pace on the final day. He enjoyed his first ever taste of the legendary Ouninpohja stage. “Jari Ketomaa told me that he had driven on some stages more than fifteen times in the Finnish Championship. So it was never going to be easy to challenge him,” concluded Robert. “I didn’t really expect to finish second up against so many experienced drivers, but we found the right level of aggression straight away. Considering that I only had my first outing on gravel in April, we are clearly moving forward in the right direction. It’s not possible to always take a step forward at every rally. There is still a lot of work to do, because every WRC rally is different and will give me some new experience.”

In the WRC2 championship standings, Robert Kubica now holds third place with 76 points scored from four rallies. His average of 19 points scored per race is better than that of the top two, who have already taken part in more events.
13-08-03 Keith Cronin wins in style
The season’s most spectacular rally more than lived up to its reputation. Difficult and demanding in equal measure, the Finnish course rewarded the most daring and skilled crews. In the Citroën Top Driver, the DS3 R3s of Keith Cronin, Sébastien Chardonnet and Jussi Vainionpää made up the podium in the WRC3 category.

For this, the third round of the Citroën Top Driver championship, the nine crews competing in Rally Finland tackled an unusual course, a great learning experience for all drivers. The combination of ultra quick stages, endless jumps and tough weather conditions, which left the roads slippery, meant that those drivers with tenacity, good turn of speed and sound analytical capabilities were rewarded.

Keith Cronin and Alastair Fisher became involved in an enthralling battle right from the word go. Throughout day one, the two drivers from across the Channel took it turns to impress although Fisher edged ahead, finishing the first six stages with a 9.2 second lead over his main rival. The next day, the pressure got the better of the British driver, who went off on “Palsankylä 1”. Keith Cronin took over as race leader at that point, a position he held until the end of the rally, also finishing as best performer with eight stages wins. The icing on the cake for the Irish driver is that he now leads the Citroën Top Driver standings by three points from Sébastien Chardonnet.

“We’re really pleased with this win, which takes us into the lead in the competition,” said a delighted Keith. “This is the first time we have competed at Rally Finland but we really had a good feeling on these roads which are still very special. The DS3 R3 was perfect and fast and we can’t wait for Germany to begin the series of tarmac rallies. We’re going to give it our best shot to hold onto our position as leader.”

Runner-up overall, the Frenchman Sébastien Chardonnet had a tough first day but managed to mount a significant comeback on day two, completing the eight stages with some flair. Fighting with local driver Jussi Vainionpää, he gradually moved ahead of the Finn, establishing a clear lead in second sport, a position he would hold until the end of the rally. Although no longer the leader of the Citroën Top Driver standings, the Côte d’Azur-based driver admitted he was pleased with his work in the land of a thousand lakes:

“It’s true that the start of the race was complicated for us, but we then found a good feeling in the car and the DS3 R3 was really great. The aim is clear in any case, we’ll be trying as hard as possible to retake the lead in the competition, starting at Rallye Deutschland!”

The surprise package of the weekend, Finnish driver Jussi Vainionpää enjoyed an intelligent race. He drove consistently, not taking any unnecessary risks on a course featuring many tricky sections. He finished third overall, a fine performance on his first rally in a Citroën DS3 R3.

Simone Campedelli finished just outside the top three, and could be pleased with his performance in Finland. After a testing start to the season, the Italian driver enjoyed a controlled race, whilst also winning two stages and fighting for third place until the last few kilometres. Meanwhile, the Frenchman Quentin Gilbert was less fortunate. Hampered by technical problems and missing a corner on the first run on Ouninpohja, he still made it into the top five at the end of three days of racing and remains third overall in the Citroën championship standings.

Stéphane Consani rounded off the standings in the Finnish round of the Driver and admitted afterwards that it was a weekend that he would rather forget about. After suffering a double puncture on Himos 2, he went off on the eleventh stage and had to rejoin under Rally2 rules. In the end, he finished the points by taking sixth place.

In the Teams’ championship, Top Teams still lead the standings, followed by Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast and Delta Rally Team.

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1: SS1 to SS3: Fisher – SS4: Cronin – SS5: Fisher – SS6: Vainionpää

Day 2: SS7: Fisher – SS8 to SS10: Cronin – SS11: Chardonnet – SS12: Cronin – SS13: Campedelli – SS14: Cronin – SS15: Vainionpää

Day 3: SS16: Vainionpää – SS17: Cronin – SS18: Chardonnet – SS19: Consani – SS20: Campedelli – SS21: Gilbert – SS22: Cronin – SS23: Consani

BEST PERFORMERS
Cronin, 8 fastest times – Fisher, 5 – Vainionpää, 3 – Chardonnet, Campedelli and Consani, 2 – Gilbert, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS7: Fisher – SS7 to SS23: Cronin

RETIREMENTS
Alastair Fisher: Minor off on SS8
Stéphane Consani: Off followed by puncture on SS11 / Rejoined under Rally2 rules on Day 3
Christian Riedemann: Technical problem on SS14. Retired before SS15.
Federico Della Casa: Retired on SS14 (water in the engine) / Rejoined under Rally2 rules on Day 3
Retired on SS21 following minor off

CITROEN TOP DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER RALLY FINLAND
1. Cronin : 51 points
2. Chardonnet : 48 pts
3. Gilbert : 36 pts
4. Bouffier : 27 pts
5. Riedemann : 25 pts
6. Campedelli : 18 pts
7. Vainionpää :15 pts
8. Fisher : 13 pts
9. Consani : 6 pts
10. Parli : 4 pts

TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RALLY FINLAND
1. Top Teams : 84 points
2. Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast : 76 pts
3. Delta Rally Team : 33 pts
4. Saint Eloc : 31 pts
13-08-03 Double podium a sensational ‘finnish’ for Qatar M-Sport
Thanks to a sensational performance by Thierry Neuville and Mads Østberg, Qatar M-Sport secured their first double podium today at Neste Oil Rally Finland. Having both led the rally, Neuville finished second with Østberg securing third overall.

Incorporating further classic Finnish tests, the final day was the most challenging of all. With more than 130 competitive kilometres through furiously quick, undulating forests, the day also included two passes of the championship’s most legendary stage – a daunting 33.01 kilometre flight through Ouninpohja.

Once again, it was the Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRCs that thrilled the crowds with an epic battle. Neuville and Østberg switched positions no fewer than seven times in their pursuit of the final podium spots, but come the final stage, it was the Belgian who prevailed.

Considering his lack of experience in the land of a thousand lakes, Qatar World Rally Team’s Neuville has arguably been the man of the rally this weekend. Despite prematurely forfeiting his second place by overshooting a junction on SS16, an outstanding time through Ouninpohja (SS18) saw the Belgian back in control of the fight.

Proving just how far he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul have come with their Fiesta RS WRC, they obliterated their 2012 time – 0.1 seconds shy of local driver Mikko Hirvonen when compared to last year’s one minute and sixteen second deficit. But the celebrations would be short lived as Østberg had the advantage through the following test.

Going into the final afternoon, Neuville regained second place to bring his Fiesta home for a back-to-back personal best. To top-off a near-perfect weekend, the Belgian also scored top points in the Power Stage which sees him tied for second in the FIA World Rally Championship’s drivers’ standings.

However, it was not all plain sailing, as the young Belgian was made to work for his impressive result. Taking two stage victories over the morning loop, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson were the men on the move.

When Neuville made a mistake on SS16, the second place belonged to the Norwegian. Although falling back to third with a slower run on Ouninpohja (SS18), the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team driver was in a class of his own on SS19. A full three seconds faster than anyone, the 25-year-old went into midday service with a 2.8-second advantage over his Belgian rival.

Despite his heroic efforts, Østberg’s hunt for the runner-up spoils came to a close 25 kilometres into the second pass of Ouninpohja (SS22). Encountering a large rock in the middle of the road, the Norwegian had no option but to take avoiding action to safeguard a double podium for the Qatar M-Sport teams.

Elsewhere, in the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta, Evgeny Novikov and Ilka Minor were on damage limitation following a high-speed impact on Day 2. Using their time wisely to perfect pacenotes, the pairing improved throughout the day.

Keeping his Fiesta RS WRC firmly on the road, the Russian recovered sixth place and valuable points for his 2013 campaign. Needless to say, Novikov will be keen for a change of fortune as he looks to translate his clear speed into a solid result at the next event.

A fantastic weekend for M-Sport was rounded off with victory for the all-new Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC 2 class. Thanks to a perfect drive from Jari Ketomaa, M-Sport continue their international debut winning streak following on from the Ford Focus RS WRC in 2006, the Ford Fiesta S2000 in 2010 and the Ford Fiesta RS WRC in 2011.

As the championship moves towards asphalt, the team are planning a comprehensive test to further build on their recent success as they pursue another top result in Germany.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“I just love this car! The [Ford] Fiesta [RS WRC] has been faultless all weekend and we have had the confidence to push without taking any risks at all. OK, we were unlucky with the puncture yesterday, but I think we did a very good job.

“I was particularly happy with my run through Ouninpohja. It would have been nice to have taken the record, but the second place was most important and we decided to let Sébastien [Ogier] have that one!

“The M-Sport team did a fantastic job – to be beating the Finns here is not easy so to have two cars on the podium is a real achievement.”

Mads Østberg (3rd) said:
“This result means a lot to me. It has been a long and difficult rally, but we have had no problems at all and I feel as though I really have my confidence back now.

“We didn’t take splits this weekend, but rather concentrated on our own pace without taking too many risks, and I think that strategy really worked for us. Obviously we were unlucky with the puncture yesterday and with the rock on SS22 today, but all in all it has been a really good event for us.

“It is such a good feeling to be finishing competitively again. We had a difficult start to the season, so I am pleased to be back in the game. It is really fantastic.”

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“Unfortunately this was not our best rally, but there were still some positives to take away. We showed some good pace in the beginning, and after the off on Day 2 we were able to check our notes to ensure that they are perfect for next year.

“Last year Denis [Giraudet] injured his back so I couldn’t push through all the stages. That meant that on stages like Ouninpohja, today was the first time for me driving at full speed – so we could really work on getting the notes right.

“It was good to get through the entire rally, and sixth place at the end is not such a bad result.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been a truly amazing weekend for M-Sport, the Fiesta, our drivers and our entire team. Both Thierry [Neuville] and Mads [Østberg] were leading the rally and Thierry finished off a perfect weekend with top marks in the Power Stage. He is now equal second in the championship which just goes to show how comfortable he has become behind the wheel of the Fiesta.

“It has been great team work from the entire team. The test team did a fantastic job last week to ensure the drivers came here full of confidence, and this week everyone has really pulled together to secure the result.

“Also, what a debut for the [Ford] Fiesta R5! I am extremely proud of everyone’s work on this project and it means that we can continue our winning streak of debuting new cars at international level.”


13-08-03 Gelvez third in WRC 2 Production Cup as Ouninpohja claims Fessman
The Ralliart Italy technicians worked into the night to prepare José Alexander Gelvez’s car for Day Three of Rally Finland. Their hard work paid dividends when Gelvez successfully navigated through all eight of the Day Three stages to finish second in the WRC 2 Production Cup: “It was a very difficult rally. It’s very fast and we’ve had to face all kinds of different challenges. The first day was harder than the others as I was learning the stages. We wanted to try and improve all the time. Today in Ouninpohja, I saw all kinds of other cars having problems, so I focused really hard just to stay on the road and finish the rally, which was our goal from the start. It was great to end the event third in the Production Cup I have to thank Ralliart Italy and all the team, because they always gave us a car in the best shape possible to tackle such a tough rally!”

Carlos Garcia Fessman also undertook the 130 kilometre Day Three challenge, but unfortunately wasn’t as lucky as his teammate. After a strong start to the event on Days One and Two, Fessman approached the Day Three stages at his usual measured pace, focused on reaching the end of the event unperturbed.

However, after a strong first loop, the iconic Ouninpohja stage claimed Fessman on his second pass. A butterfly jammed causing the engine to cut out and the ex-professional basketball player’s event came to a premature end. Fessman was disappointed to leave the competition on the penultimate stage when lying third in the WRC 2 Production Cup. However, he has a positive attitude and now looks ahead to Rallye Deutschland and the new challenge of the WRC Tarmac: “After having a great weekend, we were improving stage-by-stage. We knew that Finland was a difficult and fast rally, but everything seemed okay. However, suddenly during the second pass of Ouninpohja we had a problem, which took us out of the race when we only had a few more kilometres left to make. That’s rally! My co-driver and I tried to fix the problem, but we couldn’t finish the stage. However, we’re pleased to have improved our stage times during the event. This proves we’re growing as a crew. Now we are looking forward to starting to prepare our next rally in Germany.”

Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was sorry to see Fessman retire at the last minute, but pleased that Gelvez reached the end of his first ever European event successfully: “It’s been a fantastic rally with the guys. Having Alex in the team has been great. He and Carlos are very good friends and have a very professional attitude, which creates a really great atmosphere in the team. They and Venezuela are very welcome additions to the Service Park. Now I can’t wait to see what happens in Germany!”
13-08-03 Ouninpohja changes (almost) nothing
With the final day featuring two runs on the legendary Ouninpohja stage, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen had hoped to get back onto the Rally Finland podium. However, despite pushing all the way, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crew finished fourth. Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio sneaked into the top five in less than ideal circumstances, benefitting from the retirement of Kris Meeke and Chris Patterson.

Eight stages, covering a total of 130 kilometres, made up the schedule for the third and final leg of Rally Finland. The two runs on Ouninpohja were undoubtedly the highlight of the day, eagerly anticipated by competitors and fans alike!

Fourth overall at the start of proceedings, Mikko Hirvonen promised he would push hard to try and get close to a spot on the podium. Despite a perfect morning, the gaps remained more or less unchanged as the crews reached Jyväskylä for the midday service.

“The top three guys are also going very quickly,” admitted the local hero in the land of a thousand lakes. “Everyone knows these stages well enough, including Ouninpohja. Even without making the slightest mistake, I just couldn’t close the gap on them. If I took huge risks, I could probably go a little bit quicker, but I don’t think that it’s worth taking that sort of risk. I don’t think I can make into the top three under normal conditions, but I have to keep pushing to stay within striking distance, just in case something happens…”

Held up by Evgeny Novikov yesterday on SS8, Kris Meeke had his time corrected at the end of the day. Fifth overall going into this final day, the Northern Irishman was just 8.1s behind Mikko Hirvonen. He stayed in this position throughout the morning, taking particular enjoyment from driving on Ouninpohja and its 169 jumps: “It’s a bit like a rollercoaster! I drove on this stage seven years ago, but that was in my Citroën C2 S1600. In a World Rally Car, the feeling is incredible because you’re going as such high speeds. The atmosphere is like no other; there was almost no noise at the start, because the spectators know that the drivers need to be fully focussed before setting off. I can’t wait to do it again!”

Unfortunately for the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT driver, his second run ended a little prematurely as he rolled his car shortly before the finish. Just shy of completing a perfectly controlled race, Kris was unable to reap the rewards that his efforts deserved.

Mikko Hirvonen had hoped that his decision to go with hard Michelin Latitude Cross tyres for the afternoon’s loop would make a difference and enable him to close the gap to the leaders. “The road wasn’t dry enough, so it wasn’t the best option,” he admitted afterwards. “I tried everything, gave my all, but it’s almost impossible to make up lost time at this rally. I didn’t come here for fourth place, so for sure, this result is disappointing.”

A good way back from Mikko, Dani Sordo inherited fifth position at the end of the race. But the Spaniard was far from pleased with his rally: “My finishing position could be regarded as satisfactory, but I can’t be happy after a race like that. I never felt confident and the pace wasn’t really there. It was a weekend that I’d rather forget about, to be honest.”

“Not having any of our cars on the podium is frustrating for the whole team, especially given the level of performance shown by Mikko at the start of the rally,” confirmed Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “We’re disappointed for Kris, who produced an impressive performance in his first rally in the DS3 WRC. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to turn his good form into result by making it to the end. Starting tomorrow, we’ll start thinking about Rallye Deutschland, which will mark the WRC’s return to tarmac.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 2:43:10.4
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +36.6
3 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +57.6
4 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +1:21.6
5 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +6:08.5
6 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:39.7
7 Ketomaa / Sallinen Ford Fiesta R5 +11:19.2
8 Andersson / Axelsson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:41.5
9 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +12:48.1
10 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +13:42.0
13-08-03 P-G och Emil slutade åtta efter strulig inledning av Rally-VM i Finland!
Efter de två dagarnas struliga inledning av Rally-VM i Finland fick Per-Gunnar "P-G" Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson avsluta det hela utan problem.
- "Det har varit en bra dag för oss, inte perfekt men ett steg i rätt riktning. Vi har inte velat kört på för fullt och tagit risken att asvluta rallyt i skogen, utan det är viktigt för oss inför framtiden att få så många mil som möjligt i bilen" säger P-G.

Efter att ha legat på en 27:e plats avslutar de på en åttondeplats. Idag har de höjt upp tempot, men inte tagit några större risker:
- "Det var skönt att få komma i mål. Men idag har körningen fungerat bättre och bilen har fungerat bra! Vi har förbättrat oss en hel del under dagen. Det var så här vi skulle börja rallyt" avslutar P-G.

Det är det Ukrainska Rallyteamet AT-Rallyteam som ger P-G och Emil den här VM-chansen i WRC. Tillsammans med teamet kör de i år sex VM-deltävlingar tillsammans och VM-tävling för dem blir VM i Tyskland 22-25 augusti.

Sebastien Ogier vinner årets upplaga av Rally Finland, före Thierry Neuville och Mads Östberg slutar trea. Därmed blir det första gången i historien som Finland blir utan en hemmaförare fpå pallen tre år i rad.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi följer rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.

Rally-VM Finland
1 Sebastien Ogier (F) 2:43:10.4
2. Thierry Neuville (B) 2:43:47.0 +36.6
3 Mads Östberg (N) 2:44:08.0 +57.6
4. Mikko Hirvonen (Fin) 2:44:32.0 +1:21.6
5. Daniel Sordo (E) 2:49:18.9 +1:21.6
6. Evgeny Novikov (Rus) 2:51:50.1 +6:08.5
7. Jari Ketomaa (Fin) 2:54:29.6 +11:19.2
8. P-G Andersson 2:54:51.9 +11:41.5
9. Robert Kubica (Pl) 2:55:58.5 +12:48.1
10. Andreas Mikkelsen (N) 2:56:52.4 :+13:42.0
Komlett resultat: http://www.wrc.com/results/2013/neste-oil-rally-finland/stage-times/?category=wrc&stageno=23
13-08-03 Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja finished second in JWRC on Neste Oil Rally Finland
Saturday was the last day for the Neste Oil Rally Finland 2013 edition. For the JWRC drivers it meant 4 special stages including the famous Ouninpohja. Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja took it more carefully on the last day and finished the rally in second place.

"We are happy with the result. We didn't take any big risks on the last day, cause the points for the podium place are just too valuable," said Pärn. Young estonian added that overall they are happy with the speed the have shown this weekend. "Allthough we lost some time yesterday because of the double puncture, we still managed to show some good speed throughout the rally and earned 6 extra points for the stage wins," added Pärn.

Finland is known to be the hardest rallies in the calendar. On saturday they took it more carefully. "We didn't push so much on the last day. Pontus won all the stages, but we controlled the situation and we are happy with the result at the end," said Pärn.
13-08-03 Midday Quotes, Rally Finland Day 3
Mads Østberg (2nd) said:
“This afternoon will be the same as this morning – driving to the maximum without going over the limit. It seems like Thierry [Neuville] is taking more risks than me, but we managed to take a lot of time off him on the first and last two stages [SS16 and SS19].

“The two middle stages [SS17 and SS18] were not perfect and I struggled to find the rhythm at the start of Ouninpohja [SS18]. But we turned it around towards the end and there are a lot of places where I know I can be quicker this afternoon.

“I don’t think you’ll see any team orders. Everyone wants to see this fight – it’s a great battle and I think we’re both really enjoying it!”

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“There is only one plan for this afternoon and that is to push to the maximum again. I think we were slightly faster than Mads [Østberg], but on the first stage [SS16] we lost five seconds overshooting a junction. Then on the last one [SS19] we completely lost the tyres. I had no traction so I had to give up second… again!

“Honestly I was really surprised with our speed in Ouninpohja [SS18]. I’ve done it only once before and then I was really slow. This year the pacenotes were perfect and I really enjoyed the driving. I think it was the best stage I have ever driven in my life!”

Evgeny Novikov (8th) said:
“We tried to push on every stage apart from Ouninpohja [SS18], but for some reason the times still aren’t coming. I really don’t know what it is because I feel as though we are driving well without making any mistakes. All we can do now is stay on the road and continue to check the notes ahead of next year.”
13-08-03 Fessman on track, Gelvez set for return tomorrow
Carlos Garcia Fessman and José Alexander Gelvez set out this morning with the target of successfully completing all nine of today’s Special Stages. While Fessman set off at a steady pace, it was Gelvez who showed continual improvement in his stage times throughout the morning.

Unfortunately, just as Gelvez was finding his rhythm, disaster struck. Approximately 3km after the start of SS12 he entered a slow left hairpin, lost control of the rear of the car, skidded and slipped into a ditch. His Mitsubishi survived the incident relatively unscathed, but he was a prisoner to the Finnish ruts and unable to get back on track.

That said, Gelvez’ll be back out on the stages tomorrow morning and ready to get more vital kilometres of experience under his belt: “I’m looking forward to restarting tomorrow morning. My target is to get through all of tomorrow’s Special Stages without any troubles and work on my driving technique ready for the future.”

Meanwhile, Fessman had a steady and uneventful day, learning the Finnish stages and practising his driving technique. He was pleased to have completed 193 competitive kilometres of Rally Finland unperturbed and is looking forward to another hard but enjoyable day tomorrow: “I’m feeling more confident about tomorrow. I’m trying to get more and more experience of the Finnish roads by taking care of the car and focusing on getting to the finish.”

Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was disappointed that Gelvez was unable to continue after such a promising start to the day, but overall pleased with the performance of the two drivers: “Finland is a really tough rally and lots of drivers in the field fell foul of the tricky stages today. I’m really pleased Carlos made it through without any troubles and with the condition of both the cars at the end of the day. I’m sorry for Alex, but I could see this morning that he was already learning and improving a lot. They are great ambassadors for Venezuela and I hope that tomorrow will be another positive day for them and the team.”
13-08-03 Cronin moves ahead
An eventful day’s racing provided the second leg of Rally Finland with plenty of twists and turns. In the Citroën Top Driver, Keith Cronin prevailed in the battle for lead by pushing Alastair Fisher into making a mistake. Sébastien Chardonnet moved up to second place whilst Jussi Vainionpää held onto third position.

Rain fell as the crews lined up at the start the second leg, which began with the famous “Jukojärvi” test. The Citroën Top Driver competitors were therefore faced with tricky, slippery conditions.

From the word go, Alastair Fisher and Keith Cronin resumed their enthralling battle for the lead, with just a few tenths separating the pair on SS7. The young British driver ended up going off on the second timed stage, forcing him to retire. Keith moved into first position, and then extended his lead by winning five out of the next eight stages. By the end of day two, he held a healthy lead of well over a minute.

“Everything went very well today. The stages were very fast and the feeling was fantastic! There is still quite a long way to go tomorrow and although we have a good lead, we can’t afford to stroll home to victory,” analysed the Irish driver.

Determined to hold onto his status as Citroën Top Driver championship leader, Sébastien Chardonnet managed to move up from fifth to second place. Jussi Vainionpää’s consistency enabled him to hold onto his third position and he ended the day in style by setting the fastest time on “Killeri 2”. Despite picking up a puncture on SS12, Simone Campedelli produced a solid performance, leaving him just outside the top three.

French driver Quentin Gilbert had a tough day, losing several minutes due to a series of technical problems. Meanwhile, Stéphane Consani was forced to throw in the towel during the second run of Jukojärvi after going off and picking up a puncture. Finally, Christian Riedemann and Federico Della Casa suffered the same fate, retiring on stage fourteen.
13-08-03 Pärn - Järveoja are second after day 2 at Neste Rally Finland
Friday was the second day for this year's rally Finland. Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja, who drive a Ford Fiesta R2, finished the first day as the leaders of the JWRC, but lost the place to Andreas Amberg after day 2.

"It was a day with ups and downs for us," said Pärn in the eavning of day two. Pärn added that they lost a front left tyre on the first pass at Palsankyla. "The tyer came off about 5 km from the end of the stage and we decided to drive to the finish without changing it. We lost around 40 seconds, so it was not so bad to be honest," explained Pärn.

After that incident Pärn took some stage wins, and the feeling with the car was really good, but on the penultamate stage it happened again. "On the penultamate stage again the same fornt left tyre suddenly was broken and we lost over two minutes. We did not change it on the stage," said Pärn.

After all that it means Pärn - Järveoja are in the second position after day two. The gap between them and Andreas Amber is 2 minutes and 6,8 seconds. "Everything is still possible, cause it's rally. I will not take any risks, but if it's possible i would be happy to get some stage wins," said Pärn.
13-08-02 Neuville and Østberg still flying high
Qatar M-Sport’s Thierry Neuville and Mads Østberg are still firmly in contention at Neste Oil Rally Finland. The Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers both hold a podium position at the end of Day 2 – Neuville second and Østberg third – and with tomorrow’s final leg the most daunting of all, the pairing are still flying high.

Deep in the Finnish forests, today’s action saw a return of the types of stages which make this event so iconic. Wide open roads interspersed with flashes of narrower, trickier sections were the order of the day – and once again, Neuville and Østberg did not disappoint.

Although leading the rally at the end of Day 1, Qatar World Rally Team’s Neuville was under no illusion that today’s competition would be more challenging. As an event that demands experience and familiarity, the 25-year-old put in another near-perfect performance.

Using the first pass to double check the notes, the Belgian – who is partnered by compatriot Nicolas Gilsoul – had to forfeit his early lead. But despite finding himself in fourth place at midday service, he was far from out of contention. With just over 10 seconds separating him from the lead, the youngster was keen to add another podium to his repertoire.

An unfortunate puncture on the second pass of Mokkipera (SS13) temporarily halted his charge. But as both Mikko Hirvonen and Østberg also encountered some time loss, a string of top-times was enough to propel Neuville back to second place – just over half a minute short of victory with all still to play for.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Østberg had a day of mixed fortunes. With the longer, more traditional stages suiting the Norwegian’s Scandinavian style, he flew from third to first on the day’s opening stage (SS7). Although briefly losing the lead by 0.2 seconds on SS8, the 25-year-old was back in control at midday service.

With a slender 0.8 second lead going into the afternoon, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson had to make a decision: maintain their reasonably conservative approach, or take more risks in pursuit of victory. Finding it difficult to adapt their technique to the newly-formed ruts, the pairing opted for the former.

But whilst consolidating a strong second place, a puncture on SS14 meant Østberg had to settle for third. With just 0.8 seconds between him and Neuville – and 39 seconds shy of first place – anything can happen. Rest assured, Østberg and Andersson will be keen to reignite the event’s tradition of Scandinavian success during tomorrow’s final phase.

Regrettably, there was misfortune on an even greater scale for Østberg’s team-mate Evgeny Novikov. Drifting wide after a high-speed crest on SS8, the Russian went off the road into an inconveniently placed log pile. The heavy impact caused significant damage to the front end and windscreen of his Fiesta RS WRC, but he and co-driver Ilka Minor did well to navigate their way through the remainder of the loop.

Making it back to service, M-Sport’s expert team of technicians made light work of what – to the untrained eye – was a seemingly impossible task. With his Fiesta back on the stages, the Muscovite spent the afternoon recovering positions – six to be exact – in search of a strong points haul.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, it was an eventful day for the Ford Fiesta R5 of Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt. Having had a good run through the first day, the Welshman suffered a suspected engine oil leak on SS10. Getting the car back to service, the M-Sport engineers unfortunately found the issue to be terminal and Evans will take no further part in the event.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“Today has been a good day. I think I was sleeping a little bit in the first stage [SS7], but once I found the rhythm I felt really confident, especially this afternoon. But then we got a puncture on SS13. When we landed a jump the tyre came off the rim and we had to slow down a bit. It was a shame, but this is rallying and sometimes these things happen.

“Of course I want to fight to stay on the podium tomorrow, but it will be a really difficult day. On ‘Ouninpohja’ last year we lost a minute and a half to the fastest drivers and I think it will be difficult for us again this year. We are still working with the pacenotes, but of course we will try.

“If we are still on the podium tomorrow night I think it will be another great result for us – whether it’s second, third or first, it doesn’t matter.”

Mads Østberg (3rd) said:
“I’m going to try and get second place back tomorrow, but Thierry [Neuville] has been going really well. It’s a big fight. I think we did a good job today – we pulled away from him in the morning and had a pretty good gap. But then we had a puncture on SS14 and the gap was back to practically nothing!

“I will definitely push tomorrow; I think with what we have done today second is certainly possible. But honestly without any problems – or punctures – for Sébastien [Ogier], I think that is the best we can do this weekend.”

Evgeny Novikov (9th) said:
“Obviously with the off this morning there was not a lot we could do this afternoon. We’ve just been checking the pacenotes, gaining experience and trying to gain back as much time and as many positions as possible.

“I did try to push on the second loop – especially the first two stages [SS11 and SS12] – but for some reason the times just weren’t coming. I felt like we had a clean run with no mistakes, so I’m not sure why the time loss was so high. We’ll have a look with the team this evening and see if we can get back on the pace for tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF) said:
“We’ve had a few problems today but we don’t know exactly what the issue is. All we know for the moment is that the car stopped on the last of the four stages this morning [SS10].

“It is obviously very disappointing as the chassis and general feeling were very good. Jari [Ketomaa] has proven how competitive the car is so it’s disappointing not to be fighting for the top positions anymore.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another impressive day for both Mads [Østberg] and Thierry [Neuville]. They were both very unlucky with the punctures, but there is still all to play for tomorrow. As we saw today, anything can still happen and with the toughest day left to run this event is far from over.”
13-08-02 Citroën drivers give it their all
After getting back into contention for the win, once again Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen found themselves short on luck. Fourth overall, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crew will be trying to make it onto the Rally Finland podium on the third and final leg. Despite a morning full of incident, Kris Meeke and Chris Patterson managed to move into the top five in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s DS3 WRC. Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio are now seventh overall.

Day two of Rally Finland served up a very full schedule, with two runs on four long stages – Jukojärvi, Palsankylä, Mökkiperä and Lankamaa – and one run on the Killeri super special stage. In total, the distance of the timed sections was three times that covered on yesterday’s stages. For Mikko Hirvonen, today’s leg provided him with a great opportunity to make up the time lost on SS5, when he was caught out by a heavy downpour that fell “right in front” of his DS3 WRC.

The Citroën driver made his intentions clear from the word go, pushing hard on SS7. He went fastest on the 22.5km-long stage, still wet from the overnight rainfall, to reduce his deficit on the leader to just 4.5s. Challenging for the top times throughout the morning, Mikko moved into third position after SS9. After arriving in Jyväskylä for the midday service, he wasn’t entirely satisfied, however: “We’re back in the fight for the lead, but it is still very difficult to catch the leading guys! I lost a bit of time on Lankamaa, which we ran in the opposite direction to recent years. I was a little bit too optimistic in my pace notes… I’m expecting it to be difficult this afternoon, as the roads are breaking up pretty badly.”

After starting the day in sixth, Kris Meeke had gained a place by the end of a very eventful morning: “On SS8, I drove for about ten kilometres behind Novikov, who had gone off. He wouldn’t let me past and my windscreen got broken by the stones kicked up by his car. I also went off because I couldn’t see properly through the windscreen, and picked up a puncture. Then, I injured my finger whilst I was changing the tyre. That’s quite a bad run…”

Eighth overall, Dani Sordo’s morning was quieter than his team-mates. The clear improvement made throughout the morning provided the Spaniard with some encouragement: “Finally, I enjoyed driving the car. My times are still not very good, but I can see that I have made significant progress compared with yesterday.“

On the second loop, Mikko Hirvonen’s hopes of winning the rally evaporated on SS12. “I ran wide on a corner in fifth gear and we hit an embankment. The car almost rolled onto the roof, but we were lucky to stay on all four wheels,” recounted Mikko. “We were thrown into a 360° spin and punctured two of the tyres. Fortunately, we had two spare tyres.”

The Finn then had to contend with damage to the rear suspension on the following stages. He finished the leg in fourth position, a minute off the lead: “I did everything I could to try and make up the time, but we didn’t really have much luck on our side. Staying positive, we have to consider ourselves lucky to still be in the race. There is still a long day to go tomorrow, so my aim is now to finish in the top three.”

After gradually improving throughout the afternoon, Kris Meeke held onto his fifth position: “We raised the ride height for the second runs and my DS3 WRC handled perfectly in the ruts. I drove pretty well, with the second fastest time on SS13. It was a very good afternoon.”

Dani Sordo confirmed his improving form, also finishing in the top five on SS13: “I was finally able to really go for it. I know the Mökkiperä stage really well and that’s why I was able to push as hard as I wanted.”

Very fast on the second runs of the stages, Robert Kubica held onto second place in the WRC2 category, almost two minutes ahead of his closest challenger. The Pole also holds tenth position in the overall standings.

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 1:38:34.7
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +38.1
3 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +39.0
4 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +1:01.4
5 Meeke / Patterson Citroën DS3 WRC +1:33.2
6 Nikara / Kalliolepo Mini JCW WRC +2:18.6
7 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +2:45.0
8 Ketomaa / Sallinen Ford Fiesta R5 +6:13.9
9 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:38.5
10 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +7:24.1
13-08-02 Ny tuff dag för P-G Andersson när Rally-VM i Finland kördes dag 2!
Rejält revanschsugna och taggade till tusen stod Per-Gunnar "P-G" Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson på startlinjen i Rally-VM i Finland i morse efter gårdagens tunga inledning.

Men fru Fortuna var inte på svenskarnas sida inledningsvis idag heller:
-"När vi startade på sträckan blev vi tvåhjulsdrivna" säger P-G "Jag trodde det var diffen, men under servicen visade det sig att det var var kardanaxeln som gått sönder" berättar P-G.

Under de fyra inledande sträckorna tvingades de köra med tvåhjulsdrift och tappade mellan 2-3 minuter per sträcka. Under servicen reparerades bilen och killarna kunde köra de fem avslutande sträckorna utan större problem:
- "Det var lite svårt att gå ut och hitta en balans och komma in i körningen efter problemen vi haft" säger P-G "Vi ville inte ta några onödiga risker för att få bra tider och riskera att hamna ute Därför körde vi lite på säkerhet och tog det hela som ett test inför framtiden istället och försöker hitta rätt inställningar på bilen".

Under kvällens service kommer man att göra lite ändringar och justeringar på bilens inställningar:
- "Bilen är fortfarande lite för mjuk. Sen får vi se vad vi kan göra i morgon" avslutar P-G.

Efter dagens första fyra sträckor rasade P-G och Emil ner till en 27:e plats i rallyt, men har lyckats avancera upp till en trettondeplats inför morgondagens sju avgörande sträckor som startar 07:26 svensk tid.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi följer rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.

Rally-VM Finland efter dag 2
1 Sebastien Ogier (F) 1:38:34.7
2. Thierry Neuville (B) 1:39:12.8
3 Mads Östberg (N) 1:39:12.8 +38.1
4. Mikko Hirvonen (Fin) 1:39:36.1 +39.0
5. Kris Meeke (GB) 1:40:07.9 +1:01.4
6. Jarko Nikara (Fin) 1:40:53.3 +1:33.2
7. Daniel Sordo (E) 1:41:19.7 +2:18.6
8. Jari Ketomaa (Fin) 1:44:48.6 +6:13.9
9. Evgeny Novikov (Rus) 1:45:13.2 +6:38.5
10. Robert Kubica (Pl) 1:45:58.8 +7:24.1
-
13. P-G Andersson 1:48:29.3 +9:54.6

Komlett resultat: http://www.wrc.com/results/2013/neste-oil-rally-finland/stage-times/?category=wrc&stageno=15
13-08-02 Midday Quotes, Rally Finland Day 2
Mads Østberg (1st) said:
“There has been a really good battle today and I think we have done a good job so far. We’ve been quite relaxed and have just been really enjoying the driving. The speed has also been very good so I am pleased with that. It is one of the closest battles that I can remember in a long time!

“At the moment, we are on the safe side and not taking any big risks. But I understand that if I want to keep up with [Sébastien] Ogier, and really fight for this victory, then I might have to find a bit more. At the moment I am losing a bit of time whenever I am in doubt and we’re backing off the pace a bit too much.

“We will see this afternoon if we need to change that or if we can continue how we have been. We have more speed to give, it’s just a case of whether we need to use it.”

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“I am very satisfied with the job we have done this morning. This event requires a lot of experience so for us to be just over 10 seconds off the lead is good.

“We took it steadily this morning so it’s good to see that we’re not too far off the pace. I was much more careful than I was yesterday – making sure the pacenotes were right and also lacking a bit of confidence on the slippery stages this morning.

“But the car still feels great. I know where I can make up some time this afternoon and I can concentrate on pushing a bit more. Of course I think everyone will be pushing, but the most important thing for us is to gain experience and prove our speed. A podium would be nice, but there is a long way to go.”

Evgeny Novikov (15th) said:
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what happened. It was after a crest and we just lost control of the car and went into a log pile. We’ll have to have a proper look at the onboard to see exactly what happened.

“The car looks worse than it is. The windscreen is completely out and the mechanics will be busy in service. But my team are very good so I am sure they will be able to get us back on the stages. Now we just need to try to gain some places and take some strong points.”

Elfyn Evans (Rally 2):
Elfyn and Dan were forced to retire for the day with a suspected engine oil leak on SS10.
13 -08-02 Fisher and Cronin neck and neck
The first leg of Rally Finland saw some fiercely contested battles at all levels of the competition. In the Citroën Top Driver series, drivers from across the Channel dominated the day’s stages, covering the 45 kilometres of timed sections at a frenetic pace. Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble lead the way, closely followed by Keith Cronin/Marshall Clark. Jussi Vainionpää and his co-driver Mika Juntunen completed the provisional podium.

With the start time pushed back to a more reasonable late morning slot, the first leg of the Finnish ‘grand prix’ featured five short stages held between Lahti, Jämsä and Jyväskylä. In terms of distance, it was little more than a warm-up, but it was nonetheless a significant slice of the rally, bearing in mind that every second counts in Finland.

Familiar with the Finnish roads, British driver Alastair Fisher enjoyed a near-perfect day, leading the overall standings after winning four stages out of a possible six.

“We really enjoyed ourselves in the DS3 R3, which responded to all of our expectations,” said a delighted Alastair. “It’s a great battle with Keith. We can’t afford to ease off – we have to keep up the pressure!”

Very close behind, Irishman Keith Cronin had every reason to be pleased with his performance. Still within striking distance of his main rival, he was less than ten seconds behind the leader after this first day.

New addition to the Citroën Top Driver, the Finn Jussi Vainionpää proved to be the surprise package of the WRC3 category. After making a cautious start, he quickly got to grips with his DS3 R3 and ended the day in third place in the provisional overall standings.

Current co-leaders of the Citroën Top Driver, French drivers Quentin Gilbert and Sébastien Chardonnet held fourth and fifth positions, while Simone Campedelli rounded off the top six. With less than ten seconds between them, the three men will be giving their all to move up the standings in order to score as many points as possible.

“There’s been some great fighting here and our drivers seem to be maturing with every race, as we’ve not had any retirements today. Although Stéphane Consani and Christian Riedemann lost time with punctures, they are still in the race and we know that it’s never over until the end of the rally,” admitted Marek Nawareki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroën Racing.
13-08-02 Fast and furious in Finland!
An incredibly intense opening leg at Rally Finland saw Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen challenge for the lead, until a heavy downpour cost them around fifteen seconds. One of the day’s stand-out performances was produced by Kris Meeke and Chris Patterson, who finished the day sixth overall in their first race in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT.

With six stages, over a total of 41 kilometres, the first leg of Rally Finland amounted to a series of short sprints, which made it almost impossible for big gaps to form under normal racing conditions.

Proceedings got underway with the Himos stage, which is not very representative of the rest of the rally given its semi-artificial road surface. The crews had to wait until Torittu (SS2) to find the forest roads that are typical of the land of a thousand lakes. Mikko Hirvonen set the third fastest time to take the joint overall lead, alongside Thierry Neuville.

Following a road section that took them to Lahti, two hours to the south of Jyväskylä, the competitors then tackled Koukunmaa (SS3). Mikko fell back to third overall, 1.1s behind Neuville and Ogier, tied for the lead. In winning the next stage, Torittu 2, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver regained the lead, but once again had to share the position with Neuville!

Neck and neck with his two rivals before the second run on Himos, Mikko Hirvonen dropped back on SS5 for a rather unusual reason. Unlike SS1, where as usual the competitors set off every two minutes, the organisers changed the starting sequence in order to meet televised broadcast requirements. After setting off four to five minutes after his direct rivals, Mikko had to contend with much heavier rain than the shower that had been falling up to that point. By the end of the stage, he was 16s off the lead time.

“The problem wasn’t the rain in itself, but the fact that they decided to split the drivers challenging for the lead into different groups. It’s a serious error by the organisers, who have put business considerations ahead of sporting and safety considerations,” commented a surprised Mikko. “Without this episode, I’m not saying I would be leading the rally, but I wouldn’t be fourth, 13.8s behind the leader. It’s far from over though, there are still two long days left to go. I’m going to have to push really hard to try and make up the time I lost today.”

The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s second DS3 WRC ended the leg in ninth position, over half a minute adrift of the leader. In the car, Dani Sordo was unable to hide his disappointment: “There’s not a lot can be said, really, other than I’ll try to do better tomorrow. I didn’t feel confident in my notes, especially in the quick sections. We’re going to look with the team at how we can try and improve.”

In his first rally in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s DS3 WRC, Kris Meeke produced a stunning performance, finishing third on two stages and ending the day in sixth overall, just 5/10ths outside the top five: “It was a great day, although I’m annoyed that we picked up a puncture on SS2. I made a minor mistake which cost me six or seven seconds. On the following stages, I was very attentive and I drove in the middle of the road, because another puncture would have forced me to retire. Despite of all that, I set some good times. I feel so at home in the car, it’s almost as if I’m part of it. I want to continue to show what I can do and drive an intelligent race!”

Competing in his DS3 RRC, Robert Kubica managed to grab second place in a very competitive field in the WRC2 category. Sandwiched between Jari Ketomaa and Elfyn Evans, the Pole was pleased with his performance: “The conditions were variable and the last two stages were particularly difficult because of the rain. There was so much water it reminded me of F1, when I had to drive with no windscreen and no wipers! But it was a good day, and I’m pleased to be in this position before we start the second leg, which will be even more demanding.”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC 25:33.3
2 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC +5.2
3 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8.9
4 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +13.8
5 Hanninen / Tuominen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +17.0
6 Meeke / Patterson Citroën DS3 WRC +17.5
7 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +20.9
8 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +23.4
9 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +37.1
10 Nikara / Kalliolepo Mini JCW WRC +47.7
13-08-02 Flying start for Qatar M-Sport in Finland
The Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRCs got off to a flying start on the first day of Neste Oil Rally Finland. Leading the way, Thierry Neuville holds the top step of the podium with Mads Østberg just seconds behind in third.

Not content with two podium positions at the highest level, M-Sport are also dominating the WRC 2 category with the Autotek-run Ford Fiesta R5 of Jari Ketomaa heading the field and Qatar M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans holding third in a similar M-Sport run Fiesta R5.

Despite the first day incorporating just 45 competitive kilometres, the six short stages were no easy challenge. More than any other event, Finland demands a competitive start and the Qatar M-Sport crews did not disappoint.

Qatar World Rally Team’s Neuville was particularly impressive. As history dictates, Finland favours a mix of experience and Scandinavian flair; but there was no convincing the young Belgian of that. Having only tackled the event on one previous occasion, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul powered through to lead the rally from the second stage.

Amassing four top-three times including two stage victories – a feat made all the more impressive given that one of these was secured whilst double-checking pacenotes over the first pass – Neuville holds a 5.2 second advantage going into Day 2.

Østberg too remains tantalisingly close to the top-spot with just 8.9 seconds separating the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team driver from the lead. Although feeling that he lacked a perfect rhythm in some sections, Østberg’s pure speed meant he was rarely outside the top-five on individual stage times.

Partnered by Sweden’s Jonas Andersson, the pairing have clearly regained their confidence after a challenging first half of the season. Sitting in third place – and with more familiar stages to come – Østberg will be one to watch and keen to add another podium to his 2013 tally.

In the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta, Evgeny Novikov had a solid run through the opening tests. Settling into a good rhythm, he and co-driver Ilka Minor maintained a top-five position – less than 10 seconds adrift of the lead – for much of the afternoon.

But the Russian lost time on the second pass of Torittu (SS4). Feeling powerless under braking, a combination of slippery conditions and huge ruts forced him off the road. Yet he did a good job of limiting the time loss – recovering seventh place with all to play for just 20 seconds shy of the lead.

In WRC 2, the Ford Fiesta R5 was the break-through story of the day – Qatar M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans playing a starring role in the success story. Indeed the Welshman lays a strong third with local driver Jari Ketomaa – in a similar M-Sport built Fiesta R5 – at the head of the field.

Having been absent from the category since Rally de Portugal, Evans is back in style. Rarely out of the top-three, the Welshman is a real contender behind the wheel of his new machinery and hungry for a top result.

Thierry Neuville (1st) said:
“I never thought I would have such a good first day here, but the car has been really quick and the set-up was perfect which gave me a lot of confidence. We had a good rhythm all day and I really enjoyed the driving.

“We didn’t push too much – just followed the splits of Sebastien [Ogier] and Mikko [Hirvonen]. We were still trying to be clever and when it was tricky we backed off the pace. Obviously this strategy has worked well for us as we’re leading the rally and set two fastest times!

“I guess we will struggle a little tomorrow because we won’t have the best road position. But that’s not to say I’m giving up. Not at all! We’ll work on a good set-up in the morning, hope for sun, and try to be as fast as we possibly can.”

Mads Østberg (3rd) said:
“Today hasn’t been bad at all. The car felt good and although sometimes I struggled to find the rhythm, generally the feeling was a positive one. To be third, less than 10 seconds off the lead, is not a bad thing for tomorrow.

“We went off the road on SS4. Nothing happened to the car and we didn’t hit anything, we just had the same issue that a lot of drivers had with the ruts. When that happens you have no control so we used the escape road. I lost a lot of time on the last stage too [SS6]. The conditions were really bad – I just had no confidence and couldn’t push as much as I would have liked.

“Tomorrow is a much more ‘normal’ day with longer stages which I hope will be good for us. We were away from service for a long time today with some really long road sections. When you’re away that long you really start to miss your mechanics so it will be nice to spend some more time with them tomorrow!”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“The day was not so good for us as we had a couple of moments which lost us some time. On SS4 we got stuck in the ruts. There was nothing we could do under braking and the car just went straight so we lost a lot of time there. Then on SS5 we had a really bad rain storm for our run which made visibility almost impossible.

“Having said that we are just 20 seconds off the lead so I cannot be too disappointed. The car has been working well, and we still have a long way to go. Anything can happen tomorrow so we will keep pushing.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd in WRC 2) said:
“The [Ford Fiesta] R5 has shown fantastic promise today. There have been strong performances from a lot of drivers in the car so it’s good to see it going so well!

“For me, I don’t think we’ve had a bad day at all. There’s definitely more room for improvement, so we’ll keep working on that and see what tomorrow brings. There isn’t an awful lot to change on the car – a few little things here and there. But I think the car proved it’s worth today, so tomorrow we’ll try and show a little more from me.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been a truly outstanding performance from Thierry [Neuville] today. To come here with his level of experience and be leading the rally at the end of the day is a fantastic achievement. He has exceeded his expectations and mine as a Team Principal – an exceptional performance.

“He came away from the [pre-event] test feeling very confident with the set-up of the car. His performance today is reward for all the hard work during testing – Thierry, Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver], and all M-Sport personnel did a fantastic job to get us where we are today.

“With Mads [Østberg] too it’s great to see two of our cars in a podium position. Mads and Thierry worked closely on the test, so that again is credit to the test team. Obviously it would have been nice to have kept the one-two, but Mads was sensible. It was very tricky on the last stage [SS6] so I think he made the right decision to take it steady and not risk anything major.

“Finally, it has been an incredible WRC debut for the [Ford Fiesta] R5. To have two cars on the [provisional WRC 2] podium is fantastic and Jari Ketomaa has dominated the field from the start.”


13-08-02 Sander Pärn leads the JWRC at Neste Oil Rally Finland
Thursday was the first day for the 2013. Neste Oil Rally Finland. Sander Pärn - Ken järveoja, who are the only estonians in the JWRC series won three stages out of six and lead the Juniors to the second day of this year's Neste rally.

"It has been a good day for us. We had a perfect start to the rally and we managed to show some good speed today," explained Pärn. The young estonian added that they were also happy with the three extra points that they gained for the three stage wins.

"Today we showed that we are here to fight for the podium. For sure there is a big competition and many strong competitors, but they have to push really hard to beat us," explained Pärn.

On Friday there will be a difficult day for the Juniors. "Today was easier than tomorrow will be. We weren't pushing on maximum. Hopefully we will be able to carry on as we did today," said Sander.

13-08-01 P-G Andersson fick en tung inledning i Rally-VM i Finland "Bilen har levt i sin egen värld"!
Per-Gunnar "P-G" Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson fick en riktigt tung inledning på Rally-VM i Finland som drog igång idag. Bilen har helt enkelt levt ett helt eget liv.
- "Bilen har levt i sin egen värld" säger P-G frustrerat."Och jag har ärligt talat ingen aning om vad som egentligen är problemet".

Problemet med bilen har gjort att de snurrade på de två första sträckorna och tog det lugnare på den tredje. Därefter försökte de ändra lite på inställningarna, men helt utan resultat och fick en halvsnurrning på fjärde sträckan.
- "Bakändan bara släpper ut i kurvorna när vi försöker hålla upp lite tempo. Det har varit fruktansvärt obehagligt, för vi är på gränsen att snurra i princip varje kurva. Sista sträckorna körde vi bara igenom för att få den här dagen överstökad" fortsätter P-G.

Under dagen har det inte varit någon service, men ikväll är det en service och en andra service hinns med innan starten i morgon.
- "Då ska vi prova att byta hela fjädringen och gå igenom. Så imorgon kavlar vi upp ärmarna och tar nya tag!" avslutar P-G.

De ligger inför morgondagens sträckor på en elfte plats, 52,4 sekunder efter ledande Neuville. Tvåa ligger Sebastien Ogier och på tredje plats hittar vi Mads Östberg. Hemmaföraren Jari-Matti Latvala tvingades bryta sedan han skadat stötdämparen när han slog i en sten, men han startar om i morgon.

I morgon körs åtta sträckor med start 08:48 8 svensk tid. Rallyt avslutas sedan på lördagen med sex avgörande sträckor.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi följer rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.

Rally-VM Finland efter dag 1
1. Thierry Neuville (B) 25:33.3
2. Sebastien Ogier (F) 25:38.5 +5.2
3. Mads Östberg (N) 25:42.2 +8,9
4. Mikko Hirvonen (Fin) 25:47.1 +13,8
5. Juho Hänninen (Fin) 25:50.3 +17,0
6. Kris Meeke (GB) 25:50.8 +17,5
7. Evgeny Novikov (Rus) 25:54.2 +20,9
8. Andreas Mikkelsen (N) 25:56.7 +23,4
9. Daniel Sordo (E) 26:10.4 +37,1
10. Jarko Nikara (Fin) 26:21.0 +47,7
11. P-G Andersson 26:25.7 +52,4
12. Martin Prokop (CZ) 26:31.8 +58,5 -

Komlett resultat: http://www.wrc.com/results/2013/neste-oil-rally-finland/stage-times/?category=wrc&stageno=6

Startlista WRC Neste Rally Finland
2. Mikko Hirvonen Finland
3. Daniel Sordo Spanien
4. Mads Östberg Norge
5. Evgeny Novikov Ryssland
7. Jari-Matti Latvala Finland
8. Sebastien Ogier Frankrike
9. Andreas Mikkelsen Norge
10. Kris Meeke England
11. Thierry Neuville Belgien
21 Martin Prokop Tjeckien
22. Jarko Nikara Finland
23. P-G Andersson Sverige
24 Juho Hänninen Finland
25 Riku Tahko Finland

Tidsschema Neste Rally Finland
(Svensk tid)
Onsdag 31 juli
18:00 Q1 Qualifying, Ruuhimäki 4,62 km

Torsdag 1 augusti
11:15 SS1 Himos 1 4,45 km
12:50 SS2 Torittu 1 8,30 m
14:18 SS3 Koukunmaa 13,68 km
16:34 SS4 Torittu 2 8,30 km
18:00 SS5 Himos 2 8,72 km
19:30 SS6 SSS Killeri 1 2,06 km
Service A

Fredag 2 augusti
Service B
08:48 SS7 Jukojärvi 1 21,90 km
09:56 SS8 Palsankylä 1 13,92 km
10:41 SS9 Mökkiperä 1 13,74 km
11:44 SS10 Lankamaa 1 23,66 km
Service C
14:36 SS11 Jukojärvi 2 21,90 km
15:44 SS12 Palsankylä 2 13,92 km
16:29 SS13 Mökkiperä 2 13,74 km
17:32 SS14 Lankamaa 2 23,66 km
14:38 SS15 SSS Killeri 2 2,06 km
Service D

Lördag 3 augusti
Service E
07:26 SS16 Surkee 1 14,95 km
08:24 SS17 Leutsu 1 9,65 km
09:32 SS18 Ouninpuhja 1 33,01 km
10:50 SS19 Painaa 1 7,49 km
Service F
13:04 SS20 Surkee 2 14,95 km
14:02 SS21 Leutsu 2 9,65 km
15:10 SS22 Ouninpuhja 2 33,01 km
16:40 SS23 Painaa 2 (Power Stage) 7,49 km
Service F


13-07-30 Pontus Tidemand laddad för tuff fight i Rally Finland
Efter stora framgångar i de två första deltävlingarna i årets upplaga av Junior-VM i rally har Pontus Tidemand kopplat grepp om ledningen. Med start på torsdag väntar nu den tredje deltävlingen, Rally Finland, som också är seriens sista grusrally. Med gedigen förberedelse och stort fokus, är Pontus redo att ge allt på de legendariska finska vägarna.

Pontus har haft en stark inledning på den internationella säsongen. Redan i årets första JVM-rally i Portugal tog han och kartläsaren Ola Fløene hem en solklar seger som sedan följdes upp med en andraplats i Grekland. Efter ett sommaruppehåll är det nu dags att rikta blickarna till de finska skogarna för Neste Oil Rally Finland, en tävling som kommer bli av stor betydelse för Pontus.
- Ska man kunna tampas om segern är det en fördel att vara med från början eftersom man aldrig vet hur säsongen utvecklar sig, säger Pontus. Både Portugal och Grekland är tekniska rallyn där man måste köra med huvudet, men i Finland är det flat out som gäller om man ska kunna vara med i toppen och marginalerna är ofta små.

Bakom satsningen står EVEN Management och Tätab och tiden mellan VM-eventen är strategiskt planerad för att Pontus ska få så mycket träning som möjligt. För ett par veckor sedan var han föråkare i Midnattssolsrallyt, vilket gav många extra mil inför Finland.
- Vi har haft en bra uppladdning och känner oss väl förberedda med både noter och körning, berättar Pontus. Det här kommer bli en tuff tävling med stenhårt motstånd, men vi satsar självklart högt och ska verkligen göra allt för att sluta i topp.

Rally Finland brukar ofta tituleras som det snabbaste rallyt i WRC-serien och den höga hastigheten i kombination med den speciella vägkaraktären ställer krav på såväl förare och kartläsare som på noter. Både precision och perfektion behövs för att bemästra alla krön och utmaningar som vägarna bjuder på.

JWRC-ekipagen kör alla likadana Ford Fiesta R2 och för dem handlar veckoslutet om 19 specialsträckor som totalt uppmäter 259,11 km. Tävlingsformatet är i år ganska kompakt under de tre dagarna med sex sträckor på torsdagen och nio på fredagen, som är rallyts längsta dag. På lördagen kör juniorerna förmiddagsloopen på fyra sträckor och går i mål vid lunchtid efter att ha kört den omtalade sträckan Ouninpohja som sin näst sista sträcka.

Detta blir andra gången Pontus kör Rally Finland. Förra året imponerade han stort genom att vara snabbast på alla sträckor under tävlingens avslutande dag och slutade på en andraplats i juniorklassen.

Efter två avklarade deltävlingar i årets Junior World Rally Championship leder Pontus med 56 poäng före spanjoren José Suarez på 46 poäng. Estländaren Sander Pärn har tredjeplatsen med sina 19 poäng.

Följ tävlingen live: http://www.wrc.com/jwrc/results/2013/neste-oil-rally-finland/stage-times/
WRC Rally Radio: http://www.wrc.com/fanzone/wrc-live/
Hemsida: http://www.pontustidemand.se/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PontusTidemand
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PontusTidemand
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/PTMRacing


13-06-24 Femte segern för Volkswagen i WRC – Ogier vann VM-rallyt på Sardinien
Volkswagen Motorsport fortsätter att dominera i rally-VM. I lördags tog man sin femte seger av sju körda tävlingar. Sébastien Ogier vann det italienska rallyt på Sardinien i sin 315 hästkrafter starka Polo R WRC.

Volkswagen Motorsport stod för en stark insats på Sardinien, den sjunde av 13 deltävlingar i årets FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Sébastien Ogier och kartläsaren Julien Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike) vann med 1 minut och 17 sekunder före Thierry Neuville (Ford). Detta var deras fjärde seger för säsongen och Volkswagens femte. Ogier/Ingrassia utökar därmed sin ledning i förarmästerskapet till 64 poäng.

Teamkamraterna Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) kom trea efter en imponerande slutspurt. En punktering under första specialsträckan kostade dem nästan 2 minuter. Latvala/Anttila gick därmed upp på en andraplats i förarmästerskapet. De två pallplatserna i Rally Italy gör att Volkswagen Motorsport också utökar sin ledning i märkesmästerskapet till 46 poäng före de regerande mästarna Citroën.

Den tredje Volkswagen-föraren Andreas Mikkelsen (Norge), som firade sin 24-årsdag på lördagen, gick miste om ett bra resultat tillsammans med sin kartläsare Mikko Markkula (Finland). I slutet av rallyt tvingades de bryta efter en avåkning. De låg då på en femteplats och tog lite större risker för att nå fjärdeplatsen.

Rally Italien ställde stora krav på förarna, med höga temperaturer och smala, krokiga vägar kantade av stenar. En kombination av grus och ett löst lager av sand ovanpå gjorde tävlingen till en mycket hal affär. Förarna fick koncentrera sig och använda sina däck klokt för att undvika ödesdigra misstag. Ogier och Latvala acklimatiserade sig perfekt till de tuffa förhållandena och vann tillsammans 13 av de16 specialsträckorna – Ogier sju och Latvala sex.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 7
– Tredje plats är ett fantastiskt resultat totalt sett, men vi kunde ha gjort bättre. Punkteringen på första specialsträckan var vårt eget fel, vi borde ha varit mer uppmärksamma under rekognoseringen. Vår hastighet var mycket bra under hela rallyt och gjorde att vi kunde kämpa oss upp från tolfte till tredje plats. Jag kände mig riktigt hemma i Polo R WRC och har stort självförtroende inför hemmarallyt i Finland.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Det känns fantastiskt att vara tillbaka högst på pallen igen! Jag började verkligen sakna den där känslan efter de senaste två tävlingarna. Jag är helt enkelt glad – teamet gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb och vår Polo gick som en dröm. Vi har nu en bekväm ledning i förarmästerskapet. Rallyt var oerhört krävande fysiskt på grund av de höga temperaturerna. Ibland blev så varmt som 45 grader i bilen. Så jag skulle vilja rikta ett stort tack till våra medarbetare som tar hand om oss. Värmen påverkar också däcken och bilen. Min däckvänliga körstil var utan tvekan en av orsakerna till min seger.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 9
– Jag är oerhört besviken, naturligtvis, eftersom vi fick en mycket bra start i rallyt. Vi satsade hårt för att nå fjärdeplatsen. På eftermiddagen hade jag redan tagit in åtta sekunder på Dani Sordo och behövde bara omkring tolv sekunder för att passera honom. Men sedan bromsade jag för sent i en kurva och vi gled och träffade en stubbe som förstörde hjulupphängningen. Jag hade hoppats på ett något annorlunda utfall på min födelsedag, men jag tror vi återigen fick en hel del viktig erfarenhet under detta rally.

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport
– Vad mer kan vi begära? Rallyt blev en stor framgång för Volkswagen och ännu en milstolpe i vår första säsong i WRC. Om någon hade sagt inför säsongen att vi skulle vara i ledning i mästerskapet och att vi skulle vinna fem av de sju först tävlingarna, hade vi absolut inte trott dem. Ogier och Latvala levererade idel topprestationer här i Italien. Samma sak gäller för Andreas Mikkelsen, trots att han var tvungen att bryta i slutet av rallyt. Jag är stolt över alla tre förarna och de har verkligen förtjänat ett sommaruppehåll nu. Men vi ser redan fram emot nästa tävling i Finland, 1-3 augusti.

Resultat – Rally Italien, Sardinien
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3h 22m 57.9s
2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 1m 16.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1m 48.0s
4. Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën + 3m 19.2s
5. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford + 8m 34.1s
6. Elfyn Evans/Giovanni Bernacchini (GB/I), Ford + 11m 51.8s
7. Michal Kosciuszko/Maciej Szczepaniak (PL/PL), Ford + 11m 52.7s
8. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 13m 21.5s
9. Robert Kubica/Maciek Baran (PL/PL), Citroën + 16m 47.6s
10. Khalid Al Qassimi/Martin Scott (UAE/GB), Citroën + 17m 19.9s

Ställning förarmästerskapet, efter 7 av 13 deltävlingar
1. Sébastien Ogier, 154 poäng
2. Jari-Matti Latvala, 90
3. Thierry Neuville, 70
4. Sébastien Loeb, 68
5. Mikko Hirvonen, 61
6. Daniel Sordo, 59
7. Mads Østberg, 50
8. Martin Prokop, 37
9. Evgeny Novikov, 31
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah, 30
11. Andreas Mikkelsen, 25.

Ställning märkesmästerskapet, efter 7 av 13 deltävlingar
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 220 poäng
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 174
3. Qatar WRT, 89
4. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 89
5. Jipocar Czech National Team, 39
6. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 33
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 26
8. Lotos WRC Team, 20
13-06-23 Riedermann takes over
Rally Italia Sardegna, the second round of the Citroën Top Driver series, was particularly demanding for the ten crews taking part in their DS3 R3s. Ultimately, Christian Riedemann and his co-driver Lara Vanneste claimed the win. Keith Cronin and Quentin Gilbert took the other podium places.

Heat, dust, a frantic pace and tiredness: the crews had to deal with all of these factors in order to complete the event’s 304 kilometres of timed sections. Packed into two days of racing, Rally Italia Sardegna started shortly after sunrise on Friday morning. In the WRC 3 category, ten crews lined up at start, all determined to achieve the same goal: win the rally!

After drawing a blank at Rally Portugal, Christian Riedemann didn‘t start among the favourites. And yet the talented young German stayed within striking distance of the leaders on the first test. Cautious and focussed, he didn’t take any unnecessary risks and gradually saw his rivals get caught out by the pitfalls of the Sardinian roads. He thus moved into the lead after SS2. Battling at the front with Stéphane Consani who had joined the Citroën challenge here in Sardinia, Christian relinquished the lead on Gallura 2, the only stage of the rally run at night. Hampered by dust kicked up by another car, the German lost over a minute.

Day two was dominated by the ding-dong battle between the two leading crews. An electrical problem just before the final stage cost Stéphane Consani dearly. He collected a total of fourteen minutes of penalties, and with that, his hopes of victory evaporated. Bitterly disappointed, he dropped back to sixth place in the overall standings.

Christian therefore reached the service park with the points in the bag, moving up to fifth in the drivers’ standings of the Citroën challenge. “Lara and I are really very happy! These two days have been extremely difficult but our sensible approach has paid dividends. We have managed to win without taking any unnecessary risks, although we also benefitted from the problems that affected Stéphane, with whom we had a fantastic battle! We are now in a good position and we are ready to tackle the upcoming events. We can’t wait for the Finnish rally and its fast sections, but also and above all the first tarmac round where we’ll be the nearest thing the series has to a home crew.”

Second overall, Irish driver Keith Cronin could be pleased with his race. After losing close to five minutes on the very first stage after picking up a puncture, he recovered to light up the first leg with Frenchman Sébastien Chardonnet as the pair shared seven stage wins. He gradually climbed the overall standings, keeping out of trouble and reaping the rewards of his consistency.

Quentin Gilbert and Sébastien Chardonnet took third and fourth places respectively, despite a tough weekend. Both lost time on Monte Lerno 1 – the decisive stage in the Citroën Top Driver – one with a puncture, the other in the dust of a slowed down car ahead. They both recovered well but Quentin had to retire before SS8 after running out of petrol on the road section, whilst Sébastien had to resign himself to finishing just short of the podium places after a minor impact that damaged his steering on Saturday morning. Despite these incidents, the two French drivers are now joint leaders of the Citroën Top Driver standings, with 30 points each.

Fifth and seventh in the race respectively, Swiss drivers Federico Della Casa and Francesco Parli produced a committed and sensible performance. They thus scored their first points in the Citroën formula.

Winner of the Portuguese round and leader of Citroën Top Driver standings before Sardinia, Bryan Bouffier ran into trouble early on in the Italian round, going off on SS2. Top performer of the weekend, winning seven stages, he was slowed down again towards the end of the race following a technical problem.

Another driver who suffered in the dust, Alastair Fisher finished at the back of the field. After going off on the first stage, he was unable to move up the overall standings despite impressing on a few of the stages. Finally, the event’s local boy Simone Campedelli was unlucky, having to retire on two occasions.

“Once again, we saw that race management skills are of critical importance,” noted Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroën Racing. “We can also see just how high the standard is, given that the majority of the crews had never raced at world level before this year. The standings speak for themselves, as there are just five points between the top five drivers! The teams’ challenge is also very close, where Top Teams still leads the way. There’s no doubt that there are plenty of surprises and some great racing still to come this season.”

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Bouffier – SS2: Chardonnet – SS3: Cronin – SS4: Cronin – SS5: Chardonnet – SS6: Cronin – SS7: Cronin – SS8: Chardonnet

Day 2 – SS9: Bouffier – SS10: Bouffier – SS11: Bouffier – SS12: Bouffier – SS13: Bouffier – SS14: Bouffier – SS15: Fisher – SS16: Riedemann

BEST PERFORMERS
Bouffier, 7 fastest times – Cronin, 4 – Chardonnet, 3 – Fisher and Riedemann, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1: Bouffier – SS2 to SS7: Riedemann – SS8 to SS10: Consani – SS11 and SS12: Riedemann – SS13 to SS15: Consani – SS16: Riedemann.

RETIREMENTS
Alastair Fisher: Minor off on SS1
Bryan Bouffier: Minor off on SS2
Simone Campedelli: Mechanical retirement after hitting a rock on SS2
Quentin Gilbert: Retirement after running out of petrol on the road section between SS7 and SS8
Simone Campedelli: Retirement due to technical problem after SS9

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS
1. CHARDONNET 30 pts
1= GILBERT 30 pts
3. BOUFFIER 29 pts
4. CRONIN 26 pts
5. RIEDEMANN 25 pts
6. FISHER 14 pts
7. DELLA CASA 10 pts
8. CONSANI 8 pts
9. CAMPEDELLI 6 pts
9= PARLI 6 pts

TEAMS’ STANDINGS
1. TOP TEAMS 60 pts
2. CHARLES HURST CITROEN BELFAST 51 pts
3. DELTA RALLY TEAM 37 pts
4. SAINTELOC 20 pts
13-06-22 Best ever resullt for Neuville and Qatar
Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul put in a sensational performance behind the wheel of their Qatar World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC today to secure second place at the 2013 Rally Italia Sardegna – theirs and the team’s best ever result in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

The result marks Neuville’s third podium of the year – a combination of control and out-right pace clearly paying dividends for the young Belgian. Starting cautiously, the 25-year-old was in control from start to finish with his impressive speed indicating that the top-step of the podium will be well within reach as the series moves to his more favoured events in the latter half of the season.

With two stage wins on the first day of competition, the Belgian refused to give in to the pressure of the final day. Despite lacking splits through the morning loop, Neuville looked more than comfortable behind the wheel.

With the exception of SS12 – on which he out-braked himself into a junction – Neuville posted a top-three time on all of today’s speed tests. To top-off what has been a near-perfect weekend the Belgian also flew to second place in the Power Stage (SS15) and an additional two points which sees him propelled into third place in the drivers’ championship.

Making an impact with an outstanding points-scoring finish on his world rally car debut, fellow Qatar World Rally Team driver Elfyn Evans claimed an impressive sixth place – one of the highest placed finishes for a driver on their WRC debut.

A difficult event for the young Welshman, this was also his first venture to the Italian event as well as his first outing with co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini. Yet ever rising to the challenge and learning with each new stage, Evans maintained his composure for a thoroughly deserved result.

Keeping his head where the more experienced faltered, the 24-year-old’s progress was clear to see. Gaining experience and upping his pace with each competitive kilometre, Evans put in a near faultless performance. Proving he can up the pace when necessary, he clinched his sixth place by just 0.9 seconds and has certainly proved his potential as a real star of the future.

Elsewhere in the one remaining Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson recovered some good points following yesterday’s final-stage roll. Despite losing the intercom and thus having no pacenotes for 90 per cent of SS10 (Terranova 1) followed by a slow puncture and spin on the following two stages (SS11 and SS12), the Scandinavians recovered an impressive six places to finish a points-scoring eighth overall.

Østberg’s result also saw M-Sport continue its record breaking streak of points finishes as a manufacturer entrant. Thanks to some exceptional, late-night work from the mechanics to ensure Østberg’s restart, M-Sport’s manufacturer teams have scored points on every single WRC event since the 2002 Rallye Monte Carlo – that’s 165 and counting.

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“This was a great event for us. We have shown some good pace and been consistent all weekend with no big mistakes – a clean run and a very good result for Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] and me.

“It was no problem keeping Jari-Matti [Latvala] behind us this afternoon as, to be honest, there was a pretty big gap. We followed his times and I think we put some pressure on some of the other drivers too so it really couldn’t have been better.

“We have had two thirds and a second already this season, so who knows, maybe the win will come in Germany! I have a lot more experience on Tarmac and have always been a lot quicker there so I think if we have a good test and the conditions are OK, then we can definitely have a good run there.

“The key to our performance this weekend was the same as the last two rallies. We had a different strategy which was just to make sure that we finished all of the stages to build up our confidence. We had the same plan this afternoon but when we saw that we could match the pace Sébastien [Ogier] and Jari-Matti – without taking any risks – we decided to continue with the same rhythm which brought us this good result.”

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“It’s been a great weekend. It didn’t start off so easy for us – we knew it was always going to be difficult. But we got better and better as the weekend went on. When others hit problems, we managed to stay on the road and the result came in the end.

“I just want to thank everyone involved for the opportunity – it’s been an absolutely fantastic experience and we both [Giovanni Bernacchini, co-driver, and I] really enjoyed it.

“I certainly didn’t expect to finish in the top-six before the event – I wasn’t sure that I would make it to the finish let alone finish in sixth so it is very pleasing to be here. I’ve learnt masses. It’s fantastic preparation for Finland with the [Ford Fiesta] R5 and I’ve learnt so much about how to get the most out of the car, the event, and working with a different co-driver. Giovanni has been excellent so big thanks to him.

“Obviously this result means a great deal. To finish sixth on my debut is massive! I’m not sure what it means for the future, but it’s definitely improved my skills as a driver and provided me with more knowledge and experience than I could have ever hoped for. It’s brilliant… and I can’t stop smiling!”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“Towards the end of the Power Stage – about two kilometres before the end – there was a bull with huge horns in the middle of the road. I had to brake to try to avoid it, but when I did that it just moved against me so I had to go even further off the road to miss it. It was really big so I didn’t want to hit it because that would have been a hard impact for sure!

“Apart from that, this afternoon has been OK. We had a small issue with the rear suspension so for the last two or three stages it was quite difficult. But other than that, we didn’t have so many dramas.

“We have had some good stages in this rally so we just have to keep that in our mind and make sure we bring the confidence and the self-belief with us to Finland.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“What a fantastic result for both Thierry [Neuville] and Elfyn [Evans] – I think they’ve both proved a lot this weekend!

“Thierry’s second place shows just how confident he has become behind the wheel of the Fiesta [RS WRC] and I’m sure there’s more to come from him when we move into the second half of the season. He’s proven he has the consistency, and I think this weekend he took another step forward by proving that he also has the speed to challenge for the top positions. He thoroughly deserves to be third in the drivers’ championship.

“Elfyn’s performance too was outstanding. This was always going to be a difficult event for him – his first time in the WRC car, his first time at Rally Italia and his first time with Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver] – but he mastered the challenge brilliantly. He was constantly improving and I think this experience will make him all the more competitive when he returns to WRC 2 in Finland. We certainly made the right decision by putting him in the car.

“Finally, I need to praise the M-Sport mechanics who did an absolutely fantastic job on Mads’ [Østberg] car last night. They worked well into the night to make the repairs and, thanks to them, M-Sport can continue their unbroken record for the highest number of consecutive points scores in the WRC. It was a brilliant effort by the entire team


13-06-22 Robert Kubica getting into winning habit
Robert Kubica continues to impress in his debut season in the World Rally Championship. In his Citroën DS3 RRC, the Pole claimed his second consecutive win in WRC2 at Rally Italia Sardegna.

Sixth in Portugal and then winner at the Acropolis Rally, Robert Kubica’s rivals were eager to fight back at Rally Italia Sardegna. Facing stiffer competition than in Greece, the Pole was determined to keep up his rich vein of form, despite still only having limited experience in the category.

On Friday morning, the DS3 RRC driver flew out of the blocks, not only winning the first stage but completing it at one second quicker per kilometre than all his rivals! After another stage win on SS2, he had a little setback when he damaged the rear of his car after a minor impact. He nonetheless made it to the remote service in Sassari with a 50-second lead over his nearest challenger.

Building on the experience acquired on the first loop, Robert and his co-driver Maciek Baran turned the screw in the afternoon. Simply unbeatable, they extended their lead to close to two minutes! The day concluded with two runs on the Gallura stage. Particularly hindered by the fading light and the dust kicked up by cars that were ahead of him on the road, Robert had to slow down several times and could only manage the seventh fastest time. On the second run, held after nightfall, everything went better since he improved his time by a minute in spite of a radio problem!

In comparison to the first leg, day two was a lot easier to manage. With a much better starting position, the Pole no longer had to contend with the hanging dust. Without taking any unnecessary risks, he produced the perfect display, winning eight out of eight stages!

At the finish, he won by 4m 17s from Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, current leader of the WRC2 championship. “Obviously, I’m pleased to win again at an event that is completely different to Greece. Every day I spend in the DS3 RRC gives me a bit more experience. I feel good about my driving, but also about my understanding of the road surface and the reactions of the car. It wasn’t easy all the time, as we did have a few problems that are specific to gravel rallies, such as the dust. It was a good learning experience to drive in conditions like these, but I didn’t enjoy it at all because of the danger involved.”

Robert Kubica now lies fourth overall in the WRC2 championship standings, with 58 points from three rallies. With an average of over 18 points at each round in which he has competed, the Pole may be able to challenge for the title. Robert played down his chances: “My main goal is still to learn about driving at this level. Obviously, I won’t complain if I achieve good results! But above all, I take satisfaction from the personal progress I’m making.”

Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran’ season continues at the legendary Rally Finland, the next round of the WRC: “It’s another huge challenge for me. I’m really looking forward to it, because it is one of the most famous, renowned rallies. You need a lot of experience to race at this level, but I think that’s even more the case in the country of a thousand lakes.
13-06-22 A cool wind blows over Sardinia
After blowing hot on the first leg of Rally Italia Sardegna, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s crews were treated to a cold shower on day two. Only Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio made it to the end, finishing in fourth overall. Ninth in the overall standings and winner of the WRC2 category, Robert Kubica scored his first ever WRC points, whilst Khalid Al-Qassimi opened his 2013 account by grabbing the final top 10 spot.

Similar in length to the first leg, day two featured four stages, each of which was run twice. After leaving the port of Olbia at seven o’clock sharp, the crews headed out into the Sardinian countryside under threatening skies.

The day got off to the best possible start for Mikko Hirvonen, who won his 250th stage in the World Rally Championship on SS9 (Monte Olia 1). However, the Finn’s joy was short lived, as he was forced to retire on the very next stage after he went off: “Right at the start of the Terranova stage, about a kilometre in, there was a small left-hand hairpin and I braked a little bit too late and the car slid off into a deep ditch. It wasn’t far, just one metre! Even with the many spectators who tried to help us, we were not able to get the car out and back onto the road. It was especially frustrating as the car wasn’t damaged at all. I’m really disappointed to have made a stupid mistake like that, because the car was working perfectly; the team has done a really great job this week and we were well placed to finish second.”

Dani Sordo therefore moved up to third place, although not in the circumstances he’d have liked. After spinning on Monti di Ala’ 1 (SS11), the Spaniard then lost around twenty seconds, dropping back a position in the overall standings: “The conditions were very difficult, with the hanging dust. I just came over a crest too quickly immediately before a hairpin. The engine stalled and I had trouble restarting the car. As Latvala wasn’t far behind, so he overtook me in the overall standings. I’m now under threat from Mikkelsen, so I’ll have to keep pushing to hold onto this position.”

Despite the small gap, Citroën Racing played it safe by fitting their cars with two spare tyres for the afternoon’s loop. Dani’s rival then went off on SS14. The no.3 DS3 WRC driver therefore had a clear run to the end: “I’m pleased to have avoided making any major mistakes in the rally, especially on a course as difficult as this one. We did what we could and our efforts have secured a few points for the team. We mustn’t give up. We have to keep working to ensure we have a more successful second half to the season.”

Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin enjoyed a sensible race to bring home the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC in tenth position overall. The Emirati driver thus scored his first point in 2013: “Most of all, I’m pleased to have made it to the end without making any mistakes. After the Acropolis Rally, I really wanted to rebuild my confidence by taking my time. So I have achieved that goal.”

“Although recent rounds have given us real reasons to be pleased, my feelings are more mixed after this rally,” admitted Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Apart from the result of our works crews, I take heart from the maturity shown by Robert Kubica. His second consecutive win in WRC2 shows that he has all the qualities to become one of the best among the current crop of rally drivers, and we are going to keep working with him to achieve just that.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 3:22:57.9
2 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:16.8
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +1:48.0
4 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +3:19.2
5 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:34.1
6 Evans / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:51.8
7 Kosciuszko / Szczepaniak Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:52.7
8 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +13:21.5
9 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +16:47.6
10 Al-Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +17:19.9

WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Drivers
1. S. Ogier, 154 pts
2. JM. Latvala, 90 pts
3. T. Neuville, 70 pts
4. S. Loeb, 68 pts
5. M. Hirvonen, 61 pts
6. D. Sordo, 59 pts
7. M. Østberg, 50 pts
8. M. Prokop, 37 pts
9. E. Novikov, 31 pts
10. N. Al-Attiyah, 30 pts
11. A. Mikkelsen, 25 pts
12. B. Bouffier, 10 pts
13. J. Hänninen, 8 pts
14. C. Atkinson, 8 pts
15. E. Evans, 8 pts
16. M. Kosciuszko, 7 pts
17. K. Block, 6 pts
18. S. Wiegand, 4 pts
19. H. Solberg, 4 pts
20. B. Guerra, 4 pts
21. O. Burri, 2 pts
22. R. Kubica, 2 pts

Manufacturers
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 220 pts
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 174 pts
3. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 89 pts
4. Qatar WRT, 89 pts
5. Jipocar Czech National Team, 39 pts
6. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 33 pts
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 26 pts
8. Lotos WRC Team, 20 pts
13-06-22 Fessman successfully completes European debut
Carlos Garcia Fessman was delighted to pass through all eight of Saturday’s stages successfully and guide his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X safely to the finish of Ralliart Italy’s home event Rally d’Italia Sardegna. One of only five Mitsubishis to survive the tough Sardinian gravel, Fessman was very happy with the experience he gained on Day Two. Now he is looking forward to widening his horizons later in the season as he hopes to take on more European rounds of the 2013 WRC Calendar.

After a premature end to his Day One outing when he suffered turbo problems en route to SS2, forcing him to retire from the day, Fessman was pleased to get back out this morning. He took SS9 carefully, but found a better rhythm on SS10 and SS11 as he began to learn how to handle his Lancer. He remained cautious on the unfamiliar roads and approached the afternoon loop steadily to avoid falling foul of the increasingly worn stages, focused on making it to the end of the tricky event.

He had one small moment on SS13, when he clipped the right rear of his Mitsubishi on a rock. Fessman bent a rim and had to stop on the tight 1.3km road section to SS14 to change the tyre. He was unfortunately delayed by five minutes checking in to the next Time Control, leaving him with a 15 second penalty. However, he was relieved not to have done more damage and to be able to continue unscathed to finish the rally 35th overall.

Fessman was pleased with his Rally d’Italia experience and can’t wait to get back out on the WRC stages: “Rally d’Italia is a fantastic event. I enjoyed the driving, but also the whole experience. Victor and I really enjoyed working with the team and getting an insight into the WRC. Our Lancer was great and we feel we made a big improvement during the event. Now we want to build on that experience and take her out in Finland.”

Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was pleased with Fessman’s European debut: “It was a pleasure to work with Carlos and Victor here in Sardinia. Carlos already had a good feeling with the car, because he drives a Mitsubishi in his regional Championship. However, now he’s learning new terrain and wants to put in a pre-event test to ensure he is as comfortable as possible before his next WRC round. We hope to see him flying on the fast Finnish gravel! We’d also like to thank Venezuela and their Ministry of Sport for their cooperation and are looking forward to seeing Carlos fly the flag for them at the finish this evening!”
13-06-22 P-G Andersson om WRC-premiären på Sardinien "Olyckligt start - men kul att vara med i Rally-VM igen!"
Per-Gunnar "P-G" Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson har just gått i mål i sin säsongsdebut i WRC tillsammans med AT Rallyteam. Det blev långt ifrån den start de önskat sig i Rally-VM på Sardinien. På den inledande sträckan drog de på sig en punktering som kostade dem närmare tre minuter.
"Jag råkade kana lite för långt ut i en sväng på första sträckan och slog i en sten" berättar P-G "Vi slog i en sten så olyckligt att vi fick en punktering".

På rallyts femte sträcka under gårdagens rally, slutade driveninge på bilen att fugera och svenskarna blev först framhjulsdrivna och när tre sträckor återstod fick de parkera bilen:
- "Drivningen på både vänster fram och vänster bak slutade fungera".

P-G och Emil startade om idag med femton minuter i tidstillägg för de sträckor de missade igår och startade dagen på 27:e plats. De startade idag som första bil på sträckorna, vilket innebar att de tvingades "sopa rent" vägen från allt lösgrus:
- "Det var otroligt halt och svårkört" säger P-G "Bilen var lite överallt och det var svårt att hitta rätt inställningar för underlaget".

Efter serviceuppehållet idag, kördes morgonens sträckor om en gång och då kunde de höja upp tempot:
- "Det blev en lite olycklig start på rallyt" säger P-G "Det gjorde att jag hade lite svårt att hitta känslan och förtroendet i bilen. Men idag tycker jag att vi kom in i det bättre och bättre. Det handlade inte bara om at dutta på bromsen, utan vi började köra bil. På de två sista sträckorna började rytmen komma och jag litade mer på bil och noter".

P-G och Emil avslutade rallyt med femte respektive sjätte bästa tid på de två sista sträckorna och klättrade upp från 27:e till 13:e plats.
- "Det behövs mer mil i kroppen för att hänga med. Då kommer farten att komma automatiskt" säger P-G.

Nästa VM-deltävling blir Rally Finland i början på augusti. Men dessförinnan ska teamet försöka hinna med att köra Rally Estonia som en testtävling:
- "Det har verkligen varit fantastiskt kul att få vara tillbaka i VM igen. Och jag måste verkligen få tacka alla supportrar för allt stöd och alla svenska flaggor längst vägarna" avslutar P-G.

Sebastien Ogier vann Rally VM-deltävilngen i Italien, före Thierry Neuville och Jari-Matti Latvala blev trea.

Nästa VM-rallyt blir Rally Finland 1-4 augusti. Dessförinnan räknar teamet med att köra Rally Estonia 19-20 juli som ett test inför Rally Finland.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi följt rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.

Rally VM Sardinien
1. Sebastien Ogier (F) 3:22:57.9
2. Thierry Neuville (B) 3:24:14.7 +1:16.8
3. Jari-Matti Latvala 3:24:45.9 +1:48.0
4 Dani Sordo (E) 3:26:17.1 +3:19.2
5 Martin Prokop (PL) 3:31:32.0 +8:34.1
6. Elfyn Evans (GB) 3:34:49.7 +11:51.8
7. Michal Kosciuszko (PL) 3:34:50.6 +11:52.7
8. Mads Østberg (N) 3:36:19.4 +13:21.5
9. Robert Kubica (PL) 3:39:45.5 +16:47.6
10. Khalid Al Qassimi (Ar) 3:40:17.8 +17:19.9
-
13. P-G Andersson 3:47:36.7 +24:38.8
13-06-22 Midday Quotes, Rally Italia Sardegna Day 2
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“I don’t think it should be too much of a problem to keep Jari-Matti [Latvala] behind us to be honest. We were setting the same pace on all the stages this morning apart from the last one where I made a small mistake. I was caught out under braking and ran wide at a junction.

“I think our strategy is working quite well at the moment. Obviously when I am feeling confident with the car we can push a little bit harder, but there have been no major mistakes so far. We’ve had a few small moments when we were a bit late under braking, but there has been no damage to the car which is a good thing for the confidence this afternoon.

“We adjusted the brakes and springs after remote service yesterday to make the set-up a bit stiffer, and it really seems to be working well for us.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:
“It’s been going well so far. I think we’ve made some good progress and this morning was another step forward. There have been a couple of little errors which have cost us some time but it is all part of the learning experience.

“We’d not been taking too much notice of the times until this morning, but there is a great battle between us and Michal [Kosciusko] at the moment which should be interesting this afternoon. I’ve taken a little bit here, and then he’s taken a little bit there, so I think that will be an exciting close to the rally.

“But I think the main thing for us this afternoon will just be to focus on our own event. We’ve identified the areas where we need to improve – mainly where not to lose time as opposed to gaining more time.

“I’ve really enjoyed this morning. Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver] and I are working well – he’s been fantastic and the car has been faultless all weekend so I’m really looking forward to enjoying my last four stages in the world rally car.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“Health wise, I feel a little bit better than I did yesterday, but still not brilliant. But it’s OK. I think we can relax a bit now and just concentrate on getting through all the stages this afternoon. I’m not sure how many more places we can make up on the second loop, but it has been an eventful morning so anything can still happen.

“We had a good run on the first stage [this morning, SS9], but then on the second one [SS10] we lost the intercom after a couple of kilometres which meant that we had to do almost the entire stage without any pacenotes. Then on the next one [SS11] we had a slow puncture and on the last one [SS12] we had a spin – so things have been happening!

“This afternoon we will just try to have a good drive with a good rhythm and increase the speed. We’ll certainly try and push in the Power Stage too
13-06-22 Consani leads the way
After an extremely testing day’s racing, French driver Stéphane Consani moved into the lead in the Citroën Top Driver. Christian Riedemann and Sébastien Chardonnet complete the event’s top three after the first le

Particularly dense and hot, day one of Rally Italia Sardegna featured eight timed sections, broken up by three service periods of 15, 30 and 45 minutes respectively. The crews began the rally with the weekend’s longest stage: the 31 kilometre-long Monte Lerno 1. This first test was the most difficult of the day. Bryan Bouffier set the fastest time, despite hitting a rock which damaged the front of his car. Meanwhile, Sébastien Chardonnet picked up a puncture, which cost him over two minutes. Hampered by the dust kicked up by the DS3 R3 of the Côte d’Azur-based driver, Quentin Gilbert had to slow down and was caught by Alastair Fisher, who then went off in the dust cloud left by his rival. That was not however the last of the incidents, as Keith Cronin and Simone Campedelli also picked up punctures, losing precious time as a result.

Next, the crews tackled two shorter and more abrasive stages. Whilst a fantastic scrap unfolded between Sébastien Chardonnet and Keith Cronin as each tried to grab the stage win, “Castelsardo 1” also saw several retirements. Bryan Bouffier went off, whilst Simone Campedelli damaged the suspension of his DS3 R3 when he hit a rock. These incidents allowed Christian Riedemann to move up into the overall lead. The German driver’s consistency helped him to hold onto the lead until the penultimate stage. The young French drivers Stéphane Consani and Quentin Gilbert completed the top three at that point.

After stopping off briefly in Sassari for a 15-minute remote service, the crews set off to tackle the same loop of three stages. The story was very much the same as on the first loop, with the same fiercely contested scrap between Sébastien and Keith, who helped themselves to the fastest times. They kept on moving up the overall standings, while the top three remained unchanged. Stéphane Consani was however moving closer to the lead, and was by then only sixteen seconds adrift.

The drivers concluded the day with the Gallura stage. Held on roads just a few kilometres from the event’s nerve centre, the stage was run twice, one of which was after nightfall. Unfortunately, Quentin Gilbert was unable to start the penultimate stage, after running out of petrol. However, it was the night stage that was set to change the forecasts. Having gradually closed the gap to Christian Riedemann, Stéphane Consani moved ahead of the German, who was impeded by dust kicked up by another car. The Frenchman took over as leader at the end of the stage, while Sébastien Chardonnet rounded the day off in style with the stage win.

“I wasn’t expecting to be in the lead this evening,” said the young French driver. “It was a long day but despite the difficulties we ran into, we managed to stay calm and remain focussed. We’ll be doing everything possible to hold onto the lead tomorrow, even though there is still a long way to go.”
13-06-22 Neuville holds podium position after Day 1 in Sardinia
Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul did the Qatar World Rally Team proud on the opening day of Rally Italia Sardegna today. Securing two stage wins, Neuville applied equal doses of speed and maturity to secure the third step of the podium going into tomorrow’s final stages.

Proving that they have the pace as well as the consistency, the Belgians clearly have a taste for podium finishes of late. Starting cautiously, they soon found their confidence. So much so in fact that they flew from sixth to third over the day’s 147.12 kilometres – a near-perfect set-up on their Ford Fiesta RS WRC and improved pacenote system accounting for their impressive form. Using the first loop to double check the notes, they showcased their true pace over the second pass.

With just 3.1 seconds standing between Neuville and second place, tomorrow’s final day will see Belgium’s latest protégé on the hunt for his best ever result in the FIA World Rally Championship.

In the fellow Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta, Elfyn Evans was also putting in a sterling performance. Starting cautiously on his debut with M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta, the Welshman continually improved his performance. His showing was all the more noteworthy given that this is his first venture to this notoriously difficult and unforgiving event; not to mention his first outing with the voice of Giovanni Bernacchini behind the notes.

Keeping his head, the Welshman lies a creditable ninth place going into tomorrow’s final stages – something he will be keen to hold onto for a points paying finish on his world rally car debut.

Despite suffering from an inflamed throat, Mads Østberg was also impressing behind the wheel of his Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC. Admittedly struggling to keep focused on the tricky, technical stages over the morning loop, the Norwegian’s determination and out-right pace was paying dividends. Partnered by Swedish co-driver, Jonas Andersson, the duo rarely found themselves outside of the top-five fastest crews.

Lying fourth at the end of SS7, Østberg was in a tight battle for second place with Hirvonen and Neuville. But disaster was to strike the Norwegian on the final stage of the day [SS8]. Succumbing to the slippery conditions of the night stage, Østberg rolled his Fiesta RS WRC on a deceptive left-hand corner after a crest two kilometres into the ‘Gallura 2’ test. The team are currently recovering the car and will later assess whether or not the car will be able to restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

There was similar misfortune for the fellow Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta of Evgeny Novikov and Ilka Minor. Eager to showcase his potential as a future rally winner, the Russian had been lying in a strong third place until a roll on SS2 brought an untimely end to his rally. Carrying too much speed into a tightening right-hander some 200 metres from the stage start, Novikov hit a stone wall which consequentially rolled the car and caused significant damage to his Fiesta RS WRC.

Unfortunately for the youngster, the damage proved too severe and Novikov will not restart for tomorrow’s final day.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“As with the last two rallies, our aim here was just to get to the finish and I think it’s paying off again. Obviously we had a very good feeling with the car today. Everything is working really well so we said it would be stupid to slow down when there was no reason to do so and no big risks with the driving. When the times are good and we don’t feel on the edge, there is no point in losing the rhythm and risking a loss of concentration.

“I saw where Mads [Østberg] went off [on SS8]. It was a blind corner after a crest and I don’t know if there was some dust on the road because it was very slippery. When I touched the brake there the car just went straight on so I think I was lucky there and Mads was just very unlucky.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“We’ve had a lot of new things to deal with today – new car, new co-driver, new rally – so pretty much everything was new! It was a big challenge, but a great opportunity and throughout the day with learnt a lot about the car and a lot about each other.

“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow now. We’ll just try to stick with what we’ve got now. We definitely don’t want to go backwards, but if we can keep improving step by step that would be good. Our main focus was always just to finish the rally, and that won’t change tomorrow – hopefully we can continue to improve along the way.

“There isn’t a big gap up to eighth, but we promised ourselves before we got here that we weren’t going to look at times. We’ll just concentrate on doing our own thing, try to improve further and just see what that brings.”

Evgeny Novikov (DNF) said:
“It was just after the start of the second stage [SS2] going into the first right-hand corner. We were carrying too much speed and it was really slippery. The corner tightened, but in my pacenotes we had it marked down as ‘flat’. We hit a stone wall and damaged the left side of the car quite badly – especially the rear-left.

“Unfortunately for us, and for the team, we will not restart tomorrow. Of course it is very disappointing, but the most important thing is that both myself and Ilka [Minor, co-driver] are OK.”

Mads Østberg
Østberg rolled his Ford Fiesta RS WRC on SS6. Both driver and co-driver were unharmed and the team will now assess whether they will be able to restart under Rally 2 tomorrow.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been a day of mixed fortunes for the team today. Thierry has been fantastic once again. He’s taken two stage wins – the only driver other than the Volkswagens to do so – which is very encouraging for him for the remainder of the season. And with just a three second gap to Mikko [Hirvonen, in second] he and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] have done an excellent job.

“Elfyn [Evans] too has driven really well on his first event with a world rally car. He’s built his pace as the day went on and shown that he can learn and adapt quickly to a difficult situation.

“Unfortunately both Evgeny [Novikov] and Mads [Østberg] were caught out by the difficult nature of this event. Evgeny won’t restart tomorrow and the team are currently assessing whether or not Mads will be able to rejoin the rally tomorrow.”
13-06-21 Citroën makes it thorugh the longest day
High temperatures made the long first leg of Rally Sardegna a tough, demanding day. Given the testing conditions, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s DS3 WRCs fared well. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen held firmly onto the second place they took on the first stage, whilst Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio ended the day fourth overall.

Summer solstice, the 21st June, is traditionally the longest day of the year. For the competitors in this year’s Rally Sardegna, this description was particularly apt, given that day one of the Italian round of the WRC almost seemed like it would never end. After leaving the port of Olbia at 6.30am, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin didn’t drive into parc fermé until 11.15pm, long after the sun had set…

The day’s proceedings began in Monte Lerno with a 31km-long stage. On a fast surface, easy on the tyres, Mikko Hirvonen grabbed second in the overall standings. Although he wasn’t as comfortable on this first test, Dani Sordo bounced back on Castelsardo. The Spaniard moved up into fourth place.

At the end of SS3, the competitors stopped off briefly in Sassari for 15-minute service, during which the mechanics only had time to change the Michelin Latitude Cross tyres and repair bodywork components damaged by the branches and rocks. “Overall, it went well, although I had some difficulty looking after my tyres on the twisty stages,” analyzed Mikko. “I’m pushing hard to try and stay in touch with the leader, but that can lead to minor mistakes so I have to make sure I don’t make too many.”

After the second run on these three stages, the trend continued. After SS6, Mikko was still in second place, around forty seconds off the pace: “Most of all, I have to keep pushing to hold off the three guys who are just behind me. I feel good in the DS3 WRC and I could drive more quickly, but you still have to look after the tyres to make sure you get to the end of the stages.”

“I get the impression that our tyres are falling off a little bit more quickly than with the other guys, without us being any quicker,” added Dani, who was fifth at that point. “So far, we have managed to keep out of trouble in this rally, but we’ll have to keep pushing if we’re to have a chance of finishing on the podium. We’re going to work on the set-up again for the last two stages of the day.”

Indeed, after the service, the crews still had two runs on Gallura before the day’s racing was complete. As SS8 was held after nightfall, the crews feared visibility would be poor, due a combination of the dust and darkness. After Østberg was forced to retire, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s DS3 WRCs arrived back in Olbia in second and fourth positions overall.

Eleventh after the final stage of the leg, Khalid Al-Qassimi seemed most of all pleased to have completed today’s eight stages: “It wasn’t easy to sweep the racing line, by being first on the road. But after I went off at the Acropolis Rally, I was really looking to rebuild my confidence. I didn’t change the set-up, because I just wanted to drive without taking any risks.”

Once again showing an impressive turn of speed in their DS3 RRC, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran lie tenth overall and lead the WRC2 category by over a minute. “The most difficult thing was to manage the dust,” stressed the Pole. “The FIA want to improve safety and yet they send us out with one minute between drivers. I lost a lot of time in these dangerous conditions, but apart from that, it went pretty well.”

In the Citroën Top Driver series, Stéphane Consani grabbed the overall lead on the eighth stage. He is less than thirty seconds clear of Christian Riedemann and Sébastien Chardonnet.

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 1:40:47.3
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +46.6
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +49.7
4 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +1:19.4
5 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +1:44.0
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +1:55.4
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:50.4
8 Kosciuszko / Szczepaniak
9 Evans / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:34.5
10 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +8:35.3
11 Al-Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +8:40.2
13-06-21 Eventing "uotes, Rally Italia Sardegna, Day 1
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“We worked on the brakes [at remote service] because we had no ‘bite’ this morning. The mechanics did a great job – it wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly a lot better. We also made the car a bit stiffer and I automatically had a lot more confidence. The traction was much better and, honestly, I just felt really comfortable.

“We’re in another great position now, but we can’t get carried away. Of course to keep the podium is what we want, but we also have to be clever as there is still a long way to go.”

Mads Østberg (4th) said:
“We had a spin in the last stage [SS6]. Right from the start [of that stage] I was struggling with oversteer. I tried to push but we were never able to keep the line with the rear of the car. I knew I was losing time so I was pushing really hard. But in one corner the rear stepped out too much and I just couldn’t get it back. It was quite a scary place, so we were quite lucky really!”

Elfyn Evans (10th) said:
“The road conditions have improved a lot since this morning so the feeling is getting better all the time. The first two stages that we repeated [SS4 and SS5] went reasonably well. I can see improvements everywhere – the feeling with the car, the relationship with Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver] – I think we’re making some positive steps in all areas.

“We had a little bit of an issue with an over-heating brake – which was down to me – in the last stage [SS6], but up until then the feeling was good. Obviously we lost a few seconds, but it is all part of the learning experience and I’m still really enjoying the opportunity.”
13-06-21 Fessman to Restart on Day Two
Carlos Garcia Fessman will restart on Day Two under Rally 2 Regulations in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X after his campaign on Day One of Rally d’Italia Sardinia came to a premature end on the road section to SS2. Heading out this morning towards Sassari, the destination of today’s Remote Service, Fessman was focused on gaining as much experience as possible on the alien Italian gravel and his first ever competitive outing in Europe.

The Venezuelan was pleased with his progress on SS1. He didn't have any 'moments' and he felt confident in his Lancer as he quickly began to learn the style of the Sardinian roads. Unfortunately, approximately 3km from the end of SS1, he began to suffer from turbo problems.

The high temperatures outside the car worked against the cautious driving style Fessman had chosen to adopt on his opening loop, causing the antilag system to overheat. Unusually high levels of oil loss en route to SS2 then forced him to retire from the leg in order to protect his engine and place in Rally d’Italia for Day Two.

The car was in good shape when it returned to service and is ready to go tomorrow morning after a successful turbo replacement and additional routine checks. Fessman can’t wait to get back out on the first stage of Day Two, SS9, a typical Sardinian test, with narrow, twisty roads.

Short though his Day One campaign was, Fessman’s experience today should help his confidence when he heads out again in the morning: “It was a shame to retire from the day so early on, but we’re always learning and our priority had to be saving our Mitsubishi for tomorrow. It’s a totally new experience for us competing here in Sardinia and we want to get as much experience as possible.”

Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is disappointed not to see Fessman with more kilometres under his belt as he heads into Day Two, but feeling positive about tomorrow: "Sardinia isn't an easy rally and the heat of the day makes the conditions even tougher to tackle. This is just the start of Carlos' journey in the WRC and we were all pleased at how calmly he handled his problem this morning, working well with the team, so that we could make sure he'd be back in action on Day Two!"
13-06-21 Mardrömsöppning för P-G i säsongsdebuten i WRC i Rally-VM på Sardinien!
Det blev en riktig mardrömsöppning P-G Andersson och Emil Axelsson i deras säsongsdebut med AT Rallyteam, när Rally-VM drog igång idag på Sardinien.
- "Ja, det kan man lugnt säga" säger P-G "Vi fick en tuff start på vår säsongsöppning".

Redan på första sträckan grinade oturen de rätt i ansiktet:
- "Jag råkade kana lite för långt ut i en sväng på första sträckan och slog i en sten" berättar P-G "Vi slog i en sten så olyckligt att vi fick en punktering" .

Incidenten kostade de nästan tre minuter och de inledde på en artonde plats. De lyckades sedan arbeta sig upp till toflte plats, när de på första sträckan efter service åter fick problem:
"Jag försökte börja om och hitta rytmen efter punkteringen, men när jag väl hittade rytmen igen fick vi problem med drivningen" säger P-G.

Svenskarna tvingades köra med bara drivning på framhjulen och det handlade bara om att få bilen att hålla ihop till service som var efter SS6:
- "Men på sista sträckan innan servicen slutade bilen bara att driva" berättar bedrövat.

Det var bara att kasta in handduken och nu hoppas de båda på omstart i morgon:
- "Jag förstår egentligen inte vad som orsakade problemet. Vi hade inget genomslag eller så. Vi hoppas att det går att åtgärda problemet, målet är självklart att starta om igen i morgon" avslutar P-G.

Två sträckor återstår av dagens rally och det är Sebastien Ogier som leder, föreMikko Hirvonen och Therry Neuville ligger trea.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi kommer följa rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.
13-06-21 Midday Quotes, Rally Italia Sardegna, Day 1
Mads Østberg (3rd) said:
“I’m not feeling 100 per cent this weekend but I think this morning has been OK. I struggled a bit in the first stage [SS1] just to find the rhythm and concentrate properly. But I drove as fast as I could within my confidence limit. It was the same with the second stage [SS2] and I have to really think when listening to the pacenotes.

“But the last one [SS3] was working quite well. It’s not as technical as the other two so it is a lot easier to stay focussed. I managed that and we are in a good position. Hopefully I’ll get a bit better as the day goes on and we can look to push a bit more.”

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“This morning has been OK. We took it carefully on the first stage [SS1] and the second one [SS2] was quite good for us too. Then on the last one [SS3], I spun about one kilometre into the stage which was a bit frustrating. After that I decided to push to make back some of the time and we didn’t lose too much in the end which was good.

“This afternoon we just need to keep doing what we are doing. Now that we know the stages a little better we can see where we can do better and make up some time. Hopefully we can up the pace a little without losing any more time with silly mistakes.”

Elfyn Evans (10th) said:
“It’s been a very difficult morning. Even though we are not running first on the road, it is still very loose for us out on the stages so we have been struggling with grip. We made some small changes which helped, but it’s still not easy out there.

“I’m struggling with confidence too. In the fast sections I still don’t have that confidence with Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver] which is so important here. It’s nothing he’s doing wrong; it’s just a personal thing. There are so many new things – the rally, the car, the co-driver. I’m maybe thinking twice as much as I need to and as a result things aren’t happening quite as naturally as they should be.

“With a cleaner road it should be easier this afternoon and we’ll look at having a better run and improving step by step.”

Evgeny Novikov (DNF) said:
“It was just after the start of the second stage [SS2] going into the first right-hand corner. We were carrying too much speed and it was really slippery. The corner tightened, but in my pacenotes we had it marked down as ‘flat’. We hit a stone wall and damaged the left side of the car quite badly – especially the rear-left.

“For the moment I don’t know if we will be able to continue tomorrow. We will know soon once the FIA have had a look at the car and the mechanics are able to make the repairs. Of course it is very disappointing, but the most important thing is that both myself and Ilka [Minor, co-driver] are OK.”
13-06-21 Liverapportering från Sardinien
I helgen följer alla WRC-bilarna med förarkommentarer på www.pgandersson.se
13-06-20 P-G Anderssons och Emil Axelsson går ut som fjärde bil i Sardiniens Rally-VM
P-G Andersson och Emil Axelsson har idag kört både shakedown, som är ett höghastighetstest och kvalificeringssträckan inför Rally-VM på Sardinien. Sträckan var 3,86 km lång och avgjorde startordningen inför fredagens rally:
- "Det här var en av rallyts svåraste sträckor. En riktigt tuff sträcka" berättar P-G "Den är fruktansvärd smal, stenig och bökig. Vi gjorde en tvärändrning på setupen efter shakedown och det kändes possitivt".

P-G och Emil fick tionde snabbaste tid på kvalsträckan:
- "Det var ungefär vad jag hade räknat med" säger P-G "Jag hade i och för sig önskat att vu varit före Prokop också, men å andra sidan vill jag inte riskera och köra sönder något".

Jari-Matti Latvala var snabbaste förare på och valde att gå ut som bil nummer tretton i morgon. Först ut blir Khalid Al Qassimi före Michal Kosciuszk och Elfyn Evans. Som fjärde bil kommer vi i morgon att se P-G och Emil.

Rallyt drar igång 07:58 imorgon bitti och svenskarna ser fram emot starten.
- "Det är uppemot 40 grader varmt här i skuggan, så det gäller att man ser till att få i sig vätska" säger P-G "Vi ser verkligen fram emot starten och ska försöka hålla huvudet kallt. SS2 och SS3 är helt nya för oss"

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi kommer följa rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.
13-06-19 P-G Anderssons har en bra känsla och pirr imagen inför WRC-debuten på Sardinien!
VM-rallyt på Sardinien drar igång på allvar under midsommaraftonen. Förarna har just avklarat rekognoseringen, då ekipagen skriver sina egna noter. P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson har kört här flera gånger tidigare, så de känner till de flesta sträckor:
"Sardinien bjuder som vanligt på utmanande sträckor där det gäller att hålla bilen mitt på vägen. Det är gott om sten i kanterna och många trånga kombinationer! Andra och tredje sträckan är helt nya för oss, så där fåt vi vara lite extra uppmärksamma. Det kommer att bli stenigt i spåren på andra varvet" tror P-G

I morgon kommer shakedown att genomföras och sedan körs en 3,86 km lång kvalificeringssträcka då startordningen på fredagen avgörs:
- "Kvalsträckan är trång, stenig och svår. Det är nödvändigt att vi får några bilar före oss på fredagen som sopar bort lösgruset" förklarar P-G "Så det gäller att vi får till en så bra tid som möjligt"

P-G och Emil är båda taggade och ser fram emot att rallyt ska dra igång.
- "Jag har en bra känsla" säger P-G "Och det börjar bli lite pirr i magen och tankarna inför kvalificeringssträckan börjar krypa på".

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi kommer följa rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.
13-06-18 P-G Anderssons drömchans startar på midsommarafton - Kör den första av sex WRC-tävlingar i VM på Sardinien!
P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson är på plats i Sardinien för att debutera i AT-Rallyteams WRC Ford Fiesta. Det är är den första av de sex utlovade VM-deltävlingarna som P-G gör tillsammans med teamet. Ukranaren Alexey Tamrazov driver det här teamet och är densom ger svenskarna den här drömchansen!
- "Det är verkligen en helt fantastiskt chans AT-Rallyteam ger oss" säger P-G "Vi kört test tillsammans med teamet under söndagen och måndagen och jag tycker vi har fått till inställningarna riktigt bra".

P-G och Emil kommer nu tillsammans med de andra förarna att rekognosera vägarna idag och imorgon:
- "Vi har nog kört de flesta sträckorna förut. Det brukar vara ganska bra grusvägar här på Sardinien, åtminstonde på första varvet. Men vi får se när vi har skrivit noterna" förklarar P-G.

På torsdag är det sedan dags för shakedown och sedan körs ett kval:
- "Det är något som bara WRC-bilarna gör, så det blir med andra ord första gången för mig" skrattar P-G. kvalificering innebär att den med snabbaste tid, är den som får välja startnummer först, osv.

Rallyt drar sedan igång på allvar på midsommarafton klockan 07:58 och målgången är redan på lördag kväll.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se där vi kommer följa rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.

Startlista Rally Italia Sardegna
2. Mikko Hirvonen Finland
3. Daniel Sordo Spanien
4. Mads Östberg Norge
5. Evgeny Novikov Ryssland
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar
7. Jari-Matti Latvala Finland
8. Sebastien Ogier Frankrike
9. Andreas Mikkelsen Norge
10. Khalid Al Qassimi F. Arabamiraten
11. Thierry Neuville Belgien
12 Michal Kosciuszko Polen
21. Martin Prokop Polen
22. P-G Andersson Sverige
23. Daniel Oliviera Brasilien

Tidsschema Rally Italia Sardegna
(Svensk tid)
Torsdag 20 juni
11:00 QS Monte Pinu 3,86

Fredag 21 juni
07:58 SS1 Monte Leno 1 31,08 km
10:46 SS2 Castelsardo 1 14,00 km
11:34 SS3 Tergu.-Osilio 1 14,88 km
Service A
13:49 SS4 Castelsardo 2 14,00 km
14:37 SS5 Tergu-Osilo 2 14,88 km
16:45 SS6 Monte Lerno 31,08 km
Service B
19:23 SS7 Gallura 1 13,55 km
21:28 SS8 Gallura 2 13,55 km
Service C

Lördag 22 juni
Service D
08:06 SS9 Monte Olia 1 19,27 km
08:36 SS10 Terranova 1 14,82 km
09:19 SS11 Monti Di Alá 1 22,25 km
10:27 SS12 Coiluna - Loelle 1 22,35 km
Service E
14:25 SS13 Monte Olia 2 19,27 km
14;55 SS14 Terranova 2 14,82 km
15:38 SS15 Monti Di Alá 2 22,25 km
16:46 SS16 Coiluna - Loelle 2 22,35 km
Service E
19:30 Målgång
13-06-17 Qatar M-Sport seeks Sardinian success
Seeking success on the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRCs will be looking for a strong result on the challenging stages of Rally Italia Sardegna this week.

Returning to its summer-time slot, this season’s event will see the crews encounter some of the highest temperatures of the year. But that won’t be the only challenge awaiting the crews on what is one of the most unforgiving fixtures on the 2013 calendar. The stages might not be as abrasive as the previous round in Greece, but their narrow and technical nature means that even the smallest of mistakes are rarely excused.

However, based on the Italian island of Sardinia, the event provides one of the championship’s most picturesque settings. Beyond the glitz and glamour of the island retreat, rugged mountains, ancient forests and unspoiled rural terrain makes it ideal rallying territory. This year’s route remains largely unchanged and will once again incorporate a mix of rough and smooth gravel roads, jumps and water splashes – the spectacular ‘Micky’s Jump’ on the Monte Lerno stage providing one of the rally’s best-known vantage points.

Fresh from victory at Rally Aurskog/Høland – fifth round of the Norwegian Rally Championship – Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson will be full of confidence and looking to put their previous misfortunes well and truly behind them.

The Norwegian has a strong track record at the Italian event. Securing fifth place in 2011 and fourth on the event last year, Østberg will be keen to do one better as he seeks a podium finish this weekend.

After leading his first WRC event in the opening phases of the Acropolis Rally, Østberg’s team mate, Evgeny Novikov, is another driver with a point to prove. Setting the fastest time on five of the Greek event’s speed tests, the Russian has proved that he is capable of performing at the head of the field.

Novikov also has good form in Sardinia: securing a creditable fifth place on his 2009 debut and claiming the second step of the podium on last year’s outing. Partnered by Austrian co-driver Ilka Minor – who navigated the Muscovite to his second-placed finish last year – the pairing will be looking for much of the same this week.

In the Qatar World Rally Team, Thierry Neuville won’t let the success of his second podium of the year go to his head. Ever composed, the Belgian vows to adopt another cautious approach for this event – maximising the opportunity to make further strides behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC.

Partnered by fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul, the pairing will be back to competition sooner than some might imagine as they contest the Geko Ypres Rally (27 – 29 June) as a ‘VIP’ car with M-Sport's latest challenger, the Ford Fiesta R5. Indeed the young duo are the perfect candidates to showcase the speed and reliability of the all-new Fiesta – their knowledge of the specialist event sure to shine on the sixth round of the European Rally Championship.

It’s all change in the sister Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta as commitments in Qatar saw Nasser Al-Attiyah forced to forfeit his Rally Italia entry. Proactive in his support of talented youngsters, the Qatari saw it only right that his Fiesta RS WRC be offered to M-Sport’s 2012 FIA WRC Academy Cup Winner, Elfyn Evans; thus giving the Welshman his competitive debut in a World Rally Car.

Another driver with a mature head on his shoulders, Evans won’t squander the opportunity. This will be his debut at the Italian event – let alone behind the wheel of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta – and his first time with the Latin accent of Giovanni Bernacchini behind the notes. Given the obvious challenges, the Welshman aims to adopt a cautious approach to gain as much as he can from the experience. That said, Evans is a proven quick learner and a top-ten finish is certainly well within his ability.

Mads Østberg said:
“The rally we did in Norway [Rally Aurskog/Høland] was all about building our confidence and enjoying ourselves, and from that side of things, I think it was really good preparation for Sardinia. We’ve not had the best start to the season, so it was important to go to an event where there was no pressure and drive as fast as we could with no problems.

“We’ve done well here [in Sardinia] in the past and – like at all events this year – we want to be fighting for the podium. It’s an event that I really enjoy. It suits us [Jonas Andersson, co-driver, and I] and it suits the car so I know that we can fight for a good position. We just need to find a good rhythm and bring that same enjoyment that we had in Aurskog/Høland.

“It will be an intense event for sure. It’s a lot earlier in the year than usual so the heat will take its toll and the days are also very long with lots of stages, early mornings and late finishes. But we should be ok – we just need to ensure that we look after ourselves as well as the car! The stages are also very technical so you need to be very precise in your driving and make sure that the pacenotes are as detailed as they can be. Hopefully this could be our rally!”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“We’ve done well here in the past so I’ll be hoping to do well again this year. I think we proved in Greece that we can challenge at the top of the field. We set a good pace and won a lot of stages which is something we’ll be looking to build on in Sardinia.

“Of course this is another really challenging event. The stages can be quite slippery so it’s important to settle into a good rhythm from the very first stage. There can also be a lot of rocks on the side of the road that you need to look out for – it’s not so easy to recover from a mistake here!

“As always we will try our best. If you look at what happened last year, a lot of the front runners were caught out. Hopefully everything will come together for us as it did last year and we will be able to secure another good result for the team.”

Thierry Neuville said:
“Sometimes when the confidence is high after a strong result [like what we had in Greece], it’s tempting to push a little bit harder – but that is when mistakes can happen, especially on an event like this where the stages are very challenging. So for us, the plan will be to continue with the same approach we have had for the past two events – drive clever and make sure we get to the end of the event with as much experience as possible.

“This isn’t my favourite rally of the year. The stages are quite technical and very narrow which makes it difficult for the driver. You have very few chances to slide the car wide and if you make a mistake and do run wide, it can be costly. There can be a lot of stones on the line which you need to be aware of and a good set-up is very important if you are to challenge for the top times.

“After Sardinia, Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] and I will be competing in Ypres with the [Ford] Fiesta R5 which I’m really looking forward to. We will be driving as a ‘VIP’ car so there won’t be so much pressure. It will just be about going there to have fun and prove how competitive – and reliable – the car is. It’s been a long time since we’ve driven in the Belgian Championship, so it will be great to show the [Fiesta] R5 off to the home fans.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This is another absolutely fantastic opportunity for me and I want to say a huge thank-you to Nasser [Al-Attiyah] and Malcolm [Wilson] for considering me for the drive.

“It will be great to get back behind the wheel in competition, but it will certainly be a challenging event! This will be my first time in Sardinia, my first time in a WRC car and my first time with Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver]. But with the team behind me and Giovanni’s extensive experience, I know that I will be in capable hands.

“My aim for the event is just to enjoy it and gain further experience. I’m learning all the time, and if I can make it through all of the stages on this tricky event then I’ll be happy. The most important thing at the moment is to get as much competitive seat time as possible, and that will be my main goal this weekend.
13-06-17 Sardinian trip for Citroën top driver
Rally Italia-Sardegna, the second round of the Citroën Top Driver series, also marks the season’s halfway stage in the World Championship. And with just a few days to go before a well-deserved summer break, there may well be a holiday feel to the event. However, the ten Top Driver crews competing in the rally in their DS3 R3s will certainly not be looking to take it easy just yet. Everyone will be pushing and Bryan Bouffier, Sébastien Chardonnet and Quentin Gilbert will be using every ounce of their talent to hold onto the top positions in the standings of the Citroën formula.

Contested in the north east of Sardinia and based in Olbia, the Italian event has been brought forward to the start of the summer, having been held in October in 2012. Featuring a total of 305 kilometres of timed sections in sixteen special stages, the format for this year’s event is very different. The entire rally is packed into two long days’ racing on the Friday and Saturday, with no stage longer than 32 kilometres. The Citroën Top Driver’s leading crews will therefore need to demonstrate considerable strength and concentration on the event’s tricky, winding roads, which can also be rock-strewn and rutted in places, meaning punctures can be easily picked up.

Since its opening round at Rally de Portugal, this international challenge set up by Citroën Racing has grown in stature since it now boasts ten crews competing in DS3 R3s and four teams contesting the title. The truly international series features teams from the former corners of Europe. For the time being, the French drivers lead the way as they currently hold the top three positions in the standings. Championship leader Bryan Bouffier will start as the favourite in Italy. He made the most of his extensive experience to win in style on his first appearance in the Algarve.

“I have competed in Rally Italia Sardegna only once before, in 2007, and it was in a Citroën C2 R2 Max,” recalled the man from the Drôme. “It was a great rally, with narrow, winding roads which can sometimes break up. It was also very hot and we’ll probably get the same weather this year. Obviously, my aim is to finish on the podium because I need to record a good result if I’m to have a chance of competing in Finland. But I saw just how high the standard was in Portugal, so I know it won’t be easy.”

Bryan Bouffier is right to worry, given the eagerness of the two young French drivers on his shoulder in the standings. Sébastien Chardonnet (current leader of the WRC3 category following his win at Rallye Monte Carlo) and Quentin Gilbert (winner of the 2012 France Citroën Racing Trophy) begin the rally with the same desire to win.

For Sébastien, the goal is clear: “We are going to Sardinia with the same objective, to score good points. Our performance level on the gravel in Portugal was reassuring but we also saw just how stiff the competition was. We took part in Rally Adriatico a few weeks ago, and we ended up winning the two-wheel driver category in the DS3 R3. The race also gave us with a chance to work on some of the areas where we came up a little short in order to win in the Algarve. Although we’ve never competed in the Rally Italia Sardegna before, we are just going to give our very best to try and win the race.”

“We really can’t wait to start racing,” commented the man from the Vosges region, Quentin Gilbert. “Although I haven’t competed here before, I know that I’m going to enjoy it because driving on the same roads as the World Rally Championship is fabulous and very rewarding. Our goal is the same as ever: make it to the end and, if possible, finish on the top step of the podium whilst avoiding the mistakes made in Portugal. We’ll have to be fast, consistent and keep out of trouble.”

The three leaders are therefore all highly motivated, but are equally aware of the danger posed by some of the other crews, starting with Alastair Fisher and Keith Cronin. Whilst one was hampered by a technical problem and the other went off, the pace of the two drivers from the British Isles could clearly be seen in Portugal, as they claimed half of the stage wins at the rally between them. Unfortunate at the first event, Christian Riedemann, Francesco Parli, Simone Campedelli and Federico Della Casa will all be determined to improve here and will be starting at a frenetic pace. Finally, another promising new driver is set to throw his hat into the ring. Frenchman Stéphane Consani enters the Citroën Top Driver series with lofty ambitions.

In the teams’ standings, Top Teams leads the way, followed by Delta Rally Team and Sainteloc Racing. Currently lying fourth, Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast’s strong line-up will give it a good chance of moving up the standings. Two new teams will also be making their first outing: BP Racing and Gema Racing Team. As each will only be entering one driver at this event, they will not however be able to score points towards the teams’ championship.

The rally gets underway on Thursday, 20 June with the shakedown, staged towards the end of the morning. The ten Citroën Top Driver crews will then take part in a media training session before heading for Sassari for the ceremonial start, which is due to begin at 7pm.
13-06-17 Rally Italia Sardegna - Preview half time!
Rally Italia Sardenga, round seven of the World Championship, marks the half-way stage of the season. Ahead of the short summer break, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews will be looking to produce strong performances. Winners here last year, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen return to an event where they have always done well. Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will be equally determined to confirm the good form they have enjoyed on ‘hard’ gravel rallies.

Three weeks after the Acropolis Rally, the WRC continues at a round with similar characteristics: Mediterranean climate, stages on gravel roads that are fairly demanding on cars and tyres, and a compact course featuring ‘only’ 300 kilometres of special stages. Although the rally only lasts two days (Friday and Saturday), the organisers have nonetheless made the most of the time available, since the crews will be racing for at least 28 of the 37 hours separating the start from the finish! Mainly made up of tests of between 15 and 20 kilometres in length, the course is being held on stages that are well known to the drivers. The major innovation for this year is the Gallura stage, which will be held under cover of darkness on Saturday night.

Rally Sardegna has often been a happy hunting ground for Mikko Hirvonen. Last year, the Finn claimed his first WRC win in the Citroën DS3 WRC. Before that, he had been runner-up here five times in a row, starting in 2006. “Winning in Sardinia was one of the highlights of my 2012 season,” recalled Mikko. “After a series of podium finishes, I had pushed hard from the word go. My only goal was to win the rally! We have to start from scratch again this year. I think there’ll be a real fight at the front, starting in qualifying, especially as the starting positions that we choose will be used for half of the rally. After a frustrating weekend in Greece, I hope that the pieces of the jigsaw come together to enable us to secure a good result before the summer break.”

Although he missed the event in 2012, Dani Sordo has nonetheless finished as runner-up in Sardinia on two occasions. The Spaniard returns to the event feeling particularly motivated: “We saw in Portugal and then in Greece that I was pretty comfortable on road surfaces offering a good level of grip. That should also be the case in Sardinia! Finishing second at the Acropolis Rally did me a lot of good; it helped me to regain confidence after a bit of a rough patch. Like Mikko, I’m aiming for a very good result this weekend.”

The third works Citroën DS3 WRC, competing for the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team, will be driven by Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin. The United Arab Emirates driver has finished all three of the rallies he has entered this year, and is now determined to rack up his first points of the season this time around.

Clear winners in WRC2 at the Acropolis Rally, Robert Kubica and Maciej Baran continue their programme in the Citroën DS3 RRC. Ten crews from the Citroën Top Driver series will also line up for Rally Italia Sardegna.

THREE QUESTIONS FOR… DANI SORDO
Were you pleased to have finished as runner-up at the Acropolis Rally?
“Yes, I really needed this kind of result. After a bit of a crazy first stage, I found myself in a good position. Insofar as Mikko had ran into problems, the team asked me to control my pace. I raced for the rest of the rally with this in mind and we were pleased to get back onto the podium and pick up good points for both championships! It was important, first and foremost, to secure this second place, before then aiming higher.”

Are you therefore aiming to win in Sardinia?
“On paper, it’s my kind of rally. I like it when the car, the tyres and the surface combine to give you a good level of grip. We have done quite a lot of work on this with the team. After Portugal and Greece, Sardinia provides us with a chance to confirm the progress we have made. But before thinking about winning, you need to produce the perfect performance and get through several stages: feel confident with the car, set a good time in qualifying to have the best possible starting position, put together a series of stages without any mistakes, etc.”

Among the current crop of WRC drivers, you are the most popular on the various social media. Do you know where this popularity stems from?

“I try to share little bits of my life with my fans, at rallies and elsewhere. You’re right, there are a lot of people who follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes, I am quite surprised by how much interest can be generated by a simple photo! In order for my contributions to remain spontaneous, I express myself mainly in my native language and that is very much appreciated by the Spanish-speaking community throughout the world.”

RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA
Round: 7/13
Base and service park: Olbia
Surface: Gravel
Weather: Mediterranean summer climate, with generally hot temperatures that can reach 30°C.
Sunrise and sunset on the first day of the rally: 5.50am/8.57pm
Local time: GMT+2
Currency: Local currency is the Euro.
Website: www.rallyitaliasardegna.com
Technical information: Spare parts (gearbox, differentials, subframes, steering racks and turbochargers) are to be shared with the Portugal and Acropolis rallies.
Tyres: 35 Michelin Latitude Cross tyres to be chosen from 24 hard compound and 16 soft compound tyres.
Reconnaissance: Tuesday, 18 and Wednesday, 19 June from 8am to 8pm.
Free practice and qualifying stage: Thursday, 20 June from 8am on a 3.86 km-long stage at Monte Pinu (17.84km from the service park).
Route: 16 special stages (8 different stages). 306.00km of timed sections. Total distance: 1,102.43km.

RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA ITINERARY
THURSDAY 20 JUNE
8.00am: Free practice
11.00am: Qualifying stage (3.86km)
1.00pm: Selection of starting positions (Service Park)
1.30pm: FIA Pre-Event Press Conference (Geovillage Hotel – Olbia)
7.30pm: Ceremonial start (Piazza Italia – Sassari)

FRIDAY 21 JUNE
6.30am: Start (Service Park)
7.58am: SS1 – Monte Lerno 1 (31.08km)
10.46am: SS2 – Castelsardo 1 (14.00km)
11.34am: SS3 – Tergu-Osilo 1 (14.93km)
12.34pm: Service A (Sassari – 15 min)
1.49pm: SS4 – Castelsardo 2 (14.00km)
2.37pm: SS5 – Tergu-Osilo 2 (14.93km)
4.45pm: SS6 – Monte Lerno 2 (31.08km)
6.25pm: Service B (Olbia – 30min)
7.23pm: SS7 – Gallura 1 (13.55km)
8.13pm: Regroup (Arzachena – 50 min)
9.28pm: SS8 – Gallura 2 (13.55km)
10.30pm: Flexi Service C (Olbia – 45 min)

SATURDAY 22 JUNE
7.00am: Service E (Olbia – 15 min)
8.06am: SS9 – Monte Olia 1 (19.27km)
8.36am: SS10 – Terranova 1 (14.82km)
9.19am: SS11 – Monti da Ala’ 1 (22.25km)
10.27am: SS12 – Coiluna-Loelle 1 (22.35km)
1.04pm: Service E (Olbia – 30 min)
2.25pm: SS13 – Monte Olia 2 (19.27km)
2.55pm: SS14 – Terranova 2 (14.82km)
3.38pm: SS15 – Monti da Ala’ 2 (22.25km)
4.46pm: SS16 – Coiluna-Loelle 2 (22.35km)
6.41pm: Service E (Olbia – 10 min)
7.30pm: Podium (Molo Brin – Museo Archeologico – Olbia)
8.15pm: FIA Post-Event Press Conference (Geovillage Hotel – Olbia)
13-06-02 Dani Sordo back on the podium
Continuing to race in committed fashion right to the end, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio finished as runners-up at the Acropolis Rally. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crew thus picked up their second podium finish of the season, after taking third place at Monte-Carlo. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished in eighth place.

The third and final leg of the Acropolis Rally was also the ‘easiest’. Held on roads not far from the service park, the Pissia and Loutraki tests – each run twice – were a lot smoother than the stages contested on the first two days of the event.

Holding the same position since Friday evening, there was little point in Dani Sordo changing his strategy for the final day. While managing his lead over the third-placed driver, looking after his car and his tyres in the process, the Spanish driver made no attempt to set any really fast times. Following the third position secured at the season’s opening round in Monte-Carlo, he claimed his best result of the year. It was also the twentieth time he has finished as runner-up in 104 WRC rallies.

“We didn’t fight for the win, we had to be content with driving in the lines without taking any unnecessary risks”, he explained. “I’ve been on a poor run of results, finishing out of the points in three of the last four rounds. So, second place is a morale-boosting result and means that we score points that we really needed. I hope that this result will enable me to feel more confident and reach new heights, starting with Rally Sardegna.”

Equally isolated in the overall standings, Mikko Hirvonen held onto his eighth place: “We were really unlucky and it’s not a good result for us. But these things happen in motorsport. We have to stay positive, focus on the next event and hope that our luck changes…”

“Dani produced a performance entirely in line with our expectations”, commented a satisfied Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “We asked him to secure the best possible result without taking any risks, and that exactly what he did, from start to finish. The technical problem that affected Mikko’s car at the start of the race prevented us from taking full advantage of what might otherwise have been a very good opportunity for the Manufacturers’ Championship. It’s a shame, but he managed to make it to the end and pick up a few extra points, which may prove vital at the end of the season.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC 3:31:01.2
2 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +1:50.0
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:14.1
4 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +3:55.1
5 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:12.6
6 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:48.7
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7:22.4
8 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +7:56.6
9 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:11.8
10 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC +10:10.3
11 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +15:19.1
13-06-02 Andraplats för Tidemand i Acropolis Rally
Pontus Tidemand och kartläsaren Ola Fløene kom till Grekland med pallplats som mål i ett av årets tuffaste rallyn. Efter tre dagar, en punktering, åtta sträckvinster och 230 km specialsträckor i sin Ford Fiesta R2, slutade de på en fin andraplats i juniorklassen i Acropolis Rally och leder fortfarande mästerskapet.

Acropolis Rally startade på fredagskvällen med rallyts två första sträckor, varav den inledande sträckan också var helgens längsta sträcka med sina 47,70 km. Rallyt är känt som ett av de svåraste tävlingarna i VM-serien och redan under den första kvällen gjorde det skäl för sitt rykte när det skördade sina offer. Pontus och Ola plockade upp en punktering på öppningssträckan och försökte fortsätta köra, men blev tvungen att stanna för att byta däcket. Med det gick närmare tre minuter förlorade. Den andra sträckan kördes i mörker och där satte Pontus en tredje snabbaste tid och avancerande till en tredje plats med drygt två och en halv minut till toppen.
- Det är ju såklart en besvikelse att börja rallyt så här, men sådant händer. Vi vet att Acropolis Rally är ett väldigt svårt rally, men det betyder också att vad som helst kan hända de kommande två dagarna. Förutom punkteringen så har allt gått bra i bilen och vi ska fokusera på att köra smart imorgon, förklarade Pontus, som deltar i årets Junior-VM med support från EVEN Management och Tätab.

Lördagen fick däremot en perfekt start. På morgonens första sträcka slog Pontus till med helgens första sträckvinst och klarade av att hålla rytmen resten av dagen och vara snabbast även på dagens resterade tre sträckor. Det förflyttade honom upp till andra plats och de snabba tiderna innebar också att Pontus knappade in på ledande spanjoren José Suarez med mer än en halvminut.
- Det har gått riktigt bra idag och jag är glad för poängen vi fått för sträckvinsterna. Det är svårt att sätta press på Suarez när han är två minuter före, men man vet aldrig vad som väntar imorgon. I nuläget är det viktigaste att köra klokt för att få bilen hela vägen till mål och vi försöker hålla andraplatsen, berättade Pontus efter att lördagens sista sträcka var avklarad.

Söndagen tog vid exakt där lördagen slutade. Pontus var på topp från dagens första sträcka ända till målgången och satte bästa tiden på alla sträckorna, vilket innebär att han totalt var snabbast på åtta av de tio sträckorna och imponerade stort på de svårkörda vägarna. Men tidsdifferensen till Suarez var för stor trots att den minskade för varje sträcka, och Pontus slutade på en andraplats, lite över minuten bakom Suarez.
- Vi gjorde det bästa av situationen som vi hamnade i efter punkteringen och vi kan inte annat än vara jättenöjda med alla sträckvinsterna och att vi behåller ledningen i mästerskapet, säger Pontus. Det är svårt när man inte kan pusha på som man vill och att hitta rätt balans, men det har känts bra ändå. Nu ser vi fram emot nästa tävling i Finland i början av augusti!

Med poängen för sträckvinsterna slutade Pontus och vinnaren José Suarez båda på 26 poäng i denna tävling och tack vare det behåller Pontus ledningen i Junior-VM efter de två första deltävlingarna.

Resultat FIA Junior WRC (JWRC) Acropolis Rally 2013:
1. J. Suarez (ESP) / C. Carrera (ESP) 4:33:17.8
2. P. Tidemand (SWE) / O. Floene (NOR) +1:04.2
3. S. Pärn (EST) / K. Järveoja (EST) +8:37.4
4. M. Burri (SUI) / G. Moreau (FRA) +16:03.6
5. N. Nieminen (FIN) / M. Korhonen (FIN) +18:33.4
6. M. Koci (SVK) / P. Starý (CZE) +20:03.9

Ställningen i Junior WRC (JWRC) efter två av sex deltävlingar:
1. P. Tidemand (SWE) 56
2. J. Suarez (ESP) 46
3. S.Pärn (EST) 19
4. Y.Lemes (ESP) 18
5. M. Koci (SVK) 18
6. N.Nieminen (FIN) 16
7. A.Amberg (FIN) 12
8. O.Burri (CHE) 12
9. M.Aasen (NOR) 9
13-06-02 Neuville secures second podium with Qatar M-sport
As the abrasive stages of the Acropolis Rally of Greece came to a close today, Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul delivered their second podium of the year. Following a faultless drive, their Qatar World Rally Team comrades – Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini – secured a well-deserved fifth place with Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Evgeny Novikov recovering well in sixth and ninth places respectively.

Playing out his conservative strategy to perfection, Neuville was flawless in his approach to this notoriously difficult event. Never lower than fourth place overall and rarely out of the top five on individual stage times, the Belgian displayed outright pace while being in constant control of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Avoiding the pitfalls which ended so many of his rivals’ quests for glory, Neuville’s podium marks his second to date – each achieved with M-Sport machinery on extremely rough and demanding stages.

Also impressing on the Greek event, a strong drive from Al-Attiyah saw him secure a third successive fifth place finish. Well versed in the challenges posed by such a rocky event, the Qatari’s vast experience paid dividends as he attacked the stages whilst safeguarding his Michelin-shod Fiesta through the rock-strewn tests.

Despite narrowly missing out on fourth position this weekend, Al-Attiyah’s result sees him build on what has been his best ever start to an FIA World Rally Championship season.

In an eventful rally for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson did well to recover sixth place. Having lost time hitting a concrete step on Day 1 and with the punishing stages taking their toll on the duo through yesterday’s running, the Scandinavians regrouped for the final day.

With a better road position, Østberg conserved his tyres for a big push on the all-important Power Stage. Having set the third fastest time through the stage on the previous loop, the Norwegian was looking good. Unfortunately, his back luck only continued as a puncture denied him of any chance of points.

Having led the rally in its early phase, Novikov and co-diver Ilka Minor continued to shine on the mountain stages. Suffering huge time loss following an unfortunate encounter with a rock which broke the rear-right wheel and damaged their Fiesta’s brake disc and suspension, the pairing remained one of the stars of the show with five stage wins to their credit – more than any other crew this weekend.

Using today’s running wisely – adjusting his pacenotes through the morning – the Russian’s pace meant that he was a firm favourite for Power Stage points going into the afternoon loop. True to his pace, the Russian posted the second fastest time to claim an additional two points for his championship campaign.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“We’ve shown this weekend that the car is very competitive and I think that we have shown that we [myself and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul] can be competitive too. We have done a good job this weekend – the strategy paid off and we achieved our second podium of the year.

“We have proven that we can be clever as well as fast – something which is very important here in Greece. OK, it is not so easy! I am only 24 and sometimes it is very hard to see the others [drivers] setting really fast times and telling yourself that you need to hold back. But it is working, and we are improving all the time.

“The team have done a great job this weekend and I need to say a big thanks to my mechanics who were fantastic all weekend. I really hope that our performance continues like this and that we can continue to improve over the rest of the season.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
“This has been another fantastic rally for us. OK, it was a shame not to get fourth place, but Andreas [Mikkelsen] drove very well today and it was more important for us to finish the event and secure another top-five finish.

“The team have all worked very hard and I am very happy to finish in the top-five. We have done three rallies this season and always finished in the top-five which is a very good performance for us.”

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“It’s been a very difficult weekend for us. Everything just wasn’t on our side and it’s been really frustrating. When everything was working well I think that we progressively went faster and faster and showed some good speed, but this definitely wasn’t the result I was looking for.

“Having said that, it does look promising in terms of speed and we can go to Sardinia knowing that we have the pace to fight. That event has been good to us in the past, so hopefully our bad luck will finally turn around there.”

Evgeny Novikov (9th) said:
“Generally I think that we showed some good speed here, but with the incident on Day 2 we lost any chance of a good result. Everything was working really well and I felt really good in the car with a really good rhythm. We were able to set good times without pushing to the maximum so that is very positive going forward.

“Of course this is not the result we wanted, but I think that we have proved a lot this weekend. We’ve shown that we have the pace to compete at the head of the field and I hope that we can continue to improve like this in Sardinia.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think we’ve seen a strong result from both teams this weekend. It was a really mature drive from Thierry [Neuville]. He stuck to his game plan, wasn’t drawn into any battles and thoroughly deserved his podium finish.

“Nasser [Al-Attiyah] too has been fantastic this weekend. He has now finished in the top-five on all [WRC] events this year. Teamed with his string of victories in the [FIA] Middle East [Rally Championship], this is looking set to be a very good year for him.

“All of the drivers performed well on the stages. Evgeny [Novikov] had a disappointing day yesterday, but his second place on the Power Stage underlines his pace, and – although this wasn’t his weekend – Mads [Østberg] managed to set good pace on some of the stages which is very promising for the next events.

“We’re set-up well for the second half of the season now. The whole M-Sport team has performed really well this weekend and I am sure that more good results will follow.


13-06-02 Maiden win for Robert Kubica!
Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran produced a faultless performance at their second World Championship rally. Having taken the lead of the WRC2 category after the first stage of the Acropolis Rally, the Poles went on to build up a healthy lead that they were able to defend comfortably on the final day. Obtained in particularly testing conditions, this result is also the first win for the Citroën DS3 RRC at an international event.

After Portugal, the Acropolis Rally was the second round in Robert Kubica’s programme in WRC2. The rally got off to the perfect start for the Pole on Friday, who grabbed the category lead after winning the first two stages. He entered parc fermé having already established a lead of close to 40s: “It’s a good start, although we lost a bit of time in the dust behind a driver who had a puncture. We also had a small spin on SS2, but it was nothing serious.”

Kubica confirmed his control of the race on Saturday morning. Putting together a series of four fastest times in as many stages, the Citroën DS3 RRC driver extended his lead by a further minute! “This leg shows just how difficult this event is”, he analysed during the midday service. “When the roads are wide, it’s very nice to drive. But I didn’t enjoy the tricky places so much. But you just have to be patient and go through them. When you are competing here for the first time, there are many things you have to take into account, but it’s going well so far!”

With three further stage wins in the course of the afternoon, the Pole ended day two with a 2:20 lead over Yurii Protasov. He could therefore control his pace on the final day, made up of four reasonably smooth stages. Despite losing a bit of time, Robert Kubica went on to claim the category win!

“Yes, it’s a great day for me”, he admitted. “For sure, it has been a very, very difficult weekend. I think Acropolis is an extremely tough rally, especially for someone like me who has twenty years’ experience of racing on a circuit! It’s the total opposite of what I have been used to. There are many things for me to learn still, but it has been a great learning experience and a very productive weekend. Even when driving slowly today, it is still easy to make a mistake when you’re tackling stages for the first time, especially in tough conditions like those here. I’m now looking forward to Rally Sardegna, where I can put what I have learned this weekend to good use.”

“Robert had already shown, on gravel and on tarmac, that he has genuine pace, but he still needed to learn about discipline”, reiterated Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “He had a great race here, including the final leg when he managed his lead. I have the feeling that this may something of a turning point for him. It certainly augurs well in terms of our shared objective, which is to win the WRC2 title.”

Robert Kubica now lies sixth overall in the WRC2 championship standings, with 33 points from just two rallies.
13-06-02 Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja still 4th after the second day in rally Acropolis
Saturday was the second day of this year's rally Acropolis 2013. Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja, who compete in Junior WRC started the day at 4th and managed to hold on to this position until the end of the day.
- "We had some good moments and also some bad ones on saturday," said Pärn. Young estonian added that they had two punctures which didn't make things easier. "On the second stage 3 km before the end of the stage we had a puncture and we decided to take it steady and finished the stage. On the last stage we had also a flat wheel and this time we stopped and changed it," explained Sander.

In the middle of the day Pärn - Järveoja were on the podium, because M. Aasen retired from the day, but after the puncture on the last stage, M. Bostanci passed them and left them 4th overnight.
Sunday will be the last day of the Acropolis rally. "We will try to fight for the podium, but at the same time we are eager to finish the rally. We will not take any stupid risks," said Pärn.

13-06-01 Sordo and Hirvonen apply themselves
The second leg of the Acropolis Rally was long and demanding for the mechanics, but it was a positive day for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio consolidated their second position in the overall standings, whilst Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen moved up from 15th to 8th place.

Held entirely on roads in the Peloponnese, the four stages used on this leg formed a loop that was run twice over the course of the day. Featuring 149 kilometres of timed stages, today’s leg covered half of the total distance of the rally, providing the drivers with a genuine test of guts and bravery. Faced with the roughest road conditions of the season, all the cars opted to run with hard Michelin Latitude Cross tyres and take two spare wheels.

Second overall behind Evgeny Novikov on Friday evening, Dani Sordo was overtaken by Jari-Matti Latvala on SS3. Then Novikov added his name to the long list of drivers caught out by the Greek roads and Dani reclaimed second spot at the end of the next stage. “We have chosen to adopt a fairly defensive approach since the start of the race”, reiterated the no.3 DS3 WRC driver. “We need to score points for both championships and the condition of the roads have made us more cautious. I therefore adopted a ‘risk-free’ pace in order to avoid making any mistakes or picking up any punctures.”

Fifteenth after suffering a technical problem on Friday, Mikko Hirvonen began to climb up through the field as he put together an excellent series of times, given his starting position. Other drivers also ran into trouble, allowing the Finn to move up to eighth overall by lunchtime. “Everything went well and we were able to adopt the pace we wanted”, he confirmed. “We have to keep going like that, even though it will be difficult to make up any more places under normal circumstances. But you never know what’s going to happen at this rally.”

Even more damaged and cut up on the second loop, the roads of the Corinthia region claimed further victims in the afternoon. Khalid Al-Qassimi, who had been making solid progress since the start of the day, ran into trouble on Ghymno 2 (SS8): the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC went off and was thrown into a roll. As the car’s roll cage was damaged, the crew will be unable to rejoin the rally tomorrow.

Despite rain falling on Ziria 2 (SS10), Dani Sordo made it to the end of the leg without incident. His overall assessment was very positive: “I’m pleased to have done what the team asked me to do. It wasn’t easy, however, because the roads were really damaged on the second run. We have to do one more day with the same attitude in order to secure a good result in Greece.”

Mikko Hirvonen had a more difficult second loop, as he picked up a puncture on two separate occasions: “We were just really unlucky. It’s nearly impossible to avoid all the rocks, unless you driver a lot slower. It just didn’t happen for us today, but there weren’t any direct consequences as regards our race.”

Already leading the WRC2 at the end of the first leg, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran continued to dominate their category. The DS3 RRC crew set the fastest time on seven of the eight stages to extend their lead to 2:20.2. “This rally is just as tough as everyone says it is. I’m pleased with what we have done today”, said the Polish driver. “I liked the wide and quick sections more than the tricky places, but it’s the same for everybody. When you are competing here for the first time, there are many things you have to take into account.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC 2:32:42.8
2 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +1:04.1
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:43.1
4 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:46.1
5 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +4:11.8
6 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:26.3
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:50.3
8 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +7:52.2
9 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:16.1
10 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC +10:29.5
11 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +11:02.2
13-06-01 Neuville movies up podium as Rock Breaks Novikov lead
Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville climbed into a podium position today as the Acropolis Rally of Greece resumed with what was arguably the most challenging day of the competition. Unfortunately however, Neuville’s accomplishment proved somewhat bitter sweet for the team as it came at the expense of Evgeny Novikov’s early lead.

Novikov had made the perfect start to the event – posting the fastest time on all three opening tests – only to be denied on SS4. As the rock-strewn stages fought back, the Russian brushed a bank which broke the rear-right wheel and consequentially damaged the brake disc and suspension of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Ever determined, Novikov made it back to service where his M-Sport mechanics rectified the damage – providing him with a near-perfect Fiesta with which to set the afternoon stages alight. True to character, the Muscovite did not disappoint. Setting the fastest time on two of the four stages, he was the one to beat. Indeed were it not for a spin on SS7, Novikov was on course to claim three of the afternoon’s stage wins and recovered ninth place in the process.

On the other side of the ‘fortune’ spectrum, a considered approach to this notoriously difficult event was paying dividends for Neuville. Conserving his speed whilst matching the splits of his rivals, the youngster kept his Fiesta RS WRC well clear of the pitfalls which hindered so many of his fellow competitors.

Partnered by co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, the pairing prospered where the more experienced faltered – a string of competitive times delivering a well deserved podium position going into tomorrow’s final tests.

Also going well in the sister Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini are on course to equal their best ever performance in the FIA World Rally Championship with fourth place overall.

Well versed in the art of navigating rough rally stages, the Qatari had his wits about him. Controlling his pace throughout the day, Al-Attiyah played the long game with a faultless performance through the event’s mountain tracks.

Elsewhere in the final Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson were making strides following yesterday’s wheel-breaking impact with a concrete step. Despite the abrasive stages taking their toll on the Scandinavians, the pairing climbed into sixth position with the aim of taking yet more places – and points in the all important Power Stage – on tomorrow’s final day.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I think for us there was no secret today. Our aim was simple – stay on the road, look after the car and be careful in the rough places. We had a really good rhythm and a really good feeling this afternoon. I could drive quickly, but I was always controlling what I was doing.

“There is still a long way to go so I am not thinking about the end result too much. Tomorrow will still be very rough with many sections that we have already used twice yesterday. We saw a lot of problems with punctures today so a lot can still happen.

“There’s a big gap in front of us and more than two minutes behind, so it will be difficult to push for positions on the driving alone. I think we should just hold our position, but I will definitely have a word with Malcolm [Wilson, Team Principal] to see what he thinks!”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (4th) said:
“Today has been good. We are in fourth position now and I am happy with our performance. Our speed was good in the afternoon and we were able to improve our times from the morning. In some places it was a little bit scary, but I really enjoyed the driving today.

“Everything is working well for us – we have a good car and the tyres are working really well. Of course tomorrow is another day, but we will try to maintain the gap to Andreas [Mikkelsen]. He lost a bit of time on the last stage [SS10] so we’ll take this opportunity to push and maintain position.”

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“It has been another tough day. OK, it was better than yesterday but we lost some time with a loose steering arm [on SS5] and a puncture [on SS8]. It’s been a difficult day but by no means catastrophic. When everything has been working well and we found the right set up we managed to set some good times.

“It’s not the day we wanted, but we are up to sixth which is what we wanted. That’s the way it is at the moment so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.”

Evgeny Novikov (9th) said:
“Now we are just trying to keep a good rhythm. I know the stages quite well so it’s all about maintaining the speed and not losing concentration on some of the trickier sections. Of course we will try to move up the leader board to get some good points for the team, and also go for a big push in the Power Stage.

“Today was disappointing for sure – we hit a sharp rock which broke the wheel and damaged the brake disc and suspension which meant we lost a lot of time. But tomorrow is another day and, as we saw last year, it’s not over until it’s over.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another day of mixed fortunes. Evgeny [Novikov] had a great start out of the blocks but unfortunately the Greek terrain played its part as it has for a lot of drivers this weekend.

“Thierry [Neuville] has stuck to his plan perfectly. He’s kept out of trouble and has been rewarded with a strong podium position going into the final day. Nasser [Al-Attiyah] too has had a fantastic drive. He’s withstood pressure from behind and goes into the final day with a good chance of equalling his best ever result [in the WRC].

“After yesterday’s misfortune, Mads [Østberg] has utilised today to the best of his advantage – testing and learning for the future. It’s good to see that he’s got back into a good points paying position with a demanding final day yet to run.”
13-06-01 Pontus Tidemand tvåa efter dag två av Acropolis Rally
Efter en smått oturlig start i Grekland, har Pontus Tidemand jobbat sig upp till en fin andraplats och under lördagen kammade han hem full pott i sträckvinster - fyra av fyra möjliga.

Acropolis Rally inleddes på fredagskvällen och trots att det bara var två sträckor som kördes, bjöds det på en hel del drama på de grekiska vägarna. För Pontus del blev det en punktering redan på första sträckan, men efter en bättre andrasträcka låg han på en tredjeplats när rallyts första dag avslutades.

Lördagen fick en betydligt bättre start. Pontus tog sin första sträckvinst för helgen på morgonens öppningssträcka och lyckades göra det till en trend genom att vara snabbast även på följande tre sträckor och ta in över en halvminut på ledande José Suarez.
- Det har gått riktigt bra idag och jag är glad för poängen för sträckvinsterna. Det är svårt att sätta press på Suarez när han är två minuter före, men man vet aldrig vad som väntar imorgon. I nuläget är det viktigaste att köra klokt för att få bilen hela vägen till mål och vi försöker hålla andraplatsen, sa Pontus efter lördagens sista sträcka.

Imorgon söndag väntar de fyra sista sträckorna av Acropolis Rally med start 9:23 svensk tid.

Ställningen efter dag två:
1. Suarez (ESP)
2. Tidemand (SWE) +1:59.0
3. Bostanci (TUR) +6:25.3
4. Pärn (EST)+7:12.6
5. Burri (CZE) +10:54.0
13-06-01 Midday quotes, Acropolis Rally, Day 2
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“I think that we had a nice mix of stages this morning – some are very rough some a very fast and there is one with a very sandy, twisting section. There are a lot of different stages so you can never have the perfect set-up for all of them but so far I have been happy with the car.

“We had a small problem with the brakes because I over-heated them yesterday, but other than that everything has been OK and I think that we are driving well.

“Evgeny [Novikov] was very unlucky because he was setting great pace at the front of the field. But this rallying and, unfortunately, sometimes these things can happen.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (4th) said:
“In places I felt that the set-up was maybe a little too hard, but it wasn’t a big problem for us. This morning we have tried to have good pace on these stages which have been really difficult for everybody.

“If you push too hard you will damage the car, so I am quite happy to finish [the loop] without any problems. This afternoon will be extremely hard, but we will try to keep a good pace and push enough to keep this good position.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“The first stage [SS3] was OK, but then on the second one [SS4] we had a lot of over-steer. At first I thought it might be something with the rear differential which is something that we can usually change, but it wasn’t so I’m not sure what it was.

“Then on the next one [SS5], I couldn’t feel anything wrong on the road section, but almost immediately after the stage started I felt that the car was pulling strangely out of the hairpins. After that it just got worse really quickly as the steering arm had become lose. We don’t have the equipment to measure the toe in the rally car so we just had to fix it with what we thought looked correct. I think it was quite close to where it was supposed to be as we set a good time on the last stage [SS6].”

Evgeny Novikov (11th) said:
“On the second stage [SS4] – maybe one kilometre from the start – we hit a sharp rock which broke the wheel. We drove for a while and then all the other pieces came off and broke the brake disc and some of the suspension also. We changed the wheel, but we couldn’t do anything more. We just had to keep going.

“I don’t want to say that it was bad luck, it is just the way it is. I was not pushing hard so I think that it is just one of those things. There is still a long way to go so we will try to keep the same pace that we were setting this morning [on SS3] and see where we finish at the end.
13-06-01 Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja are 4th after the first day at Acropolis rally
The opening day of rally Acropolis proved to be interesting and spectacular at the same time.
Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja, who are the only estonian rally pair to compete in the Junior WRC series had an ok opening day and finished on 4th place after the two stages.

The first day of competition was composed of two stages, with a total of 73,75km. The opening day included also the longest special stage of the rally. In fact the organizers decided that it should be the very first stage of the rally which should be the longest one. The "Kineta-Pissia ', with the length of 47.70 km, proved a great effort from the drivers.. The day ended with 26.05 km-long "Kineta" special stage.

Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja were 5th fastest on both stges which gave them 4th position after the first day. "On the first stage we were a little bit too careful," Said Pärnu. Sander added that the second stage was better and he enjoyed the night stage.

On the second day the Juniors will have to battle on 4 stages all together. In total the crews will battle on 75 km. "It will be a difficult day for sure, but we wil try to make the most of it," said Pärn.
13-06-01 Dani Sordo makes his ambitions clear
ACROPOLIS RALLY – 31/05-02/06/2013 – DAY 1
The first leg of the Acropolis Rally may well have only featured two stages, but there was no shortage of incidents. Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio kept out of trouble, however, to finish day one in second position overall. Meanwhile, in the second DS3 WRC of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lost time due to a mechanical problem.

Featuring the qualifying stage, the ceremonial start and two stages, the first leg of the Acropolis Rally provided the crews with a full schedule. Those who believed that the compact format of the event would lead to a dull race were however left to revise their position!

It must be said that the 47.70km-long SS1 provided one hell of test for the start of the rally. The first driver to make it to Kineta’s stop control, Khalid Al-Qassimi looked somewhat taken aback. “I had no confidence at all, I had to carve a line for my rivals and the DS3 was constantly going off the road”, exclaimed the Abu Dhabi driver. “I then calmed down, but I thought I had lost a lot more time.” Khalid ended up with the eighth fastest time, having lost less time than Mads Ostberg, Sébastien Ogier and Mikko Hirvonen.

The Finn had however been on course to set the second fastest time, but sadly it just wasn’t to be. “We were seven kilometres from the finish when I started to feel vibrations and hear strange noises. There was a problem with the steering, but the car was still able to turn a little. We managed to keep going at a slower speed. Sometimes, I had to do a lot of manoeuvring just to get round some of the corners, but we managed to get there in the end.” Clearly disappointed, the no.2 DS3 WRC driver made it to the service park where the team’s mechanics repaired his car.

Meanwhile, Dani Sordo kept out of trouble on this treacherous stage. The Spaniard set the second fastest time, around twenty seconds off the pace. “When I saw the splits and the messages telling about the problems that some of the other guys were having, I decided to take it a little bit easier”, he said, as the sun set on the Gulf of Corinth. “Obviously, it’s a very good start, but the misfortunes of some of the others show just how difficult this rally is. For the time being, we need to try and get to the end of SS2…”

Held on the first twenty-six kilometres of SS1, the Kineta stage was therefore contested in the dark. Dani Sordo lost a few more seconds to Novikov, but he was still pleased with this first leg: “The main thing is that we’re right up there and haven’t had any major problems. Maybe I was a little too cautious on SS2, but Evgeny’s lead is small on a rally like this one. I feel confident about the rest of the weekend.”

Mikko Hirvonen set a good time on this stage, but his objectives are now more modest: “After losing so much time, I have given up any hopes of winning and will now try to pick up a few points for the Championships.”

With the roads swept clear of loose gravel by the first runs, Khalid Al-Qassimi was visibly happier in his DS3 WRC and enjoyed driving it on the second test. The Emirati now lies eighth overall.

Competing in their DS3 RRC, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran lead the WRC2 standings after setting the fastest time in their category on both of the opening stages. The Polish pair lead second-placed Yurii Protasov by 38.2s.

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC 50:59.3
2 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +30.3
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +39.1
4 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +51.1
5 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +1:14.6
6 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:32.9
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:34.3
8 Al-Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +3:22.4
9 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:30.1
10 Kubica / Baran Citroën DS3 RRC +4:17.3
15 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +6:04.1
13-05-31 Novikov flies to Acropolis Rally Lead
Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov put in a sensational performance today to fly into the lead of the Acropolis Rally of Greece. Winning both stages by a comfortable margin, the youngster made the perfect start to lead the event by over half a minute.

Having set the third fastest time in this morning’s qualifying stage, the Russian was well placed going into the event’s opening tests – the first, a mammoth 47.70 kilometres in length and the second incorporating the added challenges of being run in darkness. Partnered by co-driver Ilka Minor, the young charge was faultless in his approach – mastering both stages flawlessly behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Over 20 seconds faster than his nearest rival over the opening test, Novikov controlled his pace perfectly to claim a comfortable early lead. It was more of the same in SS2. Despite a small mistake under braking, the Russian claimed another stage victory to secure the optimum position going into tomorrow’s competitive action.

Unfortunately, the story was somewhat different for Novikov’s team mate Mads Østberg. Succumbing to yet more cruel misfortune, the Norwegian and his Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson were forced to stop and change the front-left wheel some 500 metres into the first stage. Following an encounter with a concrete step, the impact broke the wheel clean in two – losing the Scandinavians over three minutes and relegating them to 11th place in the overall standings.

Climbing back to ninth place over the second and final stage of the evening [SS2], Østberg will be looking to claim further positions as the rally continues tomorrow.

Elsewhere, things were looking good for the two Qatar World Rally Team Fiestas. Despite a challenging run after being caught out by the conditions on SS1 – which were much rougher than expected – Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul controlled their speed. Another clever approach to a difficult rally has thus far proven fruitful for the Belgians as they finished Day 1 in an impressive fourth place overall.

It was a similar story for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini. Having lost time in SS1 when they caught a stricken Mikko Hirvonen, the duo lie a creditable sixth on this Bernacchini’s 100th appearance in the FIA World Rally Championship. Well aware of the pitfalls associated with this abrasive event, the Qatari will be looking to gain further places on tomorrow’s tricky tests as he chases another well-placed finish in the Fiesta.

Evgeny Novikov (1st) said:
“I am very satisfied with today. We tried to keep a good rhythm and maintain good speed from the start and it looks like that has worked well. We had no problems and no big moments. There was some dust on the first stage [SS1], not everywhere, but in some of the slow sections, and then we made a small mistake under braking on SS2 so I think that we could have gone quicker in places.

“I know this rally quite well – this is my fifth time here now – so maybe that helps a little. To be leading is a great feeling, and I hope that it continues! For tomorrow I will just try to keep this good rhythm, watch the splits and continue this good form.”

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“The stages were a lot rougher than we expected today. We drove quite calmly at first and then when I felt more confident we went a bit faster. But I think everybody had the same problem. I don’t think that my set-up was quite right for the conditions on the first stage [SS1], because I didn’t have so much confidence turning into the tight hairpins.

“We damaged something on the car on that stage too [SS1] and I couldn’t drive as hard as I wanted, but the mechanics fixed the car perfectly for the second stage [SS2]. The car felt much better on SS2. We hit a big rock, but luckily we have a very strong car underneath us so it was no drama.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (6th) said:
“It’s easy to damage the car on a rally like this so we took it easy to make sure we got to the end without any problems.

“We lost about 10 seconds when we caught Mikko [Hirvonen] on the first stage [SS1]. Our cars actually made contact so that was a bit of a scary moment. I went and said sorry to Mikko because we didn’t know he was there so we were very lucky. Then on the second stage [SS2] the car didn’t feel quite right – maybe a problem with the differential on the rear – but we made it through which is the most important thing.

“Tomorrow it will be really tough – I think getting through those rough stages will be the key to this rally. But we have a good car, and good Michelin tyres so that will help us and I hope that we can make it through without any problems.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“It [the impact which broke the wheel] was just in the beginning [of SS1] going onto a concrete step. We knew it was there and I didn’t feel as though there was much of an impact so it was very strange – nothing like I have ever experienced before. The nuts and the bolts were all still there, but everything else was gone – the rim and everything.

“We’ll have to have a proper look at the onboard to see exactly what happened and how it happened, but obviously I am extremely disappointed. The disappointment was still with me for the second stage [SS2] and I couldn’t get into the perfect rhythm.

“There is still a long way to go, but a lot will have to happen for us to get back up to where we want to be now. We’ll have a fresh start tomorrow and fight as hard as we can to claim back some positions.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a storming drive from Evgeny [Novikov] today – it’s very rare for a rally leader to establish a 30 second lead after just two stages so he’s done a fantastic job! He’s now in a really strong position to manage the rest of the event.

“We’ve seen a strong performance from the team all round with both Thierry [Neuville] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] setting some strong times. Obviously it was a real shame about Mads [Østberg], but he is still in the top-ten and given that this is the most demanding event of the year, a podium is still possible.”
13-05-29 Väl förberedd Pontus Tidemand siktar på pallen i Acropolis Rally
På fredag startar andra deltävlingen i årets Junior-VM i rally. Den här gången handlar det om en av de tuffaste tävlingarna - Acropolis Rally. Med veckor av förberedelser i bagaget är Pontus Tidemand och kartläsaren Ola Fløene redo att tackla Greklands tuffa vägar och siktet är inställt på pallplats.

Rallyts flesta sträckor körs i området Korinthos på halvön Peloponnesos och värdstad är återigen Loutraki, som är belägen cirka 80 km från huvudstaden Aten. Typiskt för Acropolis Rally är de steniga vägarna, dammet och höga temperaturerna, som också gör eventet till en av de mest krävande tävlingarna i WRC-serien.

Totalt kör JWRC-ekipagen tio sträckor på dryga 230 km sammanlagt i sina Ford Fiesta R2:or, som alla drivs av M-Sport. Denna gång deltar de alla tre tävlingsdagarna, men kör dock inte lördagens eftermiddagsloop. Starten går på fredag och inleds med två sträckor under kvällen, varav den första är rallyts längsta sträcka som uppmäter hela 47,70 km. Sedan väntar ytterligare fyra sträckor på lördagen och fyra på söndagen innan en vinnare kan koras.

Pontus har möjlighet att delta i årets Junior-VM tack vare stöd från EVEN Management och Tätab och efter att ha vunnit mästerskapets första tävling, Rally Portugal, toppar han den totala ställningen med 30 poäng. Bakom honom kommer spanjorerna José Suarez och Yeray Lemes med 20 respektive 17 poäng.
- Det var fantastiskt att vinna i Portugal, särskilt med tanke på konkurrensen. Acropolis Rally kan bli ännu svårare eftersom det kan vara höga temperaturer och sträckorna är knepiga att ta sig an i en R2:a, berättar Pontus, som körde sitt första Acropolis Rally förra året, men tvingades bryta på den sista dagen när en drivaxel gick av under striden för tredjeplatsen.

Sedan tävlingen i Portugal har Pontus varit fokuserad på att skaffa träning i en likvärdig bil och har därför kört Team Tätabs Ford Fiesta R2 i Rally Sørland, där han vann den tvåhjulsdrivna klassen och imponerande nog också slutade trea i totalen, och i SM-deltävlingen South Swedish Rally, där han efter några mindre problem slutade trea i klassen. Under den gångna helgen var han och kartläsaren Ola Fløene även föråkare i KMK-Trofén i Katrineholm som en sista förberedelse.
- Vi har gjort allt vi kan för att få så mycket träning som möjligt inför Grekland och jag hoppas att det kan hjälpa oss att nå pallen, säger Pontus. Jag vet att det inte kommer bli lätt med hårda förhållanden och tuff konkurrens, men vi är hoppfulla och ska kämpa hela vägen.

Följ tävlingen live på: http://www.wrc.com/jwrc/results/2013/acropolis-rally/stage-times/

13-03-13 P-G Andersson och Emil Axelsson får drömchans - kör sex VM-deltävlingar i WRC-bil i år!
P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson har fått världens drömchans! Det hela började som ett samarbete, där P-G gick in som förarinstruktör åt Alexey Tamrazov. De båda trivdes onekligen ihop och idag var P-G iväg på ett möte med Ukrainaren.

Där blev det klart att P-G kommer att få gå in och köra för AT-Rallyteam i inte mindre än sex deltävlingar i år. Och det i teamets WRC-Ford Fiesta!
- "Det är verkligen helt fantastiskt att de ger mig den här chansen" strålar P-G "Jag som trodde den här säsongen var mer eller mindre över för min del och så ger Alexey mig den här chansen! Jag är verkligen obeskrivligt glad och tacksam!"

Första VM-deltävlingen blir VM i Italien som körs under midsommarhelgen. Därefter startar svenskarna i Finland, Tyskland, Frankrike, Spanien och England.

Man kommer även att utföra ett en- eller tvådagarstest inför varje deltävling:
- "Alexey vill att vi ska köra så mycket bil som möljigt och vi kommer troligen att köra en tävling i Estland också" säger P-G.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se


13-05-05 Två pallplatser för Volkswagen i Rally Argentina
Det blev en andra- och tredjeplats för Volkswagen Motorsport i det tuffa WRC-rallyt i Argentina. Sébastien Ogier kom tvåa bakom flerfaldige världsmästaren Sébastien Loeb och tog därmed sin femte pallplats (tre segrar, två andraplatser) av fem möjliga i sin Polo R WRC. Jari-Matti Latvala avslutade starkt och knep tredjeplatsen. Ogier leder förarmästerskapet stort före Loeb och Volkswagen Motorsport behåller ledningen i teammästerskapet.

När fem deltävlingar har körts av årets VM-rally (WRC) är Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia nu 54 poäng före Loeb/Elena (Citroën) i förarmästerskapet, medan Volkswagen Motorsport är 14 poäng före Citroën i teammästerskapet.

Rally Argentina blev en spännande kamp om förstaplatsen med Sébastien Ogier i Polo R WRC och Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) i huvudrollerna. Ogier tog tidigt ledningen med snabbaste tider på fem specialsträckor, men förlorade den efter ett misstag på den sjunde specialsträckan. Ogier missade där en bromspunkt, sladdade av banan och var tvungen att vända. Det kostade honom 40 sekunder och blev avgörande för vem som skulle vinna slaget om "Séb vs Séb".

Volkswagen-föraren Jari-Matti Latvala och hans kartläsare Miikka Anttila stod för en imponerande slutspurt och vann rallyts fem sista specialsträckor, inklusive Power Stage. Med detta resultat lyckades han knipa tredjeplatsen före Evgeny Novikov (Ford). Ogier och Latvala var alltså snabbast på fem specialsträckor vardera av totalt 14 specialsträckor.

Den tredje Polo R WRC med föraren Andreas Mikkelsen och kartläsaren Mikko Markkula (Norge/Finland) avslutade Rally Argentina på åttonde plats. Detta var deras andra rally med Polo R WRC.

Citat efter sista dagen i Rally Argentina
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 7
– Idag var den bästa dagen sedan min debut med Volkswagen. Lagandan, bilen, föraren – allt nådde en helt ny nivå. Jag är mycket glad att stå på pallen för första gången i Argentina. Rallyt var mycket spännande och omväxlande. Särskilt i slutfasen då vi gav allt vi hade för att säkra tredjeplatsen. Andra- och tredjeplats är ett bra resultat för teamet!

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Andra plats är ett lysande resultat i rally-VM och vår framgång ägnas hela teamet. Det var ett otroligt utmanande och svårt rally och min egen prestation var inte helt felfri. Det var synd att jag inte kunde kämpa mot Sébastien Loeb ända till slutet, jag gratulerar honom till segern. Nu är det dags för mig att se framåt, vi har ett test att göra innan nästa rally i Grekland. Vi ska göra ytterligare förbättringar av Polo R WRC så att vi kan slåss om förstaplatsen igen om fyra veckor.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 9
– Idag hade vi flera spännande dueller. Vi har verkligen njutit av dagen och hela rallyt. Allt rör sig i rätt riktning – vårt nya system för noter, våra förändringar i upplägg och resultaten i specialsträckorna. Vi lär oss mer och mer för varje meter vi kör och jag känner mig verkligen hemma i Polo R WRC. Vi har fortfarande massor av idéer om vad vi kan göra i framtiden för att förbättra oss ytterligare.

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport
– Rally Argentina visade att fabriksteamen är mycket jämna. Varje seger är en hård seger. Våra gratulationer går till Sébastien Loeb, som gjorde minst antal misstag här i Argentina. Men vi kan vara mycket nöjda med vår prestation också, jag är stolt över alla i teamet som har gjort en strålande insats hittills under säsongen. Rally Argentina var en konstant berg-och-dal-bana – på ren adrenalin. Det är sannerligen ingen skam att i ett helt nytt team till slut förlora mot den niofaldige världsmästaren.

Resultat FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – Rally Argentina
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC), Citroën, 4h 35m 56,7s
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, +55,0s
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Fin/Fin), Volkswagen, +2m 00,8s
Evgeny Noviko/Illka Minor (Rus/A), Ford, +2m 36,7s
Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford, +4m 40,5s
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen, (Fin/Fin), Citroën, +6m 23,9 s
Mads Östberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford, +11m 02,2s
Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/Fin), +13m 22,1s
Förarmästerskapet efter 5 deltävlingar

Sébastien Ogier, 122 poäng
Sébastien Loeb, 68
Mikko Hirvonen, 57
Jari-Matti Latvala, 49
Mads Östberg, 38
Thierry Neuville, 35
Dani Sordo, 29
Evgeny Novikov, 27
Martin Prokop, 21
Nasser Al-Attiyah, 20
Teammästerskapet efter 5 tävlingar
13-05-05 Motorsport Italia Rally Argentina Review
'Hello everyone, Tomo here again for the last time from Rally Argentina.
'Day Two started well with some great splits compared to Martin Prokop and local star Gabriel Pozzo. Michal started at a strong pace and had an advantage of nearly 24 seconds over both of them at the third split. However, disaster struck when Michal suffered suspension damage on the right side on his MINI John Cooper Works WRC. Unfortunately, it put him out of the rally due to irreparable damage. We are all bitterly disappointed, but we'll soon shake it off as Greece isn't too far away.

'The technicians are busy preparing the practice and rally car as well as the container for the trip to Oz. Our car here in Argentina does all the long haul events without returning to Europe. It's more cost-effective to do it that way as we avoid hefty flight charges for the car. Paying for excess baggage is painful, so imagine paying for a 1200kg rally car to go to Australia!

'Argentina is our second rally of a group of three linked events in terms of technical regulations, so we do need our transmissions, turbos and suspension parts to go to Greece. They need to come off the car here today. The boys will do that while I debrief with Michal and Maciek later. It's an informal meeting to discuss all aspects of the weekend from the hotel, recce, catering etc to the rally and everything that goes with it, alongside looking forward to forthcoming tests and events.

'We have a small team, I'm British, Michal and Maciek are Poles, Bruno of course is the boss, and is from near Milan, Jack the co-ordinator is from the Netherlands and the techs are all Italian. We really are a tight little group that gets on really well, which is so important, we work hard and give 100%, but we also have a laugh. Long may it continue!

'That's all for now, Tomo'
13-05-05 M-Sport and seashore Qatar Rally Team dominate WRC2 in Argentina
M-Sport supported driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari dominated the WRC 2 category at Rally Argentina this weekend. Piloting their Seashore Qatar Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC, the Qatari and co-driver Killian Duffy were in a class of their own – taking victory by an impressive 13 minutes.

The result marks Al-Kuwari’s second victory in the category following a similarly impressive performance at Rally Mexico earlier in the year. Indeed the Qatari’s performance is made all the more noteworthy by the fact that this was his first venture to the notoriously difficult event.

Despite his unfamiliarity with the Argentine stages, the Qatari drove a faultless rally. Rarely challenged by his rivals, Al-Kuwari complemented his intelligent approach with sensational pace which saw him secure 11 of a possible 14 stage victories.

As the only driver to take two victories from the category thus far, Al-Kuwari now heads the Championship standings. Contesting the Acropolis Rally later this month – an event the Fiesta driver is familiar with – Al-Kuwari will be hoping to extend his lead.

But next up for the Qatari and his Irish co-driver is Rally Jordan as they continue their FIA Middle East Rally Championship campaign with a similar Ford Fiesta RRC.

Abdulaiz Al-Kuwari said:

“This is a very tough rally – up until the very last kilometre you have to keep total concentration to ensure you finish. Luckily for us we had a very good lead starting today so we could afford to lose one, two, even five minutes.

“We are now leading the championship, and to be honest that’s far more than we were hoping for! We spoke with Malcolm Wilson before the season and the aim was to finish in the top-five. We know we are not the fastest in the category and in Europe there are a lot of fast drivers so we will wait and see what happens in Greece.

“I would like to thank all the M-Sport mechanics for a fantastic job this weekend. Every morning they gave us a car which felt like a brand new Fiesta. It’s a great pleasure for me to work with M-Sport and thanks to them, we are able to achieve results like this. I’m sure Malcolm is happy too to see his car win by so much! I also want to thank Seashore for all their support – without them this would not be possible.”

Killian Duffy said:

“It’s a great feeling to be leading the Championship now. At the start of the year we said that we would be happy with a top-five finish, so to be leading with a lot more points than a number of the other competitors is a great feeling.

“Abdulaziz [Al-Kuwari] is doing a great job. Ok, we were the only regional rally car on this event but sometimes it’s harder just to get to the end of the event as opposed to picking your pace. He’s driven perfectly on his first time out here – a faultless rally on a really difficult event.”

Seashore Qatar Rally Team Manager, Nasser Al-Kuwari, said:

“This is our second victory in WRC 2 and we are now leading the championship so of course we are very happy with that. I particularly want to thank our sponsors and the Qatari government, because without them these victories would not have been possible. Abdulaziz [Al-Kuwari] is improving with each event and we hope to continue like this.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen another really mature drive from Abdulaziz [Al-Kuwari] today which now sees him take the lead of the WRC 2 category. To come to an event like this – one which is extremely hard on the cars and the crews – and drive faultlessly is very impressive.

“Next [in WRC 2] he’ll compete in Greece – an event he has contested before – and I’m sure he’ll be able to make good use of his experience for another fantastic result.

“It’s also great to see the [Ford] Fiesta RRC performing so well and taking another category win. The car has worked perfectly all weekend and it’s clear to see that it’s one of the most competitive in it’s class.
13-05-05 The moon and back: Novikov narrowly misses out on Rally Argentina Podium
Qatar M-Sport’s Evgeny Novikov narrowly missed out on a podium at Rally Argentina today. In a day-long battle, the Russian emerged in fourth place overall – his best result from the event and equalling a season-best finish in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.

Embarking on the event’s final day, the dramatic moonlike vistas provided the perfect backdrop for one of the most intense battles of the rally. With just 8.5 seconds separating Novikov and Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jari-Matti Latvala going into the final leg, the Russian was not going to let his podium go without a fight.

And fight he did. Despite some time loss due to an incorrect setting within the car’s ‘stage mode’ through the first pass of ‘Mina Clavero / Giulio Cesare’ (SS11), the Muscovite set an incredible time behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. With Latvala pushing hard throughout the 22.64 kilometre test, the Finn could only take a slender 0.9 seconds from Novikov's lead.

As the battle intensified – with just a 3.4 second lead going into the second pass – Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor pushed hard but unfortunately had to forfeit their third place on SS13. That said, the Russian has proven he has the full package this weekend – capable of not only driving intelligently, but also setting a sensational pace when the time calls for it.

Elsewhere, bringing their Fiesta RS WRC home in fifth place, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul equalled their best result from the Argentine event. Despite struggling to find the optimum set-up through the event’s final tests, their clever approach paid dividends as the Belgians kept their noses clean, all the while gaining more vital knowledge of the car and stages.

Having been forced to Rally 2 after damaging the suspension of their Fiesta RS WRC on Day 2, Mads

Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson set a sensational pace yesterday – ascending the leader board from 11th to seventh in the overall standings. With little to gain running fourth on the road, the Norwegian used the final day to take in the incredible atmosphere of the closing stages – entertaining the thousands of enthusiastic fans in the process.

Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
“To be honest, I think that it was all over after the third stage today [SS13]. We were pushing hard, but Jari-Matti [Latvala] took a lot of time out of us and we understood then that we should let the podium go and concentrate on getting to the end of the event.

“I backed off in the Power Stage [SS14] and maybe because of that I lost a bit of concentration and had a spin in the stage – not because we were pushing; because I slowed down too much. But it was never our plan to fight on that stage so it wasn’t too much of a drama.

“Of course it would have been nice to have come away with a podium, but fourth place is still a very good result for us on this rally. I think it was the best we could do today, and I want to thank Jari-Matti for the fight – I really enjoyed it and I’m sure everybody else did too!”

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“As I said before the rally, our strategy this weekend was to have a clever event and make sure that we got to the end without any problems – and that’s what we did. It was not so easy to keep my foot away from the throttle the whole time, but it paid off and the result is a good one for us. I don’t think we could have done much better.

“I wasn’t so happy with the set-up today and that is something that we’ll have to work on for the next events. I’m still learning with the car, so hopefully we’ll have some good testing before Greece and we can work on getting that right before then.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“It was a difficult start to the rally. We were struggling with the set-up on Thursday morning but we made some changes in [midday] service and it felt better straight away. Unfortunately we hit a stone which meant that we couldn’t take full advantage.

“Restarting on Friday, we set a really good pace. The speed was good and the car was working really well which meant we were able to climb right back up to seventh – so that was a good day for us.

“Today [Saturday] has been all about preserving the tyres for the Power Stage, but I couldn’t really find a good rhythm. I tried to push [on the Power Stage], but I wasn’t as confident as I had been the day before and had to settle for fourth.

“All in all, I think we have done some good stages, but with having to Rally 2 we weren’t able to fight for a good result. We know that we have the pace, so we will be back pushing for a good result in Greece.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We have seen some impressive drives from our young crews this weekend with both Mads [Østberg] and Evgeny [Novikov] capable of challenging for the podium. With Mads’ stage win yesterday, he has also now taken a fastest time from all of the events this season.

“I think that we have seen a positive step in terms of all three drivers’ development this weekend and I have no doubt that their time will come.

“The [Ford] Fiesta RS WRCs have also performed faultlessly all weekend. We’ve had 100 per cent reliability on an event which is extremely hard on the cars, so that is also a big positive for the team.”


13-05-05 Philips lead Rally Argentina - Loeb and Citroën remain unbeaten in Argentina
Clear leaders going into the final day, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena controlled proceedings from the fro nt to grab their eighth win in Argentina. It was also Citroën’s ninth consecutive WRC win in South America! Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished sixth in the second DS3 WRC of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, whilst Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio took ninth overall.

Run without any service period, this third day of racing saw the competitors take on some of Rally Argentina’s most famous stages: Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare and El Condor/Copina, each run two times. Bonus points were available on the second run on El Condor, which served as the Power Stage.

Equipped with Michelin Latitude Cross soft compound tyres, the Citroën Racing crews left Villa Carlos Paz early this morning, heading west for the stages. Armed with a relatively comfortable lead over Sébastien Ogier, Sébastien Loeb could afford the luxury of controlling his pace in the many rough, rock-strewn sections. And yet he still managed to increase the gap significantly. Winner by almost a minute, the nine-time World Champion admitted feeling a little emotional about what will undoubtedly be his last win on gravel in the WRC.

“It’s pretty incredible to win Rally Argentina for the eighth time running, in front of so many passionate fans”, he said on his triumphant arrival in Villa Carlos Paz. “Winning wasn‘t essential for me, but I really got into it when I saw that I was on the pace. Ogier was also quick, but I was a bit more consistent before pulling clear at the end of the second leg. I am pleased to win here for the team; they really deserve it.”

Somewhat isolated in the overall standings, Mikko Hirvonen drove at a strong pace. His performances earned him a bonus point in the Power Stage. And his sixth place overall enabled the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team to score the same number of points as its main rival in the Manufacturers World Championship: “It was a good day, with some sunshine, lots of fans and some great stages. I had a lot of fun driving today. My pace was good, the car was perfect and it wasn’t too difficult to set some pleasing times.”

Tenth overall at the start of the day, Dani Sordo was one of the main movers as the rally drew to a close. Despite running second on the road, the Spaniard overtook Andreas Mikkelsen and Martin Prokop on consecutive stages. However, a gearbox problem for Sordo meant that the Norwegian fought back to retake 8th place by just 2/10ths… “I wasn’t paying too much attention to the times, because I was mainly focussed on getting the car to the finish”, commented the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT driver. “It gave me the chance to keep trying to improve my driving, especially in the slow corners.”

Pleased with this second win of 2013, following the one secured at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, Yves Matton reflected on the overall result of his team. “My overriding sense is that the rally confirmed that the performances of the DS3 WRC have progressed”, emphasized Citroën Racing’s Team Principal. “We have done a lot of work since Rally Mexico and that work has been repaid with the win. Obviously, an essential part of the win is Seb himself, who was back to his brilliant best despite missing the last few rallies. But I’d like to mention our other drivers too: after Dani in Portugal, Mikko showed this weekend that he was in contention to win the rally. They both still lack a bit of consistency to turn their good form into results. We’re all going to work towards achieving just that.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Loeb / Elena Citroën DS3 WRC 4:35:56.7
2 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC +55.0
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +2:00.8
4 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:36.7
5 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:40.5
6 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +6:23.9
7 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:02.2
8 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +13:22.1
9 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +13:22.3
10 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14:07.6
13-05-04 Novikov moves up to Poeium position for Qatar M-Sport
Famed as one of the toughest events in the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Argentina failed to faze Qatar M-Sport today as Evgeny Novikov swooped in to secure the final podium position on the penultimate day’s rallying. Also prospering where others faltered, Thierry Neuville moved into the top-five whilst a resurgent Mads Østberg set the stages alight.

Contesting an intelligent rally behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC and driving fearlessly through the mist and fog which hampered this morning’s tests, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor improved their pace throughout the day. Establishing a comfortable lead over Andreas Mikkelsen through the morning loop, the Muscovite was ready to pounce should the front runner-runners stumble.

And pounce he did. With both Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala encountering problems on the second pass of ‘Amboy / Yacanto’ (SS9) – Hirvonen with a puncture and suspected electrical fault and Latvala a puncture – Novikov surged through to claim third place overall. Despite a slender 8.2 second lead over the Volkswagen Finn, the young Russian is on course for his best result of the season and won’t let it go without a fight.

Also benefiting from a clever approach to this notoriously difficult event, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul ascended the leader board throughout the day. Continually improving, the Belgians were focused on their own event and keeping their Fiesta RS WRC well out of trouble.

Gaining experience and reaping the rewards of his low-risk strategy, Neuville leap-frogged a number of his more experienced rivals as he climbed from seventh to fifth place in the overall standings.

In a bitter sweet twist to the tale, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson were displaying pace which could have so easily challenged the front-runners were it not for yesterday’s misfortune.

Running first on the road for much of the day, the Scandinavians looked comfortable behind the wheel of their Fiesta RS WRC. Posting the fastest time through SS7 followed by a second fastest time on the trickier second pass, the pairing gained four places as they ploughed through the field. Østberg now lays a comfortable seventh going in to tomorrow’s final day and the all-important Power Stage.

Evgeny Novikov (3rd) said:
“I didn’t expect to be in third position by the end of the day, but obviously I am very happy to be here! The stages were very difficult today – especially on the second pass – and there were a lot of rocks to look out for. Luckily we made it through with no problems.

“The plan now is to defend our position and fight to keep Jari-Matti [Latvala] behind us. It won’t be easy, but we will try our best as always.”

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“After Andreas [Mikkelsen] retired [for the day] we haven’t really had anything to fight for so we took it very steady and made sure we got to the end of all of the stages. There was no point in taking any big risks and I think our strategy worked well as we have gone from seventh to fifth this afternoon.

“Of course the rally is not over yet and a lot can still happen. I’m really enjoying driving the stages and everything is working well so we’ll just try and keep the same rhythm for tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“Today has been a lot better than yesterday! We found a new set-up [during midday service] yesterday and we confirmed today that it is working really well. I think we have been driving really well too so it has been a very good day for us.

“Unfortunately we are unable to fight for a good position, but hopefully we can set some good times and fight for some good points.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s bit of a turnaround from yesterday that’s for sure! All three cars managed to avoid the problems the leaders had and it’s great to be on the podium with Evgeny [Novikov]. He’s had a very sensible approach to this event and it’s clearly paying dividends for him. It will be difficult to keep Jari-Matti [Latvala] at bay tomorrow, but we’ll certainly try and I’m sure Evgeny won’t let him go without a fight.”
13-05-04 Philips led Rally Argentina - Loeb marches on Towards another win
The second leg of Rally Argentina turned out to be just as tricky as the competitors feared and provided plenty of twists and turns. It is at times like these that Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have been unstoppable in the past. The nine-time World Champions were just that today as they grabbed the overall lead, before extending their advantage to 39.8s. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen’s luck deserted them in the afternoon, meaning they fell back to sixth overall in the second DS3 WRC of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

Fighting for the lead from the start of the rally, Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen both considered this second leg to be the most difficult day. Held on roads around a hundred kilometres to the south of Cordoba in the region of Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, both of the loop’s stages featured road surfaces that were littered with embedded rocks, which can be very hard on tyres and the suspension.

The drivers also had to cope with muddy conditions in places, on certain corners. In fact, whilst looking set to win SS6, Sébastien Loeb found himself caught out by the conditions a few kilometres from the end of the stage. On the next test, however, the no.1 DS3 WRC driver was simply unstoppable. He was making ground on Sébastien Ogier at each of the splits, who ended up losing half a minute after making a mistake. Sébastien Loeb therefore took the overall lead in the rally, 8.9s ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and 26.3s clear of Ogier.
“I drove flat out this morning, because I felt really comfortable in the car,” he explained at the mid-day service. “Generally speaking, the grip was good, but we had to be cautious in the muddy sections. I made a mistake on the day’s first stage, and then my rival made one on the next stage. I’m in front now, but the gaps are still pretty small.”

“It went well for us as well, despite running wide a little in a couple of places”, added Mikko. “I really enjoyed the stages today, especially the second one which had a better flow and lots of corners over the crests. As a Finn, I really enjoyed it!”

As if his position of leader gave him wings, Sébastien Loeb was simply unbeatable throughout the second loop. He won his first two stages of the rally and extended his lead to over 40s before the second run on the Villa Carlos Paz super special stage. “As I still felt really good, I decided to push because I knew I could pull clear”, he admitted at the end of SS9. “A 40-second lead seems pretty healthy to me and means I start the final day in a strong position. But it’s not over yet!”

In contrast, the afternoon’s stages proved to be something of an ordeal for Mikko Hirvonen. On SS8, the Finn picked up a puncture after hitting a rock. He lost around thirty seconds and second place. On the next stage, his DS3 WRC stopped for several minutes due to an electrical problem. The Finn managed to finish the stage, but has now dropped back to sixth overall, over six minutes adrift of his team-mate. “Obviously, it’s bitterly disappointing”, noted Mikko. “I knew that a lot of things would happen today, but unfortunately things haven’t worked out in our favour. We just have to keep going to the end to score some points.”

After dropping out of the leading group half-way through day one, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio continued their rally, keeping out of trouble. “It’s not easy to keep motivated when there’s nothing to win and I haven’t really found the right rhythm”, admitted the Spanish driver.

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Loeb / Elena Citroën DS3 WRC 3:32:15.9
2 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC +39.8
3 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:43.3
4 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +2:51.5
5 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:32.5
6 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +6:43.3
7 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10:40.6
8 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12:13.9
9 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +12:44.1
10 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +13:04.1
13-05-03 Midday quotes, Rally Argentina, Day 3
Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“There was quite a lot of fog this morning and in some corners it was a bit damp, but generally it was OK. I was not pushing 100 per cent, but we’ve got a really good rhythm at the moment so we’ll just continue like that this afternoon. Of course I’m always looking to be higher [in the overall standings] than fifth, but I think that we have done a good job this morning.”

Thierry Neuville (7th) said:
“We had a lot of fun this morning – really enjoying the driving and the pacenotes are working really well.

"We’re still taking quite a cautious approach and could definitely go faster, but we’ll see what the conditions are like this afternoon. If they are good, and we are feeling confident, then we will push a bit more. OK, there are some places which are quite rough and we will definitely slow down there, but in other places it is certainly possible to increase the speed.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“This morning has been good. The feeling after [midday] service yesterday was really good. We made some changes to the car and it worked really well. We left the car the same for today and it’s working perfectly so I’m happy.

“The surface is a bit different today. There’s a lot more sand so if the conditions had been like they were yesterday then there would have been a lot more mud and it might have been easier running first on the road. OK, the road position isn’t bad – for sure it’s not an advantage, but I wouldn’t say that it was a huge disadvantage either.

“On driving alone, realistically, I think we can only climb to eighth place. We’re in ninth at the moment, so hopefully we can gain another position this afternoon.”

13-05-03 Motorsport Italia Rally Argentina Day One Update
'Hello everyone - Tomo here again after a tough day at Rally Argentina

'This morning Michal started third on the road. The Start Selection process was interesting, because Novikov picked first on the road. Although that went against the trend for positions later down the Starting Order, he was concerned about rocks being pulled onto the stage and hoped for a clean run this morning. We knew that if it rained that would be a really intelligent decision!
After all, Sébastien Loeb won from first on the road in 2006 when the rally was run at the same time of year as now in very similar weather conditions. To my mind, Michal being third was quite a good compromise.

We used the 6km SSS1 last night to try an new set-up. We wanted to evaluate a damper with more traction at the expense of body control and precision. Michal made a good time, but preferred the set-up from Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage, so the boys were busy at first service this morning swapping back to the original set-up! (This information has also enabled us to put in our damper order for Greece, the next rally on the calendar. A lot of the time is spent planning for the forthcoming events. We've already been discussing test roads for Rally Finland in August!)

'So for Day One proper we ran two stages twice, 27km and 50km respectively. Today I drove up to refuel twice after the first stage in each pass with Team Manager Bruno primarily to ensure the refuels go smoothly but also to discuss set-up with the crew and try and improve the car for the long stage. Santa Catalina and Aschochinga are a real challenge for the cars and crews, but were slightly easier than last year. It was damp, wet and muddy especially off the racing line in 2012.

'This morning the crew started with a strong time on SS2. We didn't make any changes to the MINI John Cooper Works WRC, Michal and Maciek did have to bleed the front brakes on the road section, because the brake pedal had become a little soft towards the end of the stage. After that they were back on track, until they started to lose time approximately halfway through SS3 due to the rough stages breaking a rear anti-roll bar arm. We changed this at lunchtime along with the anti-roll bar as a precaution and lifted the car slightly ready for the rougher conditions expected on the second loop.

'SS4 went pretty well - with Michal putting in competitive times against his main rivals Prokop and the local Pozzo. But unfortunately Michal retired 17km into the long SS5. We are now still waiting for the car to arrive at the service park so that we can prepare it to restart tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations. We'll again make a couple of changes to help Michal do as well as he can here.

'That's all for now, Tomo'

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13-05-03 Loeb and Hirvonen in the mix
2013013304Challenging for the lead right from the word go, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews ended day one of Rally Argentina in second and third position. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are 16.3s adrift of the leaders, 1.8s ahead of their team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen.

After kicking off on Wednesday evening with the Villa Carlos Paz super special stage, Rally Argentina got down to serious business today. The route took the competitors around a hundred kilometres north of Cordoba. The two runs on the Santa Catalina/La Pampa (27.09km) and Ascochinga/Agua de Oro (51.88km) stages provided the crews with the first significant test on a rally that combines speed and endurance.

With large damp sections, misty rain and fog all expected during the morning loop, tyre choice was quickly settled: the Citroën DS3 WRCs left the service park with soft Michelin Latitude Cross tyres. It wasn’t until the cars reached the end of the Agua de Oro stage that the performances of the various crews over the 79km of timed sections could be judged. After winning SS3, Mikko Hirvonen held second place, 3.6s behind Sébastien Ogier.

“It went really well, although we were struggling a little bit with the tyres towards the end of the stage. This was the decisive factor for performance this morning,” stated the Finn. “I think I can go a bit quicker. We just have to try to be more clean, to stop the car from sliding around and improve the traction.”

Admitting that he was a little rusty after missing the last two rallies, Sébastien Loeb didn’t take long to work out how to get the best out of the DS3 WRC. The nine-time World Champion reached the mid-day service 6s behind the leader: “I had a bit of difficulty on SS2; it took me a while to understand how I needed to adjust my driving style. The set-up that we used this morning was creating understeer, something I’m not that used to. We are going to go back to a set-up that will be more natural for me. The outcome of the morning is still positive as I’m not far behind Mikko, who has always been very quick here.”

The first run on Ascochinga was a lot trickier for Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio, who rolled their car just after the half-way point of the stage. “I wasn‘t comfortable on SS2, which I thought was very slippery. But it was much better on the next stage,” reported Dani. “Unfortunately, there was a problem with Carlos’ door. It affected his concentration and he didn’t give me the right pace note. It’s really disappointing, but that’s life. We are still in the rally and we will keep going to try and secure the best possible result.” After extensive mechanical repairs, the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s DS3 WRC was able to continue and the Spanish crew ended the day in 10th position.

Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen and Sébastien Loeb had to cope with hard tyres, which turned out to be ill-suited to the road conditions. Seb fared better than Mikko, from whom he pinched second place: “The car drove well and we thought we had gone for the right option with the hard tyres. But then we had some drizzle and so we just tried to lose as little time as possible. We lost about ten seconds to Ogier, which isn’t very much and yet, it could be crucial. We’ll just have to deal with it on the last two legs…”

“I would say it has been a positive day, much more so than on the last two rallies”, commented Mikko. “We’re still there. Tomorrow is going to be a tricky day, especially if it continues to rain. Everything is still possible.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 1:57:14.1
2 Loeb / Elena Citroën DS3 WRC +16.3
3 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +18.1
4 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +40.7
5 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:37.7
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +1:55.1
7 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:12.5
8 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:41.4
9 Pozzo / Stillo Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10:10.3
10 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +10:32.6


13-05-03 A Rally of endurance and a rally of hardship for Qatar M-Sport
Famed for its mammoth stages, Rally Argentina is a real rally of endurance and the Qatar
M-Sport crews had that in mind as they tackled today’s lengthy tests. Keeping their Ford Fiesta RS WRCs well out of trouble in their endeavour to take as many points as possible from the South American event, Evgeny Novikov and Thierry Neuville closed the day in fifth and seventh places respectively.

Elsewhere however, Mads Østberg’s rally swiftly turned from one of endurance to one of hardship as the Norwegian was forced to retire on SS4 after incurring damage to the suspension on his Fiesta RS WRC.

Unaccustomedly for the Scandinavians, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson struggled to challenge the front-runners over the morning pass. Yet keeping the leaders in sight and adapting his driving style to harness the Fiesta’s power on the loose surface, the Norwegian was ready for a resurgent comeback over the afternoon loop. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Hitting an unsighted rock some 15 kilometres into the second pass of ‘Santa Catalina / La Pampa’ (SS4), the impact damaged the suspension on Østberg’s Fiesta RS WRC. Although putting an untimely end to his day’s rallying, the Norwegian will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

For team-mate Novikov, the first full day of competition provided somewhat better fortune as his decision to run first on the road seemed to be working well. Partnered by co-driver Ilka Minor, the Russian was able to carve his own lines through the soft gravel and took advantage of ‘cutting’ without the risk of encountering rocks which are so easily pulled onto the stages from previous runs.

Embarking on the afternoon pass, Novikov’s form only improved. Despite effectively sweeping the road for the leaders, the Muscovite set a promising pace – just six seconds adrift of third-placed Mikko Hirvonen on SS4. Indeed the Russian’s speed was enough to see him leapfrog Andreas Mikkelsen for fifth place on the final test of the day (SS5).

In the Qatar World Rally Team, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were playing the long game – conserving their speed and taking no unnecessary gambles through the challenging stages.

The Belgian’s tactical approach paid dividends. Gaining experience with each new kilometre, Neuville lies just 17.4 seconds adrift of sixth place going into tomorrow’s competitive action. Well aware of the fact that there is still a long way to go on this event, the youngster is ready and waiting should further drama unfold ahead.

Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“Running first on the road was OK for me. I took five soft tyres this afternoon and that worked well and also puts us in a better position for later in the rally. When the conditions are a little trickier like they were this afternoon, I really enjoy it. We kept the same rhythm as we did in the morning, but the times were better which was good.

“I’m first of the Fords now which is not so bad. OK, fifth place isn’t where we want to be, but there is a long way to go and as we have seen a lot can still happen. Let’s wait and see.”

Thierry Neuville (7th) said:
“I’m happy with the day and looking forward to tomorrow. We went with six soft tyres this afternoon – I’m not sure if it was the right choice but in terms of my confidence and the feeling with the car I was happy.

“We’ve already seen a lot happen today and I’m sure a lot can happen tomorrow. There is still a long way to go. I rolled here last year and still finished fifth so I know that a lot is still possible.”

Mads Østberg (11th / Rally 2) said:
“We went into a right-hand corner and there was a very big stone on the inside of the line – I didn’t even see it, I just hit it in the ‘rut’ and it took the bolt from the steering arm off and that was it. We fixed it on the stage, but we couldn’t repair it properly so we decided to stop and not risk any further damage.

“We had made some changes after service and up until the incident, our pace was really good. I was feeling a lot more confident than I was this morning so it was really disappointing that the day had to end the way it did.

“I think eighth place is definitely possible, but as we have seen today a lot can still happen. Let’s just wait and see what tomorrow brings.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s not been the best of days for us. Mads [Østberg] was struggling this morning, but we made some changes in service and his pace was looking really good. Unfortunately he damaged the suspension on SS4, but his pace was promising and a lot can still happen.

“Evgeny [Novikov] too was getting quicker and quicker as the day went on. Yes, we had a bad start but things can get better tomorrow when there is no question that we will have all three cars back on the stages. Anything is still possible.”

13-05-02 Midday Quotes, Rally Argentina, Day 2
Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“This morning hasn’t been perfect, but at least we are through. I’ve really been struggling to find the right feeling with the car and I have to drive differently to what I’m used to. It feels like we’re missing power. The handling is good and everything else is working well, so I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the altitude, but it didn’t feel like this in Mexico. The surface is very different here so maybe it’s a combination of things. Either way it doesn’t feel quite right so we’ll have to work on that.

“We were fastest on the downhill sections so that is a positive. We’ll try and build on that over the second loop, but it will be really rough as there were already quite a lot of stones on the first pass.”

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:
“It was definitely not a bad choice for me to be running first on the road today. We were able to choose our own lines and there weren’t any stones on the stages which meant we could cut where we wanted without taking any big risks.

“I’m sure the stages will be a lot rougher this afternoon, we’ll just have to wait and see. There are a lot of kilometres still to run, so we’ll see what happens.”

Thierry Neuville (8th) said:
“The stages were quite bumpy and rough so it was not easy. We decided to take a cautious approach to protect the car. This rally will be very hard for the mechanics so we are not taking any big risks at the moment.

“We had a small issue with the wipers towards the end of the first stage [SS2], but it didn’t affect me too much and they were working perfectly for the long one [SS3] so that was no drama. It will be tough this afternoon.

“There are already some big stones on the stages so we’ll have to be really careful. There is a long way to go and anything can still happen.”
13-05-01 Motorsport Italia Rally Argentina Update
'Hello everyone, it's Richard 'Tomo' Thompson here, the Motorsport Italia team engineer, writing to you before SSS1 of Rally Argentina kicks off later this afternoon.

'After the Qualifying Stage this morning, Michal selected to start third on the road tomorrow. This isn't an easy position, because there is the risk of road sweeping, but equally it might be to his advantage on the first loop to be on the stages before the roads are too worn.

'Being a rally engineer it’s our responsibility to help the crews work out the best possible set-up for the stages. When possible, we inspect the route at the same time the crews write their pace notes. This helps us with tyre choice and set-up options. We try to anticipate how the conditions will change for the second pass. Most rallies now use each stage twice and it’s important to note any parts that are going to degenerate. Then we can react with detailed changes to the set-up to counter this. We also need to decide when and where to take two spare wheels. This can be tricky as we're limited on the quantity of tyres we can use. Therefore, we need to discuss and agree a strategy prior to the rally.

'Stage inspection gives us a real insight into the country. Everyone has heard of El Condor, the stage that starts at 2100m and can be covered in mist and fog, even snow on occasion, when the service park is still in warm sunshine. It takes its name from the birds that drift on the thermals high above the ridge that leads to the stage. I remember a café on the way up the stage where for an extra $10 on the bill the chef will put a steak on a long pole and whistled for the birds, waiting for them to swoop down to take the meat . It’s only when they get close that you get a real understanding of their size, the sky really does go dark when they approach!

'It was a tough rally for Michal and Maciek last year so we will take a measured approach this time to get some valuable points in the bag. The first day will be a real test and by the end of the afternoon loop it will be clear who is the fastest. The 52km Ascochinga stage is a classic with a varying tempo. It can be wide and fast, but in the blink of an eye, changes to slippery, narrow and cambered roads ready to catch anyone out who slightly loses the line. The second pass through the stages can be very rough here, particularly Mina Clavero and El Condor, being hard on the tyres, car and crew.

'The first time I came to Argentina was in 1992, I was 23 years old and working for a Belgian team who went on to be Group N world champions that year. The rally started in Tucuman and in those days it really did feel a long way from home! Since then the country has developed quickly. It’s clear as you drive out from Cordoba’s airport to where the rally is based in Villa Carlos Paz you pass well-manicured verges and efficient dual carriageway roads, but once you get off the beaten track and onto the stages where the rally is run it is a different story! You’ll regularly see Gaucho Cowboys riding their steeds as they remains the favoured form of transport for working the land and tending the cattle because the terrain is punishing.

'That's about it for now, but I couldn’t leave you without one quick tip. One aspect that all the teams love when they come here are the steaks and red wine. Argentina’s wine region, Mendoza, isn’t too far away from here, which means there’s a great choice. It is especially famous for Malbec, an old French grape variety from Cahors that is well suited to the altitude and weather of the region.

'That's all from me. Now we'll wait to see what happens on this evening's Super Special and hope for a good day tomorrow!

'More from the team soon.
'Tomo'
13-04-30 Motorsport Italia Rally Argentina Preview
'Hello everyone,
'Bruno here, writing from Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina.
'It's full speed ahead for rally preparation because the event's itinerary has changed this year to start on Wednesday and finish Saturday. The rally is over 400 kilometres this year and kicks off with a Super Special Stage here in the town on Wednesday night, before the first full stage Thursday morning. I think Saturday'll be a tough day with 77.92 kilometres of rough Special Stages in total, but it ends on a high with the famous El Condor test as this year's PowerStage.

'For me, El Condor is the most iconic gravel stage on the current WRC calendar and one of my personal favourites. When you drive it, you start at the top of the mountain and descend though terrain that could have been taken straight from an Indiana Jones movie! It provides the perfect set for a WRC Special Stage. The narrow roads are tricky to negotiate and punctuated with wooden bridges, while low-hanging fog often makes it even more challenging.

'El Condor and Mina Clavero, the other stage on Saturday's loop, are like a different world to the majority of the Rally Argentina stages. Michal likes the faster, wider stages, in particular Santa Rosa - Villa del Dique. It's just over 40 kilometres with some very fast sections, crests, a water splash and this year has a new route which'll be a real challenge.

'Stages like this are great for spectators and the fans here in Argentina are fantastic. They're truly crazy about rally and create an awesome atmosphere in the service park and out on the stages.

'It's my fourth time at Rally Argentina, and my third with Michal, but his and Maciek's first time out here in the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. My Rally Argentina highlight so far was winning the PWRC category here last year with Motorsport Italia's sister team Ralliart Italy. Our second win in a row, it really set us up for the season en route to our third production car world title. Let's hope we can get a good result this year and top that memory. We're shooting for a Top 10 finish!

Michal will be competing in the same car he used in México, which was shipped here directly after the León based event finished. The MINI's set-up will be very similar here, but including many of the upgrades featured in Portugal. This rally should also be easier on the tyres. Normally the temperature and conditions at Rally Argentina call for soft tyres most of the time. This is positive for us, because the DMACK softs have proved to be a good option on previous rallies so far this season.

'That's all from me for now. We'll be back with updates throughout the week.
'Ciao, Bruno'
13-04-29 A large-scale show for Citroën in Coroba
The city of Córdoba welcomed the Citroën Racing crews on Sunday for an exclusively Citroën show. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen thrilled the huge crowds that had gathered to see them in their DS3 WRCs.

From “Arroyo de la Cañada” to “Parque de las Tejas”, some 50,000 fans attended the event organised by Citroën Argentina and Córdoba city council. After driving along the dried out La Cañada canal that runs through the heart of the city in his DS3 WRC, Sébastien Loeb was granted the freedom of the city by the mayor, Ramón Mestr.

The party continued in the “Parque de las Tejas”, with a road show combining speed, 360° spins and jumps. Citroën Racing’s drivers took it in turns to wow the crowds in their DS3 WRCs. Screeching tyres and roaring engines mixed with the noisy cheering and clapping of the fans to create a truly incredible atmosphere. The team then welcomed the charismatic singer and Córdoba-born star Mona Jiménez, who delivered a short performance before hopping into a DS3 WRC for his first ever experience in a racing car. After taking part in a photograph and autograph-signing session, the crews completed a final lap of honour on the roof of production DS3s under a shower of confetti.

“We were very busy all weekend as we also did some promotional work in Buenos Aires”, explained Dani. “Mikko and Jarmo kicked things off at La Bombonera stadium for the partnership between Citroën Argentina and the Boca Juniors football club. Then we hooked up with them for an event at the Arawak gravel track to the north of the capital. There was a challenge between Seb, Mikko and me and it was really great fun, but I turned our road show into a ‘roll show’!” commented an apologetic Dani. The technical team had their work cut out to ensure the DS3 was ready for the celebration in Córdoba.

“I must admit it’s nice to feel the atmosphere of a rally again, especially here in Argentina where people love their motorsport”, commented a delighted Sébastien. “The activities organised this weekend have given us the chance to meet some of the fans, who gave us a fantastic reception.”

“It’s always a great pleasure to get close to the fans in Argentina,” added Mikko. “They give back as much to us as we put in. We’ll certainly be pulling out all the stops to make sure we don’t let them down at this year’s Rally Argentina.”
13-04-26 ¡Holá Argentina!
Rally Argentina, the fifth round of the World Championship, will see the much-anticipated return of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in the no.1 Citroën DS3 WRC. The nine-time World Champions will line up alongside Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. As was the case in Sweden, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will be competing in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s car.

Very much like Monte-Carlo or Finland, Rally Argentina is one of the WRC’s special rounds. A typically Latin atmosphere, passionate crowds and the sublime beauty of the surrounding countryside combine to make this an event that every crew dreams of winning! In fact, the last eight times it has featured in the WRC, a Citroën driver has topped the podium, with Carlos Sainz’s victory here in 2004 followed by seven wins for Sébastien Loeb. This rally is therefore an eagerly awaited event for fans of the Brand, especially as it will see the return of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena!

As is the case every year, Citroën Argentina has pulled out all the stops to welcome the eight-time World Championship-winning team. Starting this weekend, the crews will be taking part in a series of promotional activities in Buenos Aires, before heading to Cordóba for a roadshow held in the city this Sunday at 4.30pm.

Recce starts on Monday morning, as the event gets underway a day earlier than in recent years. The rally is therefore scheduled to finish on Saturday 4 May, after three days of racing. The route is mainly made up of conventional stages, with plenty of long tests. The two runs on Ascochinga/Agua de Oro (51.88km), Santa Rosa/Villa del Dique (40.69km) and Amboy/Yacanto (39.16km) make up almost two thirds of the total distance of the timed sections.

Unbeaten in Villa Carlos Paz since 2005, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena start their third rally of the season with their sights clearly set on maintaining their record here. “It’s difficult to say whether not competing in the last two rounds will affect my pace at the start of the rally,” wondered Sébastien Loeb. “But I’ll obviously be aiming to secure the best possible result!”

In 2012, Mikko Hirvonen pushed Sébastien Loeb all the way, before making sure of a one-two for Citroën. The Finn hopes to enjoy the same level of performance this year: “Since the Rally de Portugal, we have continued to work in testing and have made some more positive steps forward in the set-up of the DS3 WRC. After finishing as runner-up in the last two rallies, I’m certainly aiming to be even faster here and to win my first race of the season.”

Dani Sordo, the third Citroën Racing driver competing in Argentina, has also finished as runner-up, back in 2009 on his last outing in a C4 WRC. Last year, the Spaniard looked very comfortable here when running in third place in his first race in a Fiesta, before he was let down by a mechanical failure. After running at the front in Portugal, Dani is very determined to underline his growing confidence at one of his favourite rallies. “I love Argentina! It’s a rally where I feel pretty much at home,” he commented. “In Portugal, I felt revitalised in the DS3 WRC. I could do what I wanted with the car and I think I could’ve challenged for the win. I’m not going to get too carried away, however, because the conditions in Argentina will be very different. But I’m certainly on the right track!”

THREE QUESTIONS FOR… SÉBASTIEN LOEB
You seem to have been very busy in the last few weeks. Have you had any time to relax?
“Not really… Whenever I thought I’d have some free time, I found myself busy, more often than not at the wheel of a racing car! After Argentina, I’ve gone another four other racing weekends. I think I’ll only be spending something like two days at home in May. But I can’t really complain – I was the one that chose to accept the opportunities that came up. I’m even busier than I have been in recent years, but it means I can work on my ability to adapt and acquire some experience geared towards the plans I share with Citroën. This was the year that we had to do all of this. I can learn how to do nothing later…”

Did you get the chance to follow Rally Mexico or Rally Portugal? What did you think about them?
“Obviously, I watched the rallies and saw how they went. It wasn’t always easy for Citroën faced with a rival that was already managing to combine very high levels of performance and reliability on a state-of-the-art car. But the season isn‘t over yet, because winning a thirteen round championship where all the rounds count also requires consistency. We saw that the DS3 WRCs were quicker in Portugal than in Mexico, so that suggests that the team is making progress. It also confirms that the DS3 WRC is more comfortable when there is a high level of grip.”

How have you prepared for this Rally Argentina? Do you feel ready to go after an eighth consecutive win?
“Apart from one day of testing, I haven’t driven on gravel since the 2012 Rally de Espana. So I don’t know what sort of feeling I’ll have on the first few stages in Argentina. I think that you can lose your rhythm pretty quickly, and that’s why I’m cautious about my chances. There’s no denying the fact that I have pretty much moved on from rallying and am now focussed on the future. This reduced programme is a good way to continue to compete for Citroën in 2013, but I’m not as well prepared as Mikko, Dani and the other guys. We’ll see what happens when we get our helmets on…”

RALLY ARGENTINA
Round: 5/13
Base and service park: Villa Carlos Paz
Surface: Gravel
Weather: Variable conditions, risk of heavy rain and fog at altitude. Sub-zero temperatures possible in the morning, reaching 20°C in the day.
Sunrise and sunset on the first day of the rally: 7.49am/6.38pm
Local time: GMT-3
Currency: Local currency is the Argentinean Peso (EUR 1 = ARS 6.73).
Website: www.rallyargentina.com
Technical information: Spare parts (transmission, subframes, steering racks and turbochargers) are to be shared with the Sweden and Mexico rallies.
Tyres: 28 Michelin Latitude Cross tyres to be chosen from 28 soft compound and 16 hard compound tyres.
Reconnaissance: Monday 29 April, from 8am to 6.30pm and Tuesday 30 April, from 8am to 6pm.
Free practice and qualifying stage: Wednesday 1 May, from 8am on the Villa García/Cabalango stage (4.59km) located 14.48km from the service park.
Route: 14 special stages (7 different stages). 407.64km of timed sections. Total distance: 1,576.23km.

RALLY ARGENTINA ITINERARY
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY
8.00am: Free practice
10.58m: Qualifying stage (4.59km)
1.00pm: Selection of starting positions (Service Park)
1.30pm: FIA Pre-Event Press Conference (Media Centre)
3.35pm: Start
4.00pm: SSS1 – Super Special Stage (6.04km)
4.20pm: Parc ferme

THURSDAY 2 MAY
7.00am: Service A (15 min)
9.08am: SS2 – Santa Catalina/La Pampa 1 (27.09km)
9.51am: SS3 – Citroën Ascochinga/Agua de Oro 1 (51.88km)
12.18pm: Service B (30 min)
2.41pm: SS4 – Santa Catalina/La Pampa 2 (27.09km)
3.25pm: SS5 – Citroën Ascochinga/Agua de Oro 2 (51.88km)
5.39pm: Flexi Service C (45 min)

FRIDAY 3 MAY
6.25am: Service D (15 min)
8.33am: SS6 – Santa Rosa/Villa del Dique 1 (40.69km)
9.41am: SS7 – Amboy/Yacanto 1 (39.16km)
12.36pm: Service E (30 min)
2.59pm: SS8 – Santa Rosa/Villa del Dique 2 (40.69km)
4.07pm: SS9 – Amboy/Yacanto 2 (39.16km)
7.05pm: SSS10 – Super Special Stage (6.04km)
7.28pm: Flexi Service F (45 min)

SATURDAY 4 MAY
7.00am: Service G (15 min)
9.08am: SS11 – Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare 1 (22.64km)
9.56am: SS12 – El Condor/Copina 1 (16.32km)
11.39am: SS13 – Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare 2 (22.64km)
12.57pm: SS14 – El Condor/Copina 2 (16.32km)
2.00pm: Service H (10 min)
2.40pm: Podium (Villa Carlos Paz)
3.30pm: FIA Post-Event Press Conference (Media Centre)
13-04-26 Argentine adventur awaits Qatar M-Sport
Qatar M-Sport will be looking to translate their pace into a strong result next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) ventures to the fifth round of the season at the Philips Rally Argentina. Leading the team’s voyage to South America, youngsters Mads Østberg, Evgeny Novikov and Thierry Neuville will be hoping their speed pays dividends.

Regarded by many as one of the most challenging rounds of the year, the soft gravel tests which meander through the breathtaking Cordobese Mountains hide a sinister side. Punctures caused by unsighted rocks are a constant threat and the technical nature of the stages demand perfect synchronisation from the crews throughout the enduring four-day event.

The stunning stages – varying in everything from open plains to narrow mountain tracks and dramatic moonlike vistas – make Rally Argentina a photographer’s paradise. The competition also attracts spectators in their thousands; the dedicated fans renowned as some of the most enthusiastic in the world.

With just four days to transform the team’s fleet of Ford Fiesta RS WRCs, M-Sport’s technicians have been working tirelessly to get the cars prepped and caged ready for their air-freight to Argentina. But the hard work will hopefully prove fruitful and, with his Fiesta fully rebuilt for the event, Østberg will be aiming for a top result next week.

Despite contesting the event on only two previous occasions, the Norwegian’s track record is a good one. Securing a fifth place finish on their debut in 2011, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson went on to claim the third step on the podium in 2012 and – given their impressive pace this season – the Scandinavians will be looking to mirror that success by fighting to increase their tally of top-three finishes.

‘Russian Rocket’ Novikov spent his time in competition last week as he got behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS WRC ’09 for the Rally Masters Show in Moscow. Partnered by co-driver Ilka Minor, the Muscovite flew to victory for the second year in succession – delighting the home crowd in the process.

Contrary to his young age, it was in 2008 that Novikov first made an impact on the Argentine stages. But his most inspiring performance came in 2012. Despite damaging his Fiesta RS WRC on Day 1, the Russian fought back admirably. Accompanied by his customary dose of ‘maximum attack’, the youngster recorded a string of top-three stage times – stamping his authority as a real star of the future and recovering a creditable eighth place finish.

Another youngster shining on the Argentine stages last year was Neuville – a feat made all the more poignant by the fact it was the Belgian’s debut in South America. One of only four drivers to secure a fastest stage time, Neuville claimed what was then a career best fifth place – a statistic he later trumped, most notably, with a maiden podium finish in Mexico last month.

Following a disappointing result in Portugal, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul are now focused on channelling their speed and finishing all of the championship’s next three rounds. The Belgian has been karting of late to ensure he maintains a good rhythm ahead of next week’s event and was lucky enough to test drive the new Ford Fiesta ST road car at the Blue Oval’s testing ground at Lommel in Belgium.

Mads Østberg said:
“Our goal will be to fight for a podium next week. Given the season so far, it is important for us to get some good points and make sure we’re still in the game. Obviously we still want to win rallies and Argentina is historically a good event for us so we’ll push hard, but the most important thing will be to finish well.

“Argentina is a challenging rally for sure. The weather is very changeable – you can have sun on the plains but then when you get up into the mountains there is a high risk of fog and rain – so you need to be able to adapt your driving style to suit every condition.

“But one of the biggest challenges is the long stages. Generally we’re used to a few long stages mixed in with a lot of shorter ones, but on this event it is pretty much all long stages which makes it a real rally of endurance.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“I’ve been to this event [Rally Argentina] a few times now and it’s really enjoyable with lots of really enthusiastic fans. The biggest challenge for us is the changing nature of the stages and the really long tests mean that we will need to have a really good line all weekend. It’s a lot of fun, I just hope that our pace is better than it was in Portugal. The end result was a good one, but I wasn’t satisfied with our speed and we need to make sure we put that right on the first stage next week.

“Ilka [Minor, co-driver] and I were driving a [Ford] Focus [RS WRC '09] at the Rally Masters Show last weekend. It’s a great event. There was a proper Tarmac stage set-up near Moscow and lots of people came out to see us. It’s great to see that rallying is growing in Russia and I think we put on a good show. I’m sure the fans were happy to see a Russian on the top-step of the podium!”

Thierry Neuville said:
“My goal for the next three rallies is simple – get to the end of each one. These next few events will be the most important for me. They’re all really tough, challenging events for the cars and drivers so I need to make sure I get the maximum experience from each one.

“The stages in Argentina are quite sandy so hopefully punctures won’t be as big a threat as they are on some of the other events – you just need to make sure you look out for any big rocks which have been pulled onto the stage. The real challenge is the length of the stages. Other than the Super Specials, the majority are all around 30 km or longer – the longest is over 50 km – so you need to really look after the tyres and keep your concentration.

“Since Portugal I’ve been karting which is really good fun and helps me keep the rhythm between events – it was also a good way of putting the disappointment from Portugal behind me! I also went to Lommel [Ford’s testing ground] with Ford Belgium to test drive the new [Ford] Fiesta ST [road car]. It’s an incredible car that you can really have a lot of fun with. The brakes are really impressive and I think it will be the perfect car to cruise around in of a weekend.


13-04-15 Tredje raka segern för Sébastien Ogier och Volkswagen i WRC
Volkswagen-föraren Sébastien Ogier vann Rally Portugal och tog sin tredje raka seger i rally-VM (WRC). Därmed utökade han sin ledning i förarmästerskapet. Pallplats blev det också för teamkamraten Jari-Matti Latvala som kom trea. För första gången deltog Volkswagen med tre Polo R WRC och i sin debut körde Andreas Mikkelsen i mål på en sjätteplats.

Det blev alltså två pallplatser för Volkswagen Motorsport i det krävande rallyt på Algarvekusten i södra Portugal (11-14 april). Teamets prestationer gör att Volkswagen Motorsport nu toppar teammästerskapet efter fyra körda tävlingar i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Efter sin tredje raka seger drygar Sébastien Ogier och kartläsaren Julina Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike) ut sin ledning i förarmästerskapet, nu hela 54 poäng före Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën) som kom tvåa i Portugal. Det andra förarparet från Volkswagen, Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland), ligger efter sin tredjeplats i Portugal på en total femteplats i mästerskapet.

Andreas Mikkelsen och kartläsaren Mikko Markkula (Norge/Finland), som debuterade i en tredje Polo R WRC, körde in på en fin sjätteplats. Mikkelsen gjorde exakt vad teamet hade bett honom göra, nämligen att få värdefull erfarenhet i WRC under konkurrensmässiga förhållanden. Sjätteplatsen gav åtta VM-poäng.

Ulrich Hackenberg, Volkswagens utvecklingschef, följde rallyt på plats.
– Det var fantastiskt att vara närvarande vid rallyt! Jag är mycket imponerad över teamets framgång och det var fantastiskt att se hur väl hela teamet arbetar tillsammans. På ett utmärkt sätt backar de upp våra förare som sedan gjorde ett utomordentligt jobb.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 8
– Otroligt, vilken berg-och-dalbana det blev här i Portugal! Jag är överlycklig över segern. Först sjukdomen och sedan de brutala sträckorna som verkligen driver en rallybil till det yttersta. Jag tycker att vi förtjänade segern. Rallyt var mycket krävande och svårt – för bilen, hela teamet, och särskilt för mig. När jag kom till Portugal på måndag kväll var jag inte säker på om jag skulle kunna starta på grund av sjukdom. Jag var trött och min energireserv var helt tom. Lyckligtvis förbättrades mitt tillstånd avsevärt under de senaste två dagarna. Jag får nu försöka vila så mycket som möjligt inför rallyt i Argentina.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 7
– Jag är mycket glad och nöjd över att stå på pallen för första gången för Volkswagen. Vi hade en svår start på säsongen, men vår otur har äntligen kommit till ett slut. Jag känner mig verkligen hemma i Polo R WRC nu och tror att vi snart kan prestera ännu bättre. Rallyt var en tuff test för både förare och bil. Den hårda marken och de många stenarna ställde allt på sin spets. Våra mekaniker gjorde ett perfekt jobb att ersätta den trasiga drivaxeln på söndagen. Som alltid var de helt pålitliga – tack! Allt detta ger mig självförtroende inför de kommande rallyn och jag ser redan fram emot Argentina om tre veckor.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC # 9
– Jag lärde mig något på varenda meter av min första rally med Polo R WRC. Mitt mål var att få så mycket erfarenhet som möjligt och jag har fått en hel del idéer på hur vi kan förbättra oss ytterligare i framtiden. Med Polo R WRC går allt mycket snabbare än jag är van vid i Super 2000. Min noter var alltför detaljerade, speciellt vid de snabba sektionerna, vilket var för mycket för Mikko att läsa och för mig att bearbeta. Vi kommer jobba på det. Aerodynamiken på Polo R WRC är särskilt imponerande och kurvtagningshastigheterna är extremt höga. Jag utnyttjade inte bilens fulla potential i kurvorna för att jag inte ville ta några risker. Allt som allt är jag dock mycket nöjd med min debut för Volkswagen. Jag fick stort stöd från teamet och vill tacka dem för det!

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport
– Rally Portugal var ett svårt test för teamet, Polo R WRC och förarna. Det var säsongens första typiska grusrally och var också en av de mest krävande i kalendern så långt. Vi såg i början av rallyt att Polo R WRC och dess rivaler på Ford och Citroën är i nivå med varandra. Placeringarna etta, trea och sexa är ett enastående resultat för teamet, som vi har våra toppklassförare att tacka för. En stor eloge går också till ingenjörer och mekaniker som gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb och säkrade vår tredje seger, trots några barnsjukdomar med denna helt nya bil. Jag är stolt över hela teamet!

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Resultat Rally Portugal
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), VW 4h 07m 38.7s
2. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën + 58.2s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), VW + 4m 04.5s
4. Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A), Ford + 5m 27.7s
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Q/I), Ford + 7m 43.5s
6. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), VW + 9m 39.8s
7. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford + 15m 04.2s
8. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 15m 43.6s

Förarmästerskapet efter fyra deltävlingar
1. Sébastien Ogier 102 poäng
2. Mikko Hirvonen 48
3. Sébastien Loeb 43
4. Mads Østberg 32
5. Jari-Matti Latvala 31
6. Dani Sordo 27
7. Thierry Neuville 25
8. Martin Prokop 20
8. Nasser Al-Attiyah 20

Teammästerskapet efter fyra deltävlingar
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 121 poäng
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 107
3. Qatar M-Sport WRT 55
4. Qatar WRT 36
5. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT 27
13-04-15 Citroen top driver - An all-french podium
Bryan Bouffier and co-driver Xavier Panseri produced a controlled, accomplished performance, starting cautiously on the first leg before gradually upping their pace on days two and three. They brought their DS3 R3 home in first place in both the Citroën Top Driver and WRC3 standings, whilst Sébastien Chardonnet and Quentin Gilbert rounded off this first, all-French podium.

From Lisbon to Loulé, taking in Ourique and Almodovar, the Citroën DS3 R3s covered some 380 kilometres of timed stages during three days of racing. Despite the mild weather, the nine crews competing here still had to deal with difficult road conditions for men and machines, where punctures can be easily picked up. The kind of conditions where experience and analytical ability would be a genuine asset for any driver hoping to win the rally.

Day one saw a fiercely contested battle between Alastair Fisher and Keith Cronin. They took turns to hold the lead and ended the leg occupying the top two positions in the standings, with just 3.3 seconds between them. However, Côte d’Azur-based driver Sébastien Chardonnet refused to be outdone. He completed the provisional podium, 6.6s off the pace. Bryan Bouffier held fourth position whilst Quentin Gilbert trailed the leaders by over two minutes after a driving mistake and Simone Campedelli was over three minutes adrift after picking up a puncture. Meanwhile, Christian Riedemann had to retire altogether from the rally after suffering gearbox failure and Federico Della Casa went off on SS1, but opted to rejoin under Rally2 rules.

Day two served up yet more incidents. Keith Cronin, Alastair Fisher, Simone Campedelli and Quentin Gilbert all made mistakes at the same point on the seventh stage. The British driver and the Frenchman managed to rejoin but only after losing a lot of time. The 2011 French Rally Champion, Bryan Bouffier, took over at the top of the overall standings. Sébastien Chardonnet held onto second position despite a minor off on “Loulé”, followed by Francesco Parli, whose careful approach kept him in the rally.

The final day featured two classics, Silves and Almodovar, a 52-kilometre stage which put both the driver’s race management skills and their concentration to the test. Federico Della Casa and Francesco Parli threw in the towel on the first loop, meaning Quentin Gilbert moved up into third place overall. Keith Cronin set the fastest time on the final two stages, but everyone was holding their position and avoiding taking any risks so as to score as many points as possible for the Citroën Top Driver standings. The final podium was comprised of all three French drivers competing in the formula.

“There’s no point running if you don’t make it to the end!”, joked the driver from the Drôme at the finish. “That was how we decided to approach the race this weekend and the result is very positive. When we began recce, we very quickly understood that you if you wanted to stay out of trouble, then you couldn’t drive flat out. The course is very hard on the cars and you have to look after them. It is also full of tricky spots, where you can easily pick up a puncture. The DS3 R3 was very quick and reliable, and it got us home safely for the win. We’re really pleased and I’m going to try and find the required budget to pursue this programme.”

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Fisher – SS2: Cronin – SS3: Chardonnet – SS4: Cronin – SS5: Campedelli
Day 2 – SS6: Cronin – SS7: Bouffier – SS8: Fisher – SS9 to SS11: Bouffier
Day 3 – SS12: Fisher – SS13: Bouffier – SS14 and SS15: Cronin

BEST PERFORMERS
Bouffier and Cronin, 5 fastest times. Fisher, 3. Chardonnet and Campedelli, 1 fastest time each.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS3: Fisher – SS4 and SS5: Cronin – SS6: Cronin – SS7 to SS15: Bouffier.

RETIREMENTS
Christian Riedemann: Technical retirement (gearbox) on SS3
Federico Della Casa: Minor off on SS1 / Rally2 / Minor off on SS10 / Rally2 / Minor off on SS12
Keith Cronin: Minor off on SS7
Simone Campedelli: Minor off on SS7
Alastair Fisher: Technical retirement (gearbox) on SS10
Francesco Parli: Technical problem and then minor off on SS13

CITROEN TOP DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER RALLY DE PORTUGAL
BOUFFIER: 25 points
CHARDONNET: 18 pts
GILBERT: 15 pts
FISHER: 12 pts
CRONIN: 10 pts
CAMPEDELLI: 8 pts
RIEDEMANN / PARLI / DELLA CASA: 0 pts

TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RALLY DE PORTUGAL
TOP TEAMS: 33 pts (CHARDONNET + GILBERT)
DELTA RALLY TEAM: 25 pts (BOUFFIER + DELLA CASA)
SAINTELOC RACING: 20 pts (FISHER + CAMPEDELLI)
CHARLES HURST CITROËN BELFAST: 10 pts (CRONIN + RIEDEMANN)
13-04-14 A very positive first outing on gravel for Roberg Kubica
Competing in a gravel rally for the first time, not to mention a round of the World Championship, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran experienced the full range of feelings during the weekend. They ultimately came away pleased to have shown some real potential on the WRC’s main surface. The Citroën DS3 RRC crew also scored their first points in the WRC2 standings.

After taking part in the Fafe Rally Sprint, Robert Kubica and his co-driver Maciek Baran discovered an extremely technical and demanding course during recce, full of blind jumps and corners.

Once the rally itself got underway, the Polish driver first had to learn how to decipher these many difficulties: “Without experience, it is difficult to judge how a crest is going to affect the handling of the car at full speed from what you see in recce. There are so many jumps here that you can’t take it easy without losing two or three seconds per kilometre! I noticed a big improvement on the second runs and I was surprised to set such good times. Unfortunately, the two punctures we picked up on Friday prevented us from completing the leg.”

After rejoining under Rally2 rules on Saturday, Robert then had to deal with some technical problems, which prevented him from using the semi-automatic shift on the gearbox. The final day went more according to plan, enabling the Krakow driver to rack up the miles, particularly completing two runs on the 52km-long Almodovar stage.

Robert Kubica ended the rally in sixth place in the WRC2, which meant he collected his first points in the category. “The last ten days spent in Portugal have been a very useful learning experience,” he concluded. “Overall, it has been pretty positive, although we have been a bit unlucky at times. For my first gravel rally, I think I have shown good pace on the stages where I didn’t have any problems. I have found a lot of answers to the questions I had a few days ago. If we were to rerun the rally in a few weeks time, I’d obviously be better equipped. So that augurs well for the rest of the season.”

With this experience under his belt, Robert is nonetheless aware that he’ll need to keep learning in his next few rallies: “The most important thing for me is to manage to correlate what I see in recce with what happens in the race. The course this weekend was very technically demanding, so that will be useful for the coming rallies. But I am already aware that none of the rallies will be easy…”

After this first outing in the WRC2, Robert may opt to enter the next round of the European Rally Championship: We are going to look at taking part in the Rallye Açores, which is also on gravel. My next WRC2 event will very probably be the Acropolis Rally.”
13-04-14 Novikov and Al-Attiah lead the way for Qatar M-Sport
On an eventful final day at the 2013 Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Qatar World Rally Team’s Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for the squad as they brought their Ford Fiesta RS WRCs home in fourth and fifth places respectively.

Novikov ended the event in a respectable fourth place. Despite being unable to channel his customary speed, the Muscovite was undeterred by the difficult conditions. The youngster and co-driver Ilka Minor found themselves tantalisingly close to a podium finish when Jari-Matti Latvala’s Volkswagen Polo R WRC encountered problems early in the day. Alas it was not to be, and although narrowly missing out on third place, the Russian recorded his best result of the year which propels him from 17th to 10th in the FIA World Rally Championship’s drivers’ standings.

Elsewhere in the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads Østberg was showcasing some impressive pace. Posting the fastest time on three of today’s four special stages, the Norwegian and his Swedish co-driver, Jonas Andersson, displayed speed which could have so easily challenged for victory were it not for their mistake on Friday morning.

Finishing eighth overall, Østberg also claimed an additional two points in the all-important Power Stage as he dismissed the disadvantage of running fourth on the road by setting the second quickest time through the 52.30 kilometre test.

Continuing their strong performance this season, Al-Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini secured a second successive top-five finish. Continually improving his pace throughout the weekend, the Qatari was once again at one with his Fiesta RS WRC on only his second outing with the team.

Running first on the road, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul were disadvantaged by the task of clearing the road for the crews behind. Continually building their experience, the pairing used the seat time wisely – perfecting their pacenotes and building their experience ahead of next month’s Rally Argentina.

Elsewhere however there was heartache for Dennis Kuipers and co-driver Robin Buysmans who were impressing on their return to the championship. Unfortunately for the Dutchman – who was holding a strong seventh place overall – his fine performance was to go unrewarded as an electrical issue halted his charge before the final stage.

In WRC 2, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were setting the stages alight. Claiming all of the day’s four stage wins, the British pairing proved that they have the pace to challenge for the top results. Indeed the Welshman’s performance today even saw him outshine some of the WRC competitors and means that he will be a real contender when he returns to the series later this year.

Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
“Fourth place is a very good result for us, but still I was not so happy with the times. It was a difficult weekend for us. I was pushing on the stages but for some reason the times just weren’t where they needed to be.

“This [fourth place] is definitely the maximum I could have achieved this weekend, so I am happy with that. Now we just need to make sure we work hard and come back stronger in Argentina.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
“This is a fantastic result for us. It was not an easy rally but I think we performed really well and, as always, the team did a great job with the car. Our times are continually improving. This car is totally new for me this year and we are still learning, so to see the times improve like this is really good.”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:

“If you consider the way we came back from our mistake on Friday, we have had a very good rally. We have been very happy with our performance and, considering our road position these past two days, I think we have done a very good job.

“We had good pace and the car has been working really well this weekend. We know for the future that it is possible to win rallies, and I am quite sure that it will come soon.”

Thierry Neuville (18th) said:
“This was a very disappointing rally for us but I can only be angry with myself. My performance was not where it should have been this weekend so I cannot be happy. We can only be happy with the performance of the car, the team and the mechanics, who have done another great job. We’re four rallies into the season now and there have been no problems with the car so this is something important at least.

“Driver mistakes can happen, but I need to make sure that they don’t happen so often! Now I just need to put this weekend to the back of my mind and look ahead to Argentina.”

Elfyn Evans (8th in WRC 2) said:
“This weekend was all very unknown with a lot to learn. We got to grips with the car reasonably quickly and we were building our speed. Unfortunately we hit trouble on Saturday which was disappointing, but it couldn’t be helped. Restarting today we just picked up where we left off on Friday. We had a good day with no problems and just got more and more comfortable as the day went on.

“We’ve gained some great experience this weekend, and I think we’ll be well placed for the next event. I am very much looking forward to getting back and really challenging for the top results.”

Dennis Kuipers (DNF) said:
“It’s hugely disappointing to not have finished today because we were having a really good run and holding what would have been a fantastic result for us. I’ve really enjoyed being back in the WRC this weekend, and hopefully we can be back again soon.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s not been the best of weekends for the team, but there are still a lot of positives to take forward. Evgeny [Novikov] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] put in a great performances and Mads’ [Østberg] pace in particular proves that the team is capable of winning rallies.

“Elfyn [Evans] too has had a good weekend. He’s not put a foot wrong all rally and it’s just a shame that he hit problems on Saturday as a podium finish on his debut with the team [in WRC 2] was well within reach.
13-04-14 Another podium finish for Mikko Hirvonen
Consistent throughout the final leg of Rally de Portugal, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished as runners-up at the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio scored two additional points for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in the manufacturers’ standings.

Although there were clear gaps between the leading drivers, no-one was about to take the final leg of Rally de Portugal lightly. The day’s schedule still included two loops comprised of the Silves (21.52km) and Almodovar (52.30km) stages. And, as the 2013 regulations restrict the quotas of tyres allocated to each car, the crews had to manage their tyres as effectively as they could so as to make it to the end of the rally in the best possible conditions.

Third overall on Saturday evening, Mikko Hirvonen set off this morning aiming to hold onto his position. However, looking at the split times on Silves 1 (SS12), the Finn noted that Ogier and Latvala were losing quite a lot of time. “I even wondered if there was something wrong with the timing system,” exclaimed the Finn, who moved up into second place after the stage. “This rally is very hard on the cars and my DS3 WRC has been perfect in that respect. I am going to keep driving without taking any risks, so that I finish in this position. I’m not particularly worried about the tyres because I have managed my quota pretty well since the start of the rally.”

Indeed, there were no mishaps in the closing stages for the Finn, who finished as runner-up once again. “Second place is always a good result, but I must say that I hoped to be a bit quicker here,” admitted the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT driver. “We have made good progress since Mexico, but we needed a bit more time on the road to optimise the suspension settings and perhaps that’s what prevented me from being on the pace on Friday morning. We need to keep working, especially to improve the performance in the fastest sections.”

After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Dani Sordo’s sole aim was to make it to the end of the rally and claim a couple of extra points towards the Manufacturers’ World Championship. The Spaniard finished ninth among the works drivers. “Most of all, I’ll take heart from how I started the rally, because the feeling I had in the car was better than ever before”, he explained. “The other thing I learned was that you really need to perform well in qualifying to give yourself the best possible chance of victory. I’ll head for Argentina even more motivated than before and determined to show everyone what I can do.”

Khalid Al Qassimi completed an error-free rally to finish in the points, and he too felt hopeful for the future. “I’m happy to have made it to the end of this rally. But above all, I’m pleased to have made progress with my driving style on the last few stages,” stated the driver of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s DS3 WRC. “As the tyres were tending to heat up, I eased off a little and realised that this approach was a lot more effective. This is another step forward on my learning curve.”

The final word went to Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal, who congratulated the work done by the team since Rally Mexico: “We have not only shown that our car is still the most reliable in the field, but we have also managed to improve its performance level whilst adapting it to the style of our drivers. We’re pleased about this and it means that we can feel look forward to the rest of the season in a positive frame of mind.”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 4:07:38.7
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +58.2
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +4:04.5
4 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:27.7
5 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7:43.5
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +9:39.8
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15:04:2
8 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15:43.6
9 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +15:56.9
10 Lappi / Ferm Skoda Fabia S2000 +16:21.0

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Ogier – SS2: Østberg – SS3 and SS4: Sordo – SS5: Hirvonen.
Day 2 – SS6 and SS7: Latvala – SS8 to SS11: Ogier.
Day 3 – SS12 to SS14: Østberg – SS15: Ogier.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 6 fastest times – Østberg, 4 – Sordo and Latvala, 2 each – Hirvonen, 1.

LEADERS
SS1: Ogier – SS2: Østberg – SS3 to SS15: Ogier.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
DRIVERS
1- OGIER : 102 points
2- HIRVONEN : 48
3- LOEB : 43
4- OSTBERG : 32
5- LATVALA : 31
6- SORDO : 27
7- NEUVILLE : 25
8- PROKOP: 20
9- AL ATTIYAH : 20
10- NOVIKOV: 15 …/..

MANUFACTURERS
1 – VW : 121 points
2 – CITROEN TOTAL ABU DHABI WRT : 107
3 – QATAR MSPORT WRT : 55
4 – QATAR WRT : 36
5 – ABU DHABI CITROEN TOTAL WRT : 27
6 – JIPOCAR : 22
7 – LOTOS : 12
8- VW MSP 2 : 10
13-04-14 Motorsport Italia Rally de Portugal Review
'Hello everyone, Maciek here, writing to you for the last time from the Algarve.
'Today started well. On the morning loop our MINI John Cooper Works WRC felt a little soft - we were sensitive to every impact and the rough conditions of the Portuguese gravel. However, we didn't have any major problems. Our main focus was on making sure our tyres didn't overheat.

'We only had two new tyres left for today and we decided to save those for the afternoon, so this morning we ran on used ones. Not easy on a difficult day. There were nearly as many kilometres as yesterday and the longest stage on the rally's itinerary, Almodovar.

'This afternoon the car felt a little better and the set-up suited us. We didn't push too hard though, because we couldn't catch the car in front, we could only risk losing position. Despite this, on SS15, the second pass through Almodovar, we broke the gearbox approximately 7km into the stage and were forced to retire. This was disappointing, of course.

'On a more positive note, in terms of our performance, we feel that we made a step forward this rally and we'd like to make another step in Argentina, because we always aim to keep improving. Here in Portugal, we had the latest O1C engine evolution for the first time, which is more flexible with more top end horsepower. We also ran different dampers based on the feedback we gave after Mexico. These factors worked with the set-up we found on our test to make us feel more confident in the car.

'The Live TV here at Rally de Portugal was a great idea. We hope this will be available on other events this season. People love to see live action and we've had very positive feedback from the extra publicity.

'Now we're looking ahead to Rally Argentina. We've competed there three times before in 2009, 2011 and 2012. I like the event. The gravel experience gathered in Mexico and Portugal will really help us.

'That's all from me (for now!)
'Maciek'
13-04-14 Midday quotex, Rally de Portugal, day 3
Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
“When we saw that Jari-Matti [Latvala] had a problem we tried to push at the beginning of the long stage [SS13], but when we saw that he wasn’t losing as much time as he needed for us to climb a position, we backed off.

“Fourth place would be a very good result for us considering that I have not been 100 per cent happy this weekend, so I don’t want to throw that away by taking too many big risks on the last day.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
“We had a good run this morning with no problems. Our aim was to keep [Andreas] Mikkelsen behind us and we did that. We controlled the pace well and I think we did a really good job.

“The long stage was really enjoyable. Maybe I have a bit of an advantage with my endurance experience from Dakar. But to be honest, it’s a completely different situation. There you have constant long stages whereas here you are switching between endurance and sprint.”

Dennis Kuipers (7th) said:
“We had some problems with the intercom on the first stage [SS12] – it was too loud and Robin [Buysmans, co-driver] had to alter it whilst reading the notes so we lost a bit of time there. Then halfway through the second stage [SS13] we had some problems with the gearbox, but in the end it was all OK.

“We didn’t take any big risks because we are in a good position now and we want to maintain that and finish strongly.”

Mads Østberg (11th) said:
“It’s been a good morning for us. We have been enjoying ourselves and setting some really good times. We’ve been driving as fast as we can whilst not doing anything stupid I think it has worked really well for us.

“The stages are still a bit loose in some places, but we’ll try to get back up to ninth and then hopefully score some points in the Power Stage too. It’s a big target, but I think it is possible.”

Thierry Neuville (21st) said:
“It was very slippery for us being first on the road and we were basically just sweeping the road for the cars behind. Having said that, I think we had a good run. We had a small issue with the brakes on the long stage [SS13] – I think we over heated them and then lost them on the front. But we managed the situation and got the car back to service where the team will get it running perfectly again for the afternoon.

“Being first on the road we’ve just been checking the pacenotes to make sure they are as good as they can be. This afternoon we will push if we have the opportunity – let’s just see what happens.”

Elfyn Evans (11th in WRC 2) said:
“We’re learning the car all the time and still taking care where we need to – but so far so good. We’re just trying to feel our way in. We’re not so concerned about what the other crews are doing right now. We’re just concentrating on our own event and gaining as much experience as we can for the next round.”
13-04-14 Seger för Pontus Tidemand i Portugals VM-rally
Vinst var målet och vinst blev det för 22-årige värmlänningen Pontus Tidemand när Rally Potugal, årets första deltävling i Junior-VM, avgjordes under helgen. Redan på rallyts andra sträcka på fredagen kopplade Pontus grepp om ledningen och lyckades behålla den hela vägen till målgången på lördagskvällen.

Pontus, tillsammans med kartläsaren Ola Fløene, inledde starkt när Rally Portugal startade på fredagen. På den första sträckan var han snabbast på de flesta av splittiderna, och trots några mindre problem mot sträckans slut, var han näst snabbast i klassen endast slagen med 0.2 sekunder. På följande sträcka var han snabbast och gick också upp i totalledningen med 10.9 sekunder till spanjoren José Suarez.
- Vi körde ikapp två bilar på första sträckan och hade svårt med sikten då det var mycket damm på vägen, men vi tog igen det när vi var snabbast på andra sträckan och det är vi glada för, berättade Pontus, som kör VM-serien tack vare stöd från EVEN Management och Tommy Andersson, ägare av Tätab.

Fredagens tredje specialsträcka medförde problem för nästan alla JRWC-ekipage när en bil som kraschat halvvägs in på sträckan blockerade vägen. För Pontus, som startade som andra bil i klassen, innebar det en tidsförlust på över fem minuter. Men efter att arrangörerna hade justerat tiderna innebar missödet ingen skillnad för Pontus som behöll ledningen och efter sträckvinst på SS4 hade han 26.4 sekunders ledning.

Rallyts första dag avslutades med en publiksträcka i Lissabon och även där var Pontus snabbast i sin klass. Därmed drygade han ut ledningen till 27 sekunder före tvåan Suarez.
- Allt har fungerat bra idag och jag har både haft rätt känsla och haft kul i bilen. Nu ser vi fram emot morgondagen då vi ska göra allt vi kan för att behålla ledningen. Inget är avgjort, det är och kommer bli en kamp med José Suarez som har förbättrat sin körning på grus och Marius Aasen som har kört bra idag, sa Pontus på fredagskvällen.

På lördagen väntade sex nya sträckor och eftersom Pontus avslutade fredagen i ledning, innebar det att han fick gå ut som första JWRC-bil på lördagsmorgonen. Han inledde dagen med en sträckseger och utökade då ledningen till hela 54.2 sekunder i totalen, en ledning som inte var värd att riskera för att jaga sträckvinster.
- I det läget kände jag att det var viktigare att se till rallyts helhet och börja köra mer på säkerhet för att inte ta några onödiga risker, förklarar Pontus. Vinsten var inom räckhåll och jag ville verkligen ta hem det.

Efter klok och mogen körning med två andratider och två tredjetider på de följande fyra sträckorna, hade Pontus en stabil ledning på 46 sekunder innan starten av sista sträckan. Där gjorde han en felfri avslutning på rallyt med en femte sträckvinst och segermarginalen landade på närmare två och en halv minut.
- Det känns otroligt skönt att få starta den internationella säsongen med en vinst. Det var ett mycket tufft och hårt rally på de steniga vägarna. Jag och Ola har haft en toppenhelg där allt har funkat perfekt och jag bara har kunnat fokusera på körningen. Jag vill också passa på att ännu en gång tacka EVEN Management och Tommy Andersson för den här möjligheten, säger en nöjd och glad Pontus efter den elfte och sista sträckan.

Resultat FIA Junior WRC (JWRC) Vodafone Rally de Portugal 2013:
1. 1. P. Tidemand (SWE) / O. Floene (NOR) 3:01:23.6
2. 2. J. Suarez (ESP) / C. Carrera (ESP) +2:26.9
3. 3. Y. Lemes (ESP) / R. Peñate (ESP) +3:10.7
4. 4. A. Amberg (FIN) / M. Lukka (FIN) +5.27.9
5. 5. M. Koci (SVK) / P. Starý (CZE) +5,57.9
6. 6. M. Aasen (NOR) / M. Engan (NOR) +9:46.5
7. 7. N. Nieminen (FIN) / M. Korhonen (FIN) +11:23.0
8. 8. S. Pärn (EST) / Ken Järveoja (EST) +33:08.5

FIA Junior WRC (JWRC) tabell efter första av sex deltävlingar.
1. 1. P. Tidemand (SWE) 30
2. 2. J. Suarez (ESP) 20
3. 3. Y. Lemes (ESP) 17
4. 4. A. Amberg (FIN) 12
5. 5. M. Koci (SVK) 10
6. 6. J. Aasen (NOR) 9
7. 7. N. Nieminen (FIN) 6
8. 8. S. Pärn (EST) 4
13-04-14 Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja stayed on the road in 2nd day
Saturday was the second day for the Junior WRC crews in this year's Vodafone Rally de Portugal. After going out on the first day Pärn - Järveoja were eager to finish the rally with a better effort on saturday's stages.
"Now as we have finished the rally, i can say that the mistake which i made yesterday, made the driving on todays stages eaven more difficult," said Pärn. Sander added that it took them a great effort to get a good feeling with the car. "I drove a front wheel car two years ago and before the rally i thought it would be a lot easier," analysed Sander.
On todays stages they improved the times and speed. On two accasions they were 5th quickest, which proved to be the best times for them in this year's Portugese rally. "It was not a great rally for us and all the little things that are so vital, were not in my favour this time," said Pärn.

Pärn - Järveoja scored the first points in Junior WRC. "We were 8th and those first points are important, but there is a lot of work to be done, before we can fight with the rest of the guys for the victory," said Pärn.
Sander added that after driving 160 km on the 2nd day sages showed him how much different are the front wheel drive cars. "I have forgotten the style how to drive these cars and i need to do a lot of work before rally of Gods. Only then we will be able to show some good speed," explained Pärn.

To sum up this years Portugal rally, it has to be said, that Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja are disappointed. "It was not a result which we would have wanted, but now we are much wiser and need to raise up our game. As we still have 5 rallies to come, we are certain, that we will have a chance to show to the fans what we are capable of," said Pärn.
13-04-13 Hirvonen on course for another podium finish
After a gruelling day’s racing for both men and machines, the second leg of Rally de Portugal saw the gaps widen in the standings. Promoted to third overall after Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio went off, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen will be looking to maintain their position on the final leg.

The day’s schedule involved two runs on a loop consisting of three long stages: Santana da Serra (31.12km), Vascão (25.37km) and Loulé (22.78km). Together, they provided the crews with close to 80km of hilly roads to be negotiated, whilst taking care to manage the quota of tyres, which was 40% down on last year.

Second overall, trailing the leader by less than five seconds as the crews left the service park, Dani Sordo immediately went on the attack to try and grab the lead. At the half-way point of the day’s first stage, it seemed that the Spaniard’s gamble was going to pay off. But his hopes of winning the rally evaporated when he hit a tree… “I had done a lot work looking at videos from recce and I had the feeling that I knew the corner well where the incident happened. My mistake was not listening carefully enough to the pace note. I carried a little bit too much speed into the corner and we hit the tree with the right-hand rear wheel, which broke right off. Everything was going perfectly up to that point. I felt fantastic in the car, in fact I don’t think I have ever felt so good on gravel… I hope I can reproduce that feeling in the next few rallies.”

Once the car had made it back to the service park, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s mechanics got to work on the no.3 DS3 WRC, and carried out the necessary repairs so that Dani and Carlos can return to action tomorrow.

The hopes of the team then rested solely on the shoulders of Mikko Hirvonen. The Finn set a series of third-fastest times during the morning, reaching the midday service in the same position: “I feel a lot better than yesterday. In the technical, narrow sections, my pace is very good. It’s in the fast sections that I am losing time. I’m going to keep pushing to try and maintain the pressure on the front two.”

The second loop went very much the same way as the first, with Mikko holding firmly onto third position: “I really tried, and kept pushing all the way. Maybe I was a little bit too aggressive in some places. But even when I felt that everything was perfect, I was still losing a little bit of time to my rivals. I’ll have to aim for this position whilst making sure I look after my tyres.”

Although frustrated by a lack of confidence in the handling of his car this morning, especially caused by being one of the first cars out on the road, Khalid Al Qassimi was in better spirits this afternoon. The Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT driver gained several places to climb to ninth overall: “We changed the set-up and I also changed my driving style. I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made, but it’s still not enough. You have to take into consideration that this is all still relatively new for me, so I need more time to learn.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 2:36:55.1
2 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +34.8
3 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +1:08.5
4 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:23.9
5 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:19.2
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +7:22.3
7 Kuipers / Buysmans Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:29.0
8 Lappi / Ferm Skoda Fabia S2000 +10:49.3
9 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +11:09.9
10 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:10.0

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Ogier – SS2: Østberg – SS3 and SS4: Sordo – SS5: Hirvonen.
Day 2 – SS6 and SS7: Latvala – SS8 to SS11: Ogier.

BEST PERFORMERS
Ogier, 5 fastest times – Sordo and Latvala, 2 each – Hirvonen and Østberg, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1: Ogier – SS2: Østberg – SS3 to SS11: Ogier.
13-04-13 Bad luck strikes Qatar M-Sport in Portugal
The Qatar and Qatar M-Sport World Rally Teams were struck by cruel misfortune as the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) continued in Portugal today. Both Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans were forced to retire for the day but there were strong performances from the remaining crews. ‘Road-sweeper’ Mads Østberg set a fantastic pace to climb from 56th to 12th over the course of the day and Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Dennis Kuipers are going well in fourth, fifth and seventh places respectively.

Continually growing in confidence, Qatar World Rally Team’s Neuville started the day determined to fight for his second successive podium of the year. Just half a minute adrift of the lead, the Belgian was resolute on putting pressure on the cars in front. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Sliding wide some seven kilometres into the first stage of the day (SS6), the front-right wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC made contact with a tree and put an untimely end to his day’s rallying. With minimal damage to his Fiesta, the youngster will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

Team-mate Al-Attiyah was enjoying better fortune. On course for a second top-five finish of the season, the Qatari has improved his pace throughout the day and lies a creditable fifth going into tomorrow’s final day.

Enjoying his return to the WRC, fellow Qatar World Rally Team driver Kuipers was also setting some solid times. Securing his place in the top-ten, the Dutchman has improved his pace throughout and is on course to secure a good points-scoring finish on his first WRC event in over a year.

Meanwhile in the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, despite struggling to find the rhythm to match his usual pace, Novikov is contesting an intelligent rally. Keeping his Ford Fiesta RS WRC firmly on the road, the Muscovite is lying in fourth place – ready and eager to pounce should the front-runners falter.

Additionally, albeit somewhat bitter sweet for the team, former rally leader Østberg was displaying pace which could have so easily challenged for victory were it not for yesterday’s off road excursion. Disadvantaged running first on the road, the Norwegian posted a string of top-four times – beaten only by the rally leaders who benefited from better conditions some eight cars further down the field.

Alas in WRC 2, Evans’ day was to end the same way as Neuville’s albeit through no fault of his own. Holding second place in the category, the Welshman was impressing on his four-wheel-drive debut in the world series before an issue with the transmission on his Ford Fiesta RRC halted his charge.

Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
“Fourth place is a good position so I have to be happy with that. But honestly, I am not happy with the times. I am pushing to the maximum but something just isn’t working for us this weekend. There’s not so much we can do about the guys in front of us because the gaps are too big, but if we keep this rhythm tomorrow who knows what might happen.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
“Today has been a good day for us. Everything has been working well and I feel as though we are improving with each new stage. Obviously there is still a long way to go with the long stages tomorrow [SS13 and SS15], but if we can hold this position it will be another fantastic result for us.”

Dennis Kuipers (7th) said:
“Today went very well and I have a good feeling with the car. OK, the stages are rough but we managed to stay out of trouble and I’ve really enjoyed the day. We took it steady over the last stage [SS6] and didn’t take any big risks. We’re in a really good position now so I hope we can continue like this tomorrow and bring home what will be a great result for us.”

Mads Østberg (12th) said:
“Obviously it’s a little difficult running first on the road, but that’s the way it is at the moment. The second pass was a bit trickier because, whereas on the first pass I can make my own lines and the grip is quite even, the lines on the second pass are clearly not made for a world rally car. There is also a fine layer of sand on the top of the bedrock which is really slippery in a few places.

“Having said that I think we have had a really good drive today. I was happy with our performance and, although it’s difficult when you are fighting out of position, I think we have had really good pace considering where we were on the road.”

Thierry Neuville (32nd / Rally 2) said:
“It was in a tight right-hand corner about seven or eight kilometres into the stage [SS6]. I felt that we were going off line and I tried to slow the car down but we were carrying too much speed and hit a tree with the front-right wheel. I tried to avoid it but we were sliding too much and there was nothing we could do. There was no damage on the car at all. Just one bent bolt which we were unable to fix ourselves.

“We decided this morning to keep the pressure on because many things can happen and we could have still been in the fight for a podium. It was a mistake on my part – I lost control and didn’t have the opportunity to correct it in time.

“Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] and I have made some big improvements with the pacenotes and driving this year and I felt that we improved again this weekend. OK these things happen, but it should not be so often now!”

Elfyn Evans (12th in WRC 2 / Rally 2) said:
“It was a transmission failure. We lost the drive and unfortunately that meant that we couldn’t continue. It was an instant failure only about five kilometres into the stage so there was nothing we could do from there. We tried to have a look ourselves but unfortunately it’s a job for the technicians. They’ll have a look when the car gets back to service and hopefully have the car back on the stages tomorrow.

“I’m quite surprised at how well we were going before this morning. This weekend was always going to be quite a cautious one for us so I was really happy that we were able to set a good pace from the word go. We know now that we can be competitive in the WRC 2 category which is a big positive for the team going forward. Tomorrow we’ll concentrate on getting some more mileage in the car and building a good base from which to improve for the next event.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Luck has not been on our side this weekend but the team is still holding a good position with Evgeny [Novikov] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] in fourth and fifth. As you can see from today’s drama, anything can still happen.

“Thierry [Neuville] was ready to put the front-runners under pressure this morning and he was very unlucky to go off where he did. It’s a disappointment for the team, but we can see that he is continually improving. Elfyn’s [Evans] retirement was disappointing too. He was doing a great job in WRC 2 and, considering he had not driven the car before Shakedown on Thursday, his performance yesterday was an impressive one.”

13-04-13 Motorsport Italia Rally de Portugal Day Two
'Good evening everyone,
'Today wasn’t such a good day for Michal and me. On the opening stage of the day, SS6, the 31.12km Santana da Serra test, we climbed to seventh and were feeling very positive. We held this position throughout the next two stages before midday service and our feeling in the car was good.

'Unfortunately, on the first stage of the afternoon, SS9, the second pass through Santana da Serra, we clipped the rear right of our MINI John Cooper Works WRC approximately 6km from the end of the stage and lost about 40 seconds. We dropped down to ninth overall, but got through the stage safely and were ready to chase down eighth place again.

'However, around 15km into SS10 our MINI cut out. We lost at least 10 minutes and dropped to 14th, but fortunately were able to get going again and complete the afternoon stages. We don’t know exactly what caused the problem, but our engineer will analyse the data this evening and then we will know more.

'Now we are focused on Day Three. We hope that everything will go smoothly. It isn’t impossible to achieve our goal of finishing the event in the Top 10. In rallying, anything can happen, so we need to stay focused until the end.

'I'll be back tomorrow to update you on our last day of Rally de Portugal.

'Bye for now,
'Maciek'
13-04-13 Midday quotes, Rally de Portugal, Day 2
“I’m pushing to the maximum and really happy with the driving, but for some reason the times aren’t where they need to be. I’m not sure what the problem is but we need to do more somehow. Although we are in a good position, my pace is not what it should be so we need to change that.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
“We had a good pace without any problems this morning. We’re improving our times and the feeling is really good. Now it will be a very interesting afternoon because it will be very rough. But I like a challenge. We’ll just concentrate on maintaining our position and see if any more drama unfolds ahead of us!”

Dennis Kuipers (9th) said:
“This morning has been good. It was quite rough and slippery in places, but I think we drove well. It’s very tricky and so easy to go off the road so we’re just concentrating on keeping it clean and bringing home a good result.

“We’ll focus on doing the same this afternoon. For sure it will very rough so we’ll need to make sure we keep it together and stay out of trouble. We’ll try to push a little bit, but we won’t take any big risks. I want to stay in the rally and continue to enjoy my return [to the WRC]”

Mads Østberg (25th) said:
“The first stage [SS6] was not so bad. Maybe 40 per cent of the stage was loose, but 60 per cent was quite good. After that the conditions just got worse and worse [on SS7 and SS8] and we weren’t able to stay as close to the front-runners as we had on the first one.

“I think we are driving well – setting fourth fastest times whilst running first on the road isn’t bad! It’s just a shame for everyone that we’re not fighting where we should be. But these things happen sometimes and now we will never know what might have been. We just need to get through and focus on the next event.”

Thierry Neuville:
Thierry Neuville hit a rock some five kilometres into SS6. Damaging the suspension of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC the Belgian was forced to retire for the day.

Elfyn Evans:
Elfyn Evans stopped in SS6 with a suspected transmission issue on his Ford Fiesta RRC. The Welshman was forced to make an untimely exit from what was an excellent second place in the WRC 2 category.

13-04-13 P-G Andersson körde för guld i Rally VM i Portugal - mutterproblem och motorhaveri 100 meter in på dagens första sträcka satte abrupt stopp för jakten!
P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson startade i Rally Portugal med mål att kamma hem segern. Inledningsvis i går såg det hela ljust ut. De vann tre av tre sträckor, trots att de åkte ifatt föraren före på den inledande sträckan. Därefter fick de fyra minuters startmellanrum och kunde hålla upp tempot rejält.

Inför fjärde sträckan igår upptäckte de att en låsmutter skramlat lös i bakvagnen. De had eingen ny, utan fick försöka skruva ihop det hela så gott det gick. Men efter13 km in på sträckan vibrerade det hela lös så de tappade fjäderben, hjul och allt på en raksträcka. Det var bara att parkera.

De tappade sin ledning och rasade ner till fjortonde plats.

Idag startade de om med ett tidstillägg på drygt 10 och en halv minut i tidstillägg:
- "Målet idag var helt klart att kamma hem så många sträcksegrar som möjligt och avancera upp så långt som möjligt i totala resultatlistan".

Men redan innan starten på första sträckan idag, började problemen:
- "Bilen gick bara på tre cylindrar" berättar P-G

Tanken var att ta sig igenom sträckorna och sedan få bilen servad under dagens service. Men det hela fick ett abrupt slut:
- "Vi står 100 meter från startlinjen" suckar P-G "Motorn ville inte alls, så det var bara att kasta in handduken".

Det är tveksamt om det blir någon omstart i morgon:
- "Motorn är inte frisk alls, så jag är tveksam till om det blir något mer rally för oss här i Portugal. Det känns så otroligt trist att vi inte fick vara med och visa vad vi går för i mer än tre sträckor" avslutar P-G.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se. Där kommer vi att följa rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.
13-04-12 Dani Soro is back!
On fire throughout day one of the Rally de Portugal, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio lie second overall this evening, 4.4s behind the leaders. And although the set-up of their car wasn’t quite right, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen fought hard to stay in touch with the frontrunners. The Finns hold fourth position tonight, just 16.2s off the pace.

The configuration of the first leg was rather unusual, as the cars did not benefit from any service periods throughout the entire day. After two runs of the Mú and Ourique tests, the competitors had to complete a tedious return journey to Lisbon – a round trip of almost 400km – to complete a super special stage that was only 3.27km in length.

As the cars prepared to leave Estádio Algarve – where the Service Park is set up – there was plenty of animated discussion about tyre choice. What with hard and soft Michelin Latitude Cross tyres available, plus the option of adding a second spare wheel, the possibilities were almost endless. In the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Dani Sordo and Khalid Al Qassimi opted for five hard tyres, whilst Mikko Hirvonen combined four hard tyres with two softs.

With muddy portions in the closing section, the Mú stage was more suited to soft tyres. Mikko Hirvonen nonetheless set the third fastest time, whilst Dani Sordo went fifth fastest, around ten seconds adrift of the leader, Sébastien Ogier.

On SS2, the Spaniard stated to make the most of his tyre choice, setting the second fastest time behind Østberg. On the second running of the loop, no-one could keep pace with Dani, who won both stages to cut Ogier’s lead to just 2.4s.

“I pushed whilst trying to look after the car and the tyres, because there is still a long way to go in the rally,” emphasized Dani Sordo before heading off to complete the day’s final stage in the streets of the Portuguese capital. “Unlike in Mexico, here I feel full of confidence and that’s essential if you want to challenge for the lead. We knew that we had worked well in testing and today’s result confirms that. I will keep pushing tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen had to deal with a set-up that wasn’t entirely to his liking: “As soon as I put the hard tyres on, the car became difficult to drive. I still pushed, but I would probably have gone off if I had pushed any harder. It’s a bit frustrating, but it’s still positive not to have lost too much time today. I really think things will go better tomorrow.”

“The tests we did before the rally were difficult for Mikko, because the weather conditions were constantly changing,” added Cédric Mazenq, the Finn’s race engineer. “We couldn’t complete the programme we had drawn up, which meant we didn’t choose the right option this morning. As there was no midday service, we were unable to put things right. I suppose you could say that we’ve finished our tests today. Mikko will be better equipped for tomorrow.”

Taking part in his first gravel rally in the DS3 WRC, Khalid Al Qassimi enjoyed an error-free day, leaving him in 11th overall. “Although I drove a little bit in Kuwait, the roads in Portugal are totally different to the road surface in the Middle East,” explained the Abu Dhabi driver. “I found it difficult to get my pace right, especially in the more uneven and rocky sections. We also had to cope with a clutch problem. It wasn’t too much of a disadvantage during the stages, but it was fairly problematic on the road sections. Fortunately, we’re still in the rally!”

OVERALL STANDINGS 1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 49:33.0
2 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +4.4
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +11.4
4 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +16.2
5 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +30.7
6 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:17.0
7 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:16.4
8 Kosciuszko / Szczepaniak Mini JCW WRC +2:27.9
9 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:37.1
10 Kuipers / Buysmans Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:48.7
11 Al Qassimi / Martin Citroën DS3 WRC +3:00.4

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Ogier – SS2: Østberg – SS3 and SS4: Sordo – SS5: Hirvonen.

BEST PERFORMERS
Sordo, 2 fastest times – Hirvonen, Østberg and Ogier, 1 each.

LEADERS
SS1: Ogier – SS2: Østberg – SS3 to SS5: Ogier.
13-04-12 Pontus Tidemand i ledning efter Rally Portugals första dag
Första dagen av Rally Portugal är nu avklarad och efter de fem första sträckorna har Pontus Tidemand tagit greppet om ledningen i Junior-VM:s första deltävling. Med en tävlingsdag kvar och sikte inställt på vinst finns det inga andra planer än att fortsätta trycka på även under lördagen.

Det var goda väderförhållanden när Rally Portugal drog igång på fredagsmorgonen. Dagens första sträcka uppmätte dryga två mil och Pontus och kartläsaren Ola Fløene fick en bra start. Pontus var snabbast på merparten av splittiderna men stötte på lite trubbel i slutet av sträckan, men var trots det var han näst snabbast.

På sträcka två däremot gick allt enligt planerna utan oförutsedda händelser. Pontus var snabbast och tog även över totalledningen med 10,9 sekunder före spanjoren José Suarez.
- Vi körde ikapp två bilar på första sträckan och hade svårt med sikten då det var mycket damm på vägen, men vi tog igen det när vi var snabbast på andra sträckan och det är vi glada för, berättar Pontus, som kör VM-serien tack vare stöd från EVEN Management och Tommy Andersson, ägare av Tätab.

Dagens tredje specialsträcka medförde problem för nästan alla JRWC-ekipage när en bil som kraschat i mitten av sträckan blockerade vägen. För Pontus, som startade som andra bil i klassen, innebar det en tidsförlust på över fem minuter. Men efter att arrangörerna hade justerat tiderna innebar missödet ingen skillnad för Pontus som behöll ledningen och efter ännu en sträckvinst på sträcka fyra hade han 26,4 sekunders ledning.

Fredagen avslutades med en publiksträcka i Lissabon och även där var Pontus snabbast i sin klass. Därmed drygade han ut ledningen till 27 sekunder före tvåan Suarez.
- Allt har fungerat bra idag och jag har både haft rätt känsla och haft kul i bilen. Nu ser vi fram emot morgondagen då vi ska göra allt vi kan för att behålla ledningen. Inget är avgjort, det är och kommer bli en kamp med José Suarez som har förbättrat sin körning på grus och Marius Aasen som har kört bra idag, avslutar Pontus.

Imorgon lördag väntar ytterligare sex sträckor med start 10.09 lokal tid (11.09 svensk tid).

Ställning efter första dagen av Rally Portugal:
1. Pontus Tidemand
2. José Suarez, +27.0
3. Marius Aasen, +32.8
4. Murat Bostanci, +2:02.2
5. Martin Koci, +2:10.7
6. Anderas Amberg, +2:22.5
7. Michael Burri, +2:54.1
8. Yeray Lemes, +3:08.9
13-04-12 Pärn - Järveoja retired from the opening day of Rally de Portugal
Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja retired from the opening day of Rally Portugal due do the small driving error which proved to be bigger as it first seemed to be. Thanks to the rally 2 rule they are able to start again tomorrow.

The aim for the first day was to take it a little bit easier and see how the race will go from there. Unfortunately a small error proved to be costly and ended the first day of rallying already on the first stage. "On the first stage we touched the side of the hill and it ripped the wheel to an unusual position. It was impossible to continue," explained Pärn.

These situations are never easy. "Of course we feel a bit down and it's not the way we wanted to start the season. It just shows how easy it is to make a mistake, even though we took it a bit easier," said Pärn.

Thanks to the rule of rally 2 Sander and Ken will be re-starting the rally tomorrow morning. "First, we want to finish the first stage and go on from there. As today as showed us, there is nothing easy and sometimes you just have to learn it the hard way," said Pärn.
13-04-12 P-G Andersson i en klass för sig - Men en mutter tvingade honom att bryta VM-Rallyt i Portugal i ledning!
P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson inledde idag VM-rallyt i Portugal med Oleksij Tamrazov Super 2000 Ford Fiesta. På den inledande sträckan idag var de snabbast. Det trots att de kom ifatt föraren före och tappade 4-5 sekunder.

Sträckorna därpå kammade de också hem ledningen, vilket gav de tre sträcksegrar av tre möjliga. De hade då en ledning med 16,2 sekunder till Esa Pekka Lappi och 35,0 sekunder ner till trean Sepp Wiegand.

Men inför fjärde sträckan idag fick de problem. De kom två minuter för sent in till tidskontrollen på sträckan:
- "Vi har tappat en mutter i bakvagnen och måste ta det lugnt om det ska hålla i mål på sträckan!" berättade P-G innan.

Dessvärre höll det inte in i mål, utan bilen rasade inne på sträckan:
- "Tyvärr höll det inte, utan vi tappade bakdäcket och hela bakvagn, med dämpare och halt har kollapsat" suckar P-G uppgivet.

Muttern var antagligen inte ordentligt åtdragen från början utifrån servicen i morse och har sedan skramlat lös:
- "Extra tungt när vi haft så otroligt tungt. Jag är verkligen glad för att Oleksij gett mig den här möjligheten. Vi får ta nya tag och visa vad vi går för imorgon".

lite tungt, men det har varit j-kligt kul. Vi får ta nya tag i morgon" avslutar han. "Det var en mutter till bakvagnen som lossnat" säger P-G "Antagligen var det inte ordentligt åtdraget från början från service".

En superspecial återstår av dagens sträcka med start 19:05 svensk tid.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se. Där kommer vi att följa rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.
13-04-10 P-G Andersson kör för topp-placering i VM-rallyt i Portugal i helgen!
P-G Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson har fått övertagit Oleksij Tamrazov körning i VM-rallyt i Portugal sedan ukrainaren fått förhinder:
- "Jag har jobbat som förarcoach åt Oleksij och har på så sätt lärt känna honom" förklarar P-G "Jag är verkligen otroligt tacksam för att han ger mig den här möjligheten att få köra i VM igen".

Han kommer att ratta en Ford Fiesta i WRC 2-klassen och fick i måndags prova på bilen:
– Det kändes otroligt bra. Det här är en riktigt bra bil, säger han "Vi gjorde bara lite småjusteringar, sen tyckte jag det satt perfekt".

Gruset kännetecknas här av att det har en slipad yta. Däckslitaget brukar vara 40% högre här, än i andra grusrallyn i VM. Igår och idag har förarna rekognoserat:
- "Det var en blandad karaktär på sträckorna" säger P-G "Den som är 31 km är bökig, trång och ganska dålig. Långsträckan är en mix av allt, men har en ganska bra rytm".

P-G och Emil ser fram emot starten och lovar att de ska göra allt för att köra för seger:
- "Helt klart ställer vi upp här med målet att vinna" skrattar han "Men flera av motståndarna här har jag inte kört emot tidigare. Det ska bli spännande att se var vi står gentemot exempelvis Esapekka Lappi som ju är mycket snabb och Elfyn Evans som vann Junior-VM i fjol".

Rallyt blir P-G och Emils debut i år i VM-samanhang och rallyt är ett grusrally som består totalt består av 15 specialsträckor. Rallyt är totalt 1.630,73 km och räknar vi bort transportsträckorna avgörs det hela på 386,73 km. Rallyt körs liksom i fjol i Algarve och Baixo-regionen Alentejo. På söndag bjuder man på Almodovar, en sträcka på drygt fem mil, som inte bara är rallyt längsta, utan hela VM-cirkusen.

I morgon körs en shakedown och på fredag startar det hela med första bil ut på sträckan 10:18 svensk tid.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se. Där kommer vi att följa rallyt, sträcka för sträcka.

Startlista WRC2 Rally Portugal
31. Esapekka Lappi (Fin) Skoda
32. Sepp Wiegand (D) Skoda
35. Yazeed Al Rajhi (Sau) Ford
36. Rashid Al Ketbi (Are) Skoda
48. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (Qat) Ford
49. Oleksii Kirkireshko (Ukr) Mini
50. Valeriy Gorban (Ukr) Mini
71. Ala'a Rasheed (Jor) Ford
73. Nikita Kondrakhin (Rus) Skoda
74. Robert Kubica (Pol) Citroën
75. Elfyn Evans (GB) Ford
76. Subhan Aska (Idn) Ford
78. Edoardo Bresolin (I) Ford
82. Yurii Protasov (Ukr) Subaru
83. Bruno Magalhães (P) Peugeot
84. Pedro Meireles (P) Skoda
87. Robert Barrable (Irl) Ford
88. Mikko Lehessaari (Fin) Subaru
89. Kess Burger (Nl) Subaru
90. P-G Andersson Ford

Tidsschema Rally Portugal
(Svensk tid)
Fredag 12 april
10:18 SS1 Mú 1 20,32 km
11:25 SS2 Ourique 1 18,32 km
12:48 SS3 Mú 2 20,32 km
13:55 SS4 Ourique 2 18,32 km
19:15 SS5 SSS Lisboa 3,27 km
Service A

Lördag 13 april
Service B
11:09 SS6 Santa da Serra 1 31,12 km
12:36 SS7 Vascão 1 25,37 km
13:14 SS8 Loulé 1 22,78 km

Service C
16:09 SS9 Santa da Serra 2 31,12 km
17:36 SS10 Vascão 2 25,37 km
18:14 SS11 Loulé 2 22,78 km
Service D

Söndag 14 april
Service E
09:06 SS12 Silves 1 21,52 km
10:06 SS13 Almodovar 1 52,30 km
Service E
13:31 SS14 Silves 2 21,52 km
14:38 SS15 Almodovar 2 (Power S) 52,30 km
16:40 Målgång
13-04-10 Rally Portugal: norsk-finsk duo gör debut i en tredje Polo R WRC
Från och med nu ställer Volkswagen upp med tre Polo R WRC i rally-VM. När Rally Portugal startar den 11 april blir det premiär för det skandinaviska förarparet Andreas Mikkelsen (Norge) och Mikko Markkula (Finland).

Den fjärde deltävlingen av rally-VM, FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), går av stapeln 11-14 april i Portugal. För första gången ställer Volkswagen upp med tre Polo R WRC. Det är föraren Andreas Mikkelsen från Norge och kartläsaren Mikko Markkula från Finland som gör sin debut vid sidan av teamkamraterna Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) och vinnarna i Rally Sweden och Rally Mexiko; Sebastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike).

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport, kommenterar:
– Efter tre helt olika typer av rallyn i början av säsongen, väntar nu det första" typiska” WRC-rallyt. Tuffa grusvägar, vårtemperatur och – till skillnad från Rally Mexico – körs rallyt på en höjd just över havsnivån. Vi kommer förmodligen att stöta på samma typ av förhållandena på de kommande tävlingarna i Argentina, Grekland och Italien, så rally Portugal blir en viktig indikator på vad Polo R WRC är kapabel till. Dessutom startar vi med ett tredje förarpar på alla rallytävlingar från och med nu, i form av Andreas Mikkelsen och Mikko Markkula. Andreas och Mikko har redan varit mycket framgångsrika i Intercontinental Rally Challenge och tar nu välförtjänt nästa steg till toppklassen inom rallysporten.

För att erbjuda Mikkelsen och Markkula bästa möjliga förutsättningar för en lyckad debutsäsong i Polo R WRC kommer Volkswagen driva ett andra team från Rally Portugal och framåt: Volkswagen Motorsport II.

Rally Portugal körs på Algarvekusten i södra Portugal. Rallyt är 387 kilometer långt och består av 15 specialsträckor.

Citat Inför Rally Portugal
Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
– Jag har ofta varit snabb i Portugal och mitt bästa resultat hittills är tredjeplatsen 2011. Jag hoppas att jag kan slåss om en pallplats i år. Polo R WRC har verkligen potential, vilket Sébastiens segrar i Sverige och Mexiko har visat. Tyvärr har de tre första tävlingarna inte gått enligt plan för mig. Jag behövde tid för att vänja mig vid bilen. Jag hade dock en bra känsla i Mexiko och den känslan har blivit ännu starkare under testerna i Portugal. Rallyt är känt för sina höga hopp och blinda krön. Du måste verkligen vara uppmärksam när du närmar dig dessa hoppen, eftersom du inte kan se om de följs av en vänstersväng eller högersväng. Av denna anledning är det viktigt att vara mycket noggrann för att säkerställa att noter inte kan missförstås på något sätt.

Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
– Jag känner mig mycket bättre nu efter min sjukdom förra veckan. Vi såg på rallyt i Mexiko att Polo R WRC också är konkurrenskraftig på grus, och det är viktigt. Rally Portugal två sidor. När det är torrt är marken mycket hård och erbjuder bra grepp, men när det är vått blir marken mjuk och lerig med begränsat grepp. Speciellt med rallyt är de många topparna och höga hoppen, som ofta följs av blinda krön. Rally Portugal är en av mina favoritrallyn. År 2010 vann jag här min första seger i WRC, och jag vann igen 2011. Det gör det till det enda WRC-rally som jag har vunnit två gånger i min karriär – hittills.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Polo R WRC #9
– Jag kan knappt vänta på starten av Rally Portugal. Det blir mitt första rally med Polo R WRC, även om jag hade ett antal tävlingar med Volkswagen Motorsport förra året och redan har kommit in i teamet. Det enda som verkligen är nytt för mig är att konkurrera i en riktig WRC-bil. Efter två framgångsrika år i IRC känner jag mig redo att ta steget upp. Enligt min mening är Rally Portugal en av de svåraste tävlingarna i kalendern. Det finns en hel del blinda passager och relativt lite grepp. Det är viktigt att inte göra några misstag för att undvika eventuella incidenter. Vi vill komma i mål och lära oss så mycket som möjligt. Därefter kan vi koncentrera oss på att bli snabbare på kommande rallyn.

Ställning, förarmästerskapet
1. Sébastien Ogier, 74 poäng
2. Sébastien Loeb, 43
3. Mikko Hirvonen, 30
4. Dani Sordo, 27
5. Mads Østberg, 26
6. Thierry Neuville, 25
7. Jari-Matti Latvala, 15
8. Martin Prokop, 14;
9. Bryan Bouffier, 10
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah, 10

Ställning, märkesmästerskapet
1. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, 87 poäng
2. Volkswagen Motorsport, 81
3. Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, 37
4. Qatar World Rally Team, 35
5. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team, 23

Mer material på www.rallytheworld.com
13-04-09 Pontus Tidemand redo för premiären i Junior-VM i Rally
Rally Portugal, den första deltävlingen i 2013 års säsong i Junior-VM, startar på fredag. På startlinjen finns en laddad Pontus Tidemand som ska göra allt för att ta hem tävlingen. Målet med årets internationella satsning är inget annat än en vinst i totalen och med ett massivt stöd från EVEN Management och Tätab i ryggen kan förutsättningarna inte bli bättre.

Rally Portugal körs i områdena runt Algarve och Baixo Alentejo och för deltagarna i Junior-VM, (JWRC) är det två dagars körning, på fredagen och lördagen som gäller. Portugals specialsträckor bjuder på såväl öppna vägar som smala och utmanande sektioner och det karaktäristiskt skrovliga underlaget ställer höga krav på däcken och förarna.

På fredagen väntar först fyra längre sträckor och sedan kommer ekipagen till Lissabon för en kortare publiksträcka på kvällen. Lördagen är rallyts längsta dag med ca 160 km specialsträckor uppdelat på tre sträckor som körs i två omgångar och totalt skall det köras elva specialsträckor. För JWRC-deltagarna innehåller lördagen också den längsta sträckan på lite över tre mil och på kvällen koras en vinnare i säsongens första deltävling i Junior-VM.

Under den gångna helgen har Pontus och kartläsaren Ola Fløene varit i Toscana i Italien för ett tvådagars test som förberedelse inför Rally Portugal.
- Testet har gått väldigt bra och det känns skönt att få hitta rätta känslan i bilen innan tävlingen, berättar Pontus. Jag minns från förra året att vägarna i Portugal var annorlunda än jag var van vid och vägytan orsakar lätt punktering. Så det här är en tävling man verkligen måste köra med huvudet, inte bara köra snabbt.

Att Pontus får möjligheten att köra ytterligare en säsong i Junior-VM har han norska talangutvecklings- och managementbolaget EVEN att tacka för. Tillsammans började de sin satsning förra året och fortsätter även under 2013, nu också med ett utökat program där det även planeras en start till i värstingklassen WRC. Även Tommy Andersson och Tätab har ett finger med i spelet. Tommy vill hjälpa unga rallytalanger att ta sig ut i världen och efter att ha haft en avgörande roll i Pontus deltagande i Rally Sweden, så tog samarbetet ytterligare fart och Tommy är nu med och delfinansierar projektet.
- Vi tycker Pontus visade stora framsteg under förra årets säsong i Junior-VM och han visade hur stor kapacitet han har nu i Rally Sweden 2013. Med fjolårets erfarenhet så har Pontus en stor chans att ta hem hela JWRC i år, berättar Erik Veiby, manager för Pontus och en av ägarna i managementbolaget EVEN.
- Pontus är vårt stora svenska hopp i rally just nu, så alla måste försöka ställa upp och hjälpa till så han tar sig vidare till en fabrikssits. Förutom att han är förare av rang så är han också en mycket jordnära och trevlig person som är mycket professionell mot fans, media och sponsorer, säger Tommy Andersson, ägare av Tätab.
- Jag är väldigt tacksam över att de tror på mig och gör den här satsningen, säger Pontus. Det är inte lätt att ta sig utanför landets gränser och få köra på den här nivån, men tack vare stödet från EVEN med Erik Veiby i spetsen och Tommy Andersson blir detta möjligt för mig och jag ska göra allt jag kan för att göra det bästa av chansen nu när jag har den, förklarar Pontus.

Förra året var första gången Pontus körde Rally Portugal och han slutade då trea i juniorklassen. I år kommer han dit med lite mer erfarenhet i bagaget och siktar högt. Denna gång är det bara vinst som är målet, både i Rally Portugal och i den totala JWRC-serien där alla kör likadana Ford Fiesta R2-bilar som prepareras av M-Sport teamet.
- Med erfarenheten från förra året och testet så kan jag ju inte ha något annat mål än att vinna. Men som alltid kommer det bli riktigt tufft då konkurrensen är stenhård i JWRC, avslutar den 22-årige landslagsföraren Tidemand

På torsdag börjar Rally de Portugal med en ceremoniell start i Vilamoura Marina.
Tävlingen kan följas live på: http://www.wrc.com/jwrc/results/2013/vodafone-rally-de-portugal/stage-times/
13-04-08 Rallying's young chargers line up in Ford's Fiesta R2 car
· Ford Fiesta R2 rally car to form basis of revamped FIA Junior WRC Championship
· Rallying's rising young talent opt to take first steps on world rally ladder in Fiesta-based series
· Ten drivers to do battle in Fiesta R2 cars at opening round in Portugal
Ford's Fiesta R2 rally car will provide the platform for the world's best young drivers to showcase their skills when the 2013 FIA Junior WRC Championship begins at Rally de Portugal this week.

Ten young hot-shots from eight different countries will compete in identical Fiesta R2 cars on gravel roads in southern Portugal's Algarve region.

It is the first of six rounds in the Junior WRC series, which supports the FIA World Rally Championship. It provides the first step on the ladder for potential stars of the future to display their talent on the world stage.

Having been the car of choice for the 2012 FIA WRC Academy, the Fiesta R2 was again selected as the designated vehicle when the series took on official Junior WRC status for 2013. All cars will be supplied, prepared and maintained during the six rounds by Ford's long-term rally partner, M-Sport, at premises in Krakow, Poland.

The series comprises gravel events in Portugal, Greece and Finland, asphalt rounds in Germany and France and a mixed-surface rally in Spain to close the championship. Only drivers born on or after 1 January 1986 are eligible.

All 10 contenders have their eyes set on landing the top prize of an M-Sport supported drive in a Ford Fiesta R5 in next season's FIA WRC 2 Championship, the principal feeder series to the WRC itself.

Three drivers - Yeray Lemes (ESP), José Suárez (ESP) and Pontus Tidemand (SWE) - have contested the series in previous years. They will be joined by newcomers Sander Parn (EST), Martin Koci (SVK), Andreas Amberg (FIN), Murat Bostanci (TUR), Michael Burri (CHE), Niko Nieminen (FIN) and Marius Aasen (NOR).

Ford Racing's European manager, Gerard Quinn, said he looked forward to another exciting year's competition as the Fiesta R2 provided a springboard for youngsters' careers.

"The series is a breeding ground for future stars and the Fiesta R2 will again provide the perfect means for them to show their abilities in front of the sport's decision-makers and top team managers. The two previous winners of this category have progressed to a level of competition just below the WRC itself." he said.

"The Fiesta R2 is a fantastic car for those honing their skills. With all 10 drivers competing in identical vehicles, a clear picture will emerge as the season progresses of who has the speed, intelligence and tactical know-how to move up the ranks," added Quinn.

Last year's WRC Academy champion, Welshman Elfyn Evans, will launch his prize campaign in Portugal when he pilots a Fiesta RRC in the WRC 2 category as part of the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team.

The Junior WRC covers the first two of Rally de Portugal's three legs. It gets under way with a ceremonial start in Vilamoura on Thursday (11 April) and finishes in Faro on Saturday (13 April) after 11 special stages covering 239.09km.
13-04-07 Motorsport Italia Rally de Portugal Preview
'Hello everyone,
'Maciek Szczepaniak here, Michal Kosciuszko’s co-driver. I’ll be your host for Rally de Portugal and keep you updated on what’s happening with us throughout the event.

'This is my sixth time at Rally de Portugal and my fifth competing on the event with Michal. It’s a really awesome rally – the Portuguese spectators are always fantastic, the organisation is great and so is the weather (normally!)

'Of course, the weather last year wasn’t so good and the changeable conditions dominated the rally for many crews. We didn’t compete here in 2012, but even so we’re more aware than ever that we need to be ready for anything. All we can hope is that the conditions on our test tomorrow will be representative of the event itself.

'We'll be using a 4km stage and run around 100km in total. It'll be our first test on gravel this season, so we hope it'll provide vital experience for the event itself.

'The H3 compound of the DMG+2 gravel tyre that we tried in Mexico is DMACK's weapon of choice for this event. The Portuguese gravel presents a challenge for our DMACK tyres. However, as always we'll do our best. It's always a learning curve and we get useful feedback by measuring ourselves against the other competitors on DMACKs as well as fighting for a good position overall.

'I’ve been rallying now for nearly 20 years and you quickly learn that there’ll always be new tests. Half of the skill of rallying is learning to adapt to the conditions. After all, I had to adapt at the very start of my career. In 1995 I took to the Polish stages as a driver and quickly learned that was a big mistake!

'I switched to the co-driver’s chair only one year later and found that was where I was made to be. After three Polish Championship victories and getting as much experience as possible in the WRC, I’ve been Michal’s navigator now for the last seven seasons.

'Rally de Portugal 2013 marks my 63rd WRC event – let’s hope it’s a good one!
'We’re hoping for a Top 10 finish. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
'Bye for now, Maciek'
13-04-05 Qatar M-Sport Throws six to start in Portugal
As the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to Europe for the 2013 Vodafone Rally de Portugal next week, the field will see six Qatari-liveried Ford Fiestas thrown into the mix as Mads Østberg, Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Thierry Neuville are joined by Dutchman Dennis Kuipers and reigning FIA WRC Academy champion, Elfyn Evans.

Known as the first ‘true’ test of the year, Rally de Portugal’s abrasive stages combine open roads with more technical sections of narrow, twisting corners. Although largely centred in the popular Algarve region, Friday will see the WRC circus venture north to Lisbon for a crowd-packed super special in the capital’s historic centre.

Qatar M-Sport will also be hoping that practice makes perfect as Østberg, Novikov, Al-Attiyah and Neuville contest the non-championship Fafe Rally Sprint this weekend. Renowned for attracting huge crowds in the north of the country, the Qatari foursome will use the extra seat time to gain further knowledge of the Portuguese stages whilst entertaining the hundreds of thousands of adoring fans expected to line the stage.

A spring time Rally de Portugal can often throw up a challenge or two, but that is something the M-Sport squad seems to thrive on – Østberg and Novikov leading a clean sweep of the podium for the Cumbrian outfit at the event last year. Needless to say, Østberg will be out to defend his maiden WRC victory next week and, if his performance in Mexico is anything to go by, he’ll be a real contender for the win.

Away from the traditionally sun-soaked stages, Østberg spent the downtime between Mexico and Portugal attempting to break into the record books at a ski slope in Trysil, Norway. Launching his Ford Fiesta RS WRC some 60 meters off a ramp constructed entirely of snow, the 25-year-old landed the longest jump ever recorded by a rally car on the frozen surface.

Speaking of record books, it was at Rally de Portugal last year that team mate Novikov claimed another first in the WRC. Securing a career-best second place, the Muscovite became both the first Russian and youngest ever driver to stand on a WRC podium.

Keen to put this year’s misfortunes behind him, Novikov will be hoping to replicate last year’s impressive performance and translate his clear pace into a strong haul of points next week.

When it comes to impressive performances, Al-Attiyah’s challenge in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship is just that. In a campaign to take his ninth title from the series, the Qatari claimed another dominant victory at the Kuwait International Rally last week to secure maximum points from both opening rounds.

With his confidence high, Al-Attiyah will be looking to continue his strong showing for the Qatar World Rally Team as he returns to the event which delivered his best ever performance in the world series – fourth place overall in 2012.

Following his maiden WRC podium last month, fellow Qatar World Rally Team driver Neuville is also full of confidence – something he’ll be hoping proves fruitful again next week.

When not rallying, Neuville is never far from competitive motorsport. Following the team’s voyage to Central America, Belgium’s latest protégé returned to his homeland where he was running in a comfortable fourth place as part of the Polaris RZR Cup – an off-road buggy series.

With Finn Juho Hänninen unable to contest Rally de Portugal due to personal reasons, car number 15 will be piloted by Dutchman Kuipers. Making a welcome return to the WRC, Kuipers is well versed when it comes to M-Sport’s Fiesta RS WRC. Contesting the event last year, he secured a creditable sixth place overall.

Kuipers also holds the record for the best ever result for a Dutch driver when he piloted a similar Fiesta RS WRC to fifth place at the 2011 Rallye de France Alsace. Despite not contesting a gravel event in over a year, Kuipers will be a contender for points next week.

Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Welshman Evans will be reaping the rewards of winning the 2012 FIA WRC Academy as he takes to the wheel of a Qatari-liveried Ford Fiesta RRC. Following a dominant performance in the FIA’s junior series, the youngster will be a real challenger amongst the front runners.

Despite limited testing with M-Sport’s regional specification Fiesta, the Welshman has played a significant role in the testing and development of the all-new Ford Fiesta R5. Travelling to mainland Europe last month, Evans tested the new model on both asphalt and gravel and is thus well versed when it comes to M-Sport’s higher specification machinery.

Mads Østberg said:
“It’s certainly possible to replicate our good result from last year. We have had a really good test this week and looking back at our performance in Mexico, I know we have the pace to fight for the top positions. Of course Portugal is a little different to Mexico, but there are still a lot of experiences that we can carry forward and I am confident that we will cope well with the challenges ahead.

“This rally is quite rough so you need to ensure that you really look after the car and the tyres. The long stages are always a challenge too and, as we saw last year, the weather can also play a key role. Needless to say, I want to defend last year’s result. We’re hungry for victory and I want to win.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“We will see if we can achieve a good result like last year, but as always it all depends on a lot of different things. As we saw last year, this spring-time event can bring some very tricky weather conditions! I hope this will be the case again because I really enjoy those tricky conditions.

“We tested yesterday in some quite slippery and wet conditions, so if we do get some rain next week then we should be well set-up. We learnt a lot and got about 200 km under our belt which is all good preparation.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“I am a big fan of this event. It wasn’t on my original programme, but when the opportunity became available Malcolm [Wilson] and my manager made it happen. The atmosphere from the spectators is always fantastic and I think that’s why a lot of drivers travel to this event.

“I have good memories from this rally as it is where I recorded my best ever result in the WRC – fourth place overall last year. We had a great run in Mexico and I hope we can keep the momentum going for another good result here.

“I just want to enjoy the event and drive well in front of the fans. But I think we could well see one of my team mates really challenging for victory!”

Thierry Neuville said:
“We had perfect conditions during the test – humid and wet in the morning and dry in the afternoon – so I’m confident of another good result next week. We made a few changes to the car from what we had in Mexico and it feels really good.

“People often say that this is the first ‘conventional’ event of the season, but that’s not to say it’s not without its challenges. The long stage on Sunday will be a big test for the crews, but first we need to get there. With no midday service on Friday we’ll need to play a clever game and ensure we look after the car and tyres. Strategy will play a key role for sure.

“Our results in Sweden and Mexcico mean that we are feeling confident, but we can’t let that take over. We are still learning but I would hope that we can secure a fifth or fourth position next week.”

Dennis Kuipers said:
“It was a late decision, but I am really excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to get back out on the WRC stages. I’ve contested this event quite a few times now with some good results in the past, so hopefully we can continue that trend next week.

“Having been away from the championship, it will be difficult to get into the rhythm straight away. It’s also been over a year since I last contested a gravel event – it was in Portugal last year actually – so it will take a few stages to get comfortable. But as always, we’ll try our best.

“One of the biggest challenges for me will be the big 52 km stage on the final day. I contested a stage of a similar length in Jordan a couple of years ago which was 48 km. It wasn’t the easiest of stages, but it was really enjoyable and I’m looking forward to tackling Portugal’s offering.

“This is an event where a lot can happen. But if we run our own rally and look after the car and the tyres, I would hope that we can bring home some WRC points and a good result for the team.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This will be my competitive debut in a four wheel drive car at this level, but I am really looking forward to it. Of course there will be a lot to learn, but I really can’t wait and am obviously very grateful to the team for providing such a fantastic prize for winning the [FIA] WRC Academy.

“I like this event, but it wasn’t one of my best last year. We’ll try to put that right this time and focus on learning the car and securing a solid result going forward for the rest of the championship.”

13-04-05 Rally de portugal preview
After a five-week break, the WRC returns to action into Portugal. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT will be looking to its crews, Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen and Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio, to maintain the lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship that it has held since the start of the season. Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin return to action in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s DS3 WRC after missing the last round in Mexico.

Like most of the squads involved in the WRC, Citroën Racing and its crews will be in Fafe, near Porto, this weekend for a ‘rally sprint’, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators. They will then head for the Algarve region, where the rally proper will get underway.

Although three quarters of the stages are similar to previous years, the breakdown of the event has been extensively altered. Friday’s leg is now something of a marathon, with four stages completed without service period, followed by a long road section to Lisbon. After a 3.27km super special stage, the crews will set off in the opposite direction, returning to where they started, to complete their 665km and 14-hour long trek! It goes without saying that starting positions and tyre choice will be essential for this first day. The two other legs will be more conventional, although competitors will have to tackle the 52km-long Almodovar stage twice on Sunday…

After three rallies with very distinctive features, Rally de Portugal may be considered to be a more conventional gravel round, with stages alternating between fast portions and tight, narrow sections. “The surface provides a good level of grip and above all else, that’s what I like about it”, indicated Dani Sordo. “However, if it rains like last year, then the course becomes a bit of an ice rink, and the outcome of the rally is anyone’s guess. I have already managed three podium finishes in Portugal in the C4 WRC, so if I could just climb a step or two on the podium, that would be perfect! I’m pleased with the work we have done in testing. The new set-up has made me feel more confident and I can’t wait to put that into practice in the rally.”

Comfortable in the hilly stages of the Algarve, Mikko Hirvonen goes into this, the fourth round of the season with victory firmly in his sights: “We worked in testing to keep improving. To win this season, we’ll need to have a perfect rally, starting with the qualifying stage. I only have one target this weekend: I want to be fighting for the lead from the very start.”

After competing in Sweden, Khalid Al-Qassimi will be starting his second WRC rally in the DS3 WRC. On a surface that comes more naturally to him than the Scandinavian roads, the Abu Dhabi driver will be aiming for a top 10 finish: “Portugal is an event that I know reasonably well. After two rallies in the Middle East in the DS3 RRC, I am starting to find some rhythm. So I think I can fight for a place in the points. But to do that, I’ll need to avoid making any mistakes.”

THREE QUESTIONS FOR… MIKKO HIRVONEN
What have you been up to since Rally Mexico?
“The five-week break meant I could have a fairly light schedule. Apart from promotional work, we obviously did work during specific testing for this rally. I can’t go into details about what we worked on, but the fact is that we have improved the set-up of the DS3 WRC. The car slides less and I felt more confident driving it. As ever, we must be cautious, because the conditions of the rally won’t necessarily be the same as those we had in testing…”

There is already a clear gap to the leader of the Drivers’ World Championship. Have you given up on the title?
“No, of course not! It’s true that Sébastien Ogier has made a perfect start to the season, but there are still ten rallies left. Although we haven’t looked entirely convincing recently, we are going to do everything to improve our fortunes. That’s why I want to fight for the lead in the early stages in Portugal.”

What do you think about the format of the event?
“Like all the drivers, I’m not a big fan of road sections that involve spending several hundred kilometres on the motorway, especially when it’s just to complete a three kilometre-long city centre stage! Fortunately, the ‘real’ stages are very beautiful, so that makes up for it a bit. However, it’s good to have a biggie like the Almodovar stage on Sunday. The bonus points for the Power Stage, awarded on the second running of the stage, will be highly prized. There’ll be something up for grabs right to the finish!”

RALLY DE PORTUGAL
Round: 4/13
Base: Almancil
Service Park: Estádio Algarve
Surface: Gravel
Weather: Spring weather, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C.
Sunrise and sunset on the first day of the rally: 7.02am/8.04pm
Local time: GMT+1
Currency: Local currency is the Euro.
Website: www.rallydeportugal.pt
Technical information: Spare parts (transmission, subframes, steering racks and turbochargers) are to be shared with the Acropolis (Greece) and Sardegna rallies.
Tyres: 24 Michelin Latitude Cross tyres to be chosen from 24 hard compound and 16 soft compound tyres.
Reconnaissance: Tuesday 9 April and Wednesday 10 April, from 7am to 5.30pm.
Free practice and qualifying stage: Thursday, 11 April from 8am on a 4.98km-long stage in Vale de Judeu, 12.76km from the service park.
Route: 15 special stages (8 different stages). 386.73km of timed sections. Total distance: 1,639.89km.

RALLY DE PORTUGAL ITINERARY
THURSDAY 11 APRIL
8.00am: Free practice
10.40am: Qualifying stage (4.98km)
1.00pm: Selection of starting positions (Service Park)
1.30pm: FIA Pre-Event Press Conference (Media Centre)
8.30pm: Ceremonial start (Marina Vilamoura)

FRIDAY 12 APRIL
8.30am: Start
9.18am: SS1 – Mú 1 (20.32km)
10.25am: SS2 – Ourique 1 (18.32km)
11.48am: SS3 – Mú 2 (20.32km)
12.55pm: SS4 – Ourique 2 (18.32km)
4.00pm: Regroup 130 min – Lisbon (Pr. do Império)
6.15pm: SS5 – Lisboa (3.27km)
10.00pm: Flexi Service A (45 min)

SATURDAY 13 APRIL
9.00am: Service B (15 min)
10.09am: SS6 – Santana da Serra 1 (31.12km)
11.36am: SS7 – Vascão 1 (25.37km)
12.14pm: SS8 – Loulé 1 (22.78km)
1.45pm: Service C (30 min)
3.09pm: SS9 – Santana da Serra 2 (31.12km)
4.36pm: SS10 – Vascão 2 (25.37km)
5.14pm: SS11 – Loulé 2 (22.78km)
6.30pm: Flexi Service D (45 min)

SUNDAY 14 APRIL
7.00am: Service E (15 min)
8.06am: SS12 – Silves 1 (21.52km)
9.06am: SS13 – Almodovar 1 (52.30km)
11.10am: Service F (30 min)
12.31pm: SS14 – Silves 2 (21.52km)
1.38pm: SS15: Almodovar 2 – Power Stage (52.30km)
3.30pm: Service G (10 min)
4.40pm: Podium
5.10pm: FIA Post-Event Press Conference (Media Centre)
13-04-03 Sander Pärn - Ken Järveoja present their Junior WRC livery
A little more than a week has remained for the start of 4th event in this year´s WRC calendar. Vodafone Rally de Portugal will also be the kick-off start for the Junior WRC series. The 10 crews who will compete in Junior WRC will contest in 6 rallies across the Europe. The only Estonians to compete in the series in 2013 will be Sander Pärn and his co-driver Ken Järveoja. Young crew who´s born in South-Estonia, are now ready to reveal their Ford Fiesta R2´s design for the first time for the general public.

"If you are driving for the victory in WRC on the world´s toughest roads, it is important that everything has to be perfect! It is necessary to go through all kind of ideas and solutions in order to achieve the objectives to get the best out of those. One such thing for us is also our rally car design, "explained Sander. Pärn added that the design of the car was aiming for simplicity and clarity and it has to introduce Estonia. "Introduction of our native country was the main theme for us from the start. From the side you will be able to see the blue-black-white, which are the three colors of Estonian flag and from the top it is also covered by the colors of Estonian flag. In addition there are also some sponsor logos added on the livery! We are very satisfied with the final result and hope that the public and fans will enjoy the look of our Ford Fiesta R2,"said Pärn´s co-driver Ken Järveoja.

There were a number of people who were involved in the process. "At this point we would like to thank all the good people who helped us making this design, without your help there would have not been such a good final solution," said Sander.
13-04-02 P-G Andersson och Emil Axelsson klara för Rally-VM start i Portugal!
Per-Gunnar "P-G" Andersson och hans co-driver Emil Axelsson är klara för start i VM i Portugal 12-14 april. P-G arbetar som förarintruktör åt ukrainaren Oleksii Tamrazov. Han skulle köra VM-deltävlingen men har fått förhinder och låter därmed P-G och Emil överta hans plats i WRC2-Forden:
- "Det har tagit lite tid att få igenom namnbytet för körningen" säger P-G "Men nu har FIA godkänt det hela".

Nu ser svenskarna fram emot VM-körningen:
- "Det var ett tag sen vi fick visa upp oss i VM och jag är väldigt tacksam för att Oleksii ger oss den här chansen. Bilen är konkurrenskraftig, så jag kommer att köra för fullt och målet är självklart att kamma hem segern" avslutar P-G.

Mer info, hittar du på www.pgandersson.se.
13-03-19 FIA WRC Academy Winner to runt Qatar M-sport Coulours
M-Sport are pleased to announce that the 2012 FIA WRC Academy Winner, Elfyn Evans, will become part of the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team when he claims the sought-after prize for winning the series next month.

Becoming the sixth driver to adopt the Qatari colours, the Welshman will pilot an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta in the new WRC 2 category. Taking to the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RRC for Rally de Portugal, Evans will then return to the series with the company’s latest challenger – the Ford Fiesta R5 – when it is released later in the season.

Evans’ Fiesta will run alongside the Ford Fiesta RS WRCs of Mads Østberg, Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Thierry Neuville in the Manufacturers’ designated service area. Fully integrated within the team, the youngster will benefit from a wealth of advice and experience – not only from the team’s specialist engineers and technicians, but also from the drivers and management as he develops what is set to be a promising career in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Elfyn Evans said:
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I want to say a big thank you to M-Sport and to Nasser [Al-Attiyah] for allowing me to develop alongside the team. It only goes to show how strong the prize for winning the [FIA] WRC Academy [re-branded as the FIA Junior World Rally Championship for 2013] is. Nowhere else could a young driver hope for such an opportunity and I am really looking forward to starting the season and developing my career with the team.”

FIA WRC Manager, Michèle Mouton, said:
“Once again we are seeing how the FIA’s junior series is developing young drivers and giving them the opportunity to make that step in to the FIA World Rally Championship. We all wish Elfyn [Evans] the best of luck with his career.”


M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“M-Sport has always worked to develop the careers of up-and-coming young drivers. Elfyn [Evans] is a talented driver with a promising career ahead of him and this prize will give him the best opportunity to learn from the entire team and develop as a world class driver.

“The scheme also shows Ford and M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ at its best. Elfyn started rallying with the Ford Fiesta ST when he contested the FordFiesta SportTrophy series in 2007 and has grown with the Fiesta R2 through the [FIA] WRC Academy. He’ll now progress to the Ford Fiesta RRC – and eventually the Fiesta R5 – and I am sure it won’t be long until we see him challenging for results at the highest level.”
13-03-18 Off to flying start
Created following the inclusion of the new WRC3 category in this season’s World Rally Championship, the Citroën Top Driver series is set to make its bow on the world scene at Rally de Portugal in a few weeks time. The formula has already been a huge success, as no fewer than nine European crews will line up at the start of the rally ina Citroën DS3 R3.

The final rung of the ladder leading to the upper echelons of rallying, Citroën Top Driver is above all an affordable, professional formula which will reward the winning crew with a programme of six WRC2 rallies in 2014. Composed of four gravel rallies and two tarmac events, it will also feature a team competition for outfits entering at least two cars. As entries for Rally de Portugal are now closed, these eight crews will now head for the Algarve in order to battle it out in Citroën DS3 R3s. Five different nationalities will be represented with the Swiss pair of Francesco Parli and Federico Della Casa, the German Christian Riedemann, the Italian Simone Campedelli, the French trio of Sébastien Chardonnet, Quentin Gilbert and Bryan Bouffier, the Irishmans Keith Cronin and Alastair Fisher.

“We are pleased with the success that Citroën’s new challenge has enjoyed for this first round of the season”, commented a delighted Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroën Racing. “Among the entrants, we have two 2012 Citroën Racing Trophy winners in Quentin Gilbert (France) and Keith Cronin (UK), whilst the other drivers have produced strong performances in national promotional formulas and championships, such as Sébastien Chardonnet, Bryan Bouffier and Christian Riedemann. This reflects the spirit of Citroën Top Driver perfectly since they will now be able to compete against each other in an international formula. Given the quality of the field, I think we can all look forward to an exciting, closely contested season.”

THE ENTRANTS
Bryan Bouffier
Age: 34 years old
Nationality: French
Co-driver: Xavier Panseri
Team: Delta Rally
Competitive record
Three-time Polish Rally Champion (2007, 2008 and 2009)
Winner of the Rallye Monte Carlo (IRC 2010)
French Rally Champion (2011)

Simone Campedelli
Age: 25 years old
Nationality: Italian
Co-driver: Danilo Fappani
Team: Saintéloc Racing
Competitive record
Italian champion under 23 (2009)
Italian Champion Junior (2011)
2WD Italian Champion (2011 and 2012)

Sébastien Chardonnet
Age: 24 years old
Nationality: French
Co-driver: Thibault de la Haye
Team: Top Teams
Competitive record
Karting, single-seater and GT3 (1999 – 2009)
Runner-up in the Citroën Racing Trophy (2010)
Group R winner at the Rallye Monte Carlo 2013
Current leader of the WRC3 2013

Keith Cronin
Age: 26 years old
Nationality: Irish
Co-driver: Clark Marshall
Team: Citroën Charles Hurst
Competitive record
Three-time British Rally Champion (2009, 2010 and 2012 in a DS3 R3)
Winner of the UK Citroën Racing Trophy (2012)

Federico Della Casa
Age: 21 years old
Nationality: Swiss
Co-driver: Marco Menchini
Team: Procar
Competitive record
Competed in the Switzerland Citroën Racing Trophy (2011 and 2011)

Alastair Fisher
Age: 24 years old
Nationality: British
Co-driver: TBC
Team: Saintéloc Racing
Competitive record
British Championship (2010)
Third in the 2011 WRC Academy
Winner of the Rally de Portugal and runner-up in the Acropolis Rally in the 2012 WRC Academy

Quentin Gilbert
Age: 23 years old
Nationality: French
Co-driver: Isabelle Galmiche
Team: Top Teams
Competitive record
Winner of the “Rallye Jeunes” (young rally drivers) initiative in 2009
Winner of the France Citroën Racing Trophy (2012)

Francesco Parli
Age: 41 years old
Nationality: Swiss
Co-driver: Tania Canton
Team: Procar
Competitive record
Runner-up in the European Championship in the two-wheel drive category in a DS3 R3 (2012)

Christian Riedemann
Age: 25 years old
Nationality: German
Co-driver: Lara Vanneste
Team: Team Riedemann
Competitive record
Runner-up in the German Rally Championship in a DS3 R3 (2012)
13-03-17 Pontus Tidemand anmäld till Junior-VM i Rally
Efter en lyckad WRC-debut i Rally Sweden i början av februari, så är det nu klart att det blir fler VM-rallyn för Pontus Tidemand genom en andra säsong i Junior-VM. Förra årets satsning räckte till en tredjeplats i totalen och i år är det vinst som hägrar.
- Jag ser helt klart fram emot att få chansen att köra ytterligare en säsong i Junior-VM. Man vet aldrig vad som händer i rally, men jag har ju med mig erfarenheten från förra året och siktar självklart på vinst, berättar Pontus.

Detta är trettonde året som World Rally Championships kompletterande juniorklass körs och den erbjuder en bra möjlighet för unga, lovande förare att skaffa sig internationell erfarenhet. Under åren har idag stora namn såsom Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier och PG Andersson deltagit. Nytt för denna säsong är att efter två år som WRC Academy, har klassen nu fått tillbaka sin gamla benämning Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC). Vinnaren får titulera sig juniorvärldsmästare och får även delta i sex VM-deltävlingar med en Ford Fiesta R5 under säsongen 2014.

Med bland annat guld i SM-sprinten och vinst i den första deltävlingen i Rally-SM, har Pontus under vintern haft ett framgångsrikt samarbete med rutinerade kartläsaren Ola Fløene. Allt har fungerat perfekt för dem i bilen och de fortsätter sitt teamwork även under JWRC.

Årets JWRC består av sex deltävlingar, alla inom Europas gränser, med start i Portugal i april. Sedan följer Grekland och Finland, alla tre på grus. Efter det handlar det om asfalt under nästföljande tävlingar i Tyskland och Frankrike och i avslutande rallyt i Spanien är underlaget en kombination av grus och asfalt. Alla deltagare i klassen kör samma typ av bil, en Ford Fiesta R2, och de drivs alla av Ford M-Sport.
- Ser verkligen fram emot Rally Portugal och inom någon vecka kommer vi berätta mer om den fortsatta satsningen och om hur upplägget säsongen 2013 kommer att vara, avslutar den 22-åriga landslagsföraren Tidemand

Junior World Rally Championship 2013
Vodafone Rally de Portugal 11 - 14 april
Acropolis Rally 31 maj - 2 juni
Neste Oil Rally Finland 1 - 3 augusti
ADAC Rallye Deutschland 22 - 25 augusti
Rallye de France-Alsace 3 - 6 oktober
RallyRACC-Rally de Espana 24 - 27 oktober
13-03-11 Qatar puts Belgiums Neuville on Maiden WRC-podium
Thierry Neuville is celebrating his maiden podium in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) today after he piloted his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a sensational third place on the 2013 edition of Guanajuato Rally Mexico. Similarly impressive, fellow Qatar World Rally Team driver Nasser Al-Attiyah secured his best ever performance from the event with fifth place overall.

Embarking on the last day of competitive action, the Qatar M-Sport quartet faced the final, and what is arguably the most daunting, test of the weekend. Coming in at a monstrous 54.85 km and climbing over 2600m above sea level, Guanajuatito (SS21) places huge demands on driver and co-driver alike. A strong time demands peak physical fitness, some 90 pages of pacenotes and near perfect concentration. Needless to say, this season’s longest stage has claimed many victims over the years, but that was not to be the case for the Qatari-liveried Fiestas.

Finding the perfect balance between pace and control, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had little difficulty taming the challenging stages. Leading the rally in its early phase, Belgium’s latest protégé showcased his growth as a world class driver – his mix of speed and composure resulting in a maiden WRC podium, a stage win, and ten top-three stage times.

However, seemingly emulating his friend and team-mate Al-Attiyah, Neuville had something of a Dakar moment through Guanajuatito (SS21). With a gap of just 7.5 seconds, the youngster was all set to push Mikko Hirvonen for second place and was taking time off the Finn on the opening splits. But after braking late and going wide 15 km into the stage, Neuville took the mature approach and backed off the pace to consolidate what became a fantastic result on only his second venture to the Mexican event.

Rally Mexico also proved fruitful for fellow Qatar World Rally Team driver Al-Attiyah. Taking his best ever result from the event, the Qatari continually challenged the WRC regulars as his times overshadowed those posted on last year’s event. Indeed, navigated by Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernnachini, Al-Attiyah blitzed his previous times by as much as half a minute.

Taking a cautious approach through Sunday’s final three stages, Al-Attiyah consolidated his fifth place – an excellent result on his debut with the team.

In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team camp, it was all about minimising the impact of early misfortune. Having lost time when a rock pierced the underfloor of his Fiesta RS WRC on Friday’s opening test (SS3), Novikov was disadvantaged running third on the road. But with the calming aid of co-driver Ilka Minor, the Muscovite made an impressive comeback – climbing from 22nd to tenth and securing a World Championship point in the process.

Elsewhere, Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson came back strongly on today’s points-paying Power Stage. Having had to retire his Fiesta RS WRC with an electrical issue the previous day, the Norwegian refocused and set a sensational second fastest time – claiming a further two points for his championship campaign. Considering his road position – sweeping the dusty gravel for the cars behind – the 24-year-old’s impressive pace heart-achingly demonstrated what could have so easily been a superb result.

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“It’s been a very good weekend for us – we had a lot of things to deal with and I think we coped with everything really well. On the first day we tried to push, then on the second day we hit something on the stage and developed a steering problem which we had to manage.

“We learnt a lot and we agreed with the team that we would push this morning because we thought, even if we get no podium here, we will definitely get one at another rally. So we certainly tried to push Mikko [Hirvonen] for second.

“All in all this is an absolutely fantastic result for us. I want to say a big thank you to the team because they did a really great job all weekend. Everything worked really well for us, and even when we damaged the car a bit, they repaired it perfectly.

“I hope this is not the last time you will see us here! We’re hungry for more podiums and one day I hope that it will be the top-step that we are standing on.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
“We didn’t take any risks today because we were very happy with fifth position. I am so happy with our result on this rally because it really is a very difficult event. Last year we finished sixth and this year we finished fifth which just goes to show how hard the team are working to make everything happen.

“Thierry [Neuville] also had a very good result, and the Qatar World Rally Team is in a really good position on points now. I am very proud of Thierry and Nicolas [Gilsoul, Neuville’s co-driver] and I have no doubt that this is the first of many more podiums for them.”

Evgeny Novikov (10th) said:
“We ran first on the road for most of the event, so we were not able to show the speed we were capable of. The problem on Friday was a real shame because I think we could have had some good pace here and really challenged for a good result.

“But this is a tough rally and these things can so easily happen. It’s just a shame that we were the unlucky ones this time. But we have gained a lot of good experience for next year and managed to salvage some points for the championship – every little helps!”

Mads Østberg (11th) said:
“This rally has been very disappointing for us. Before the problem on Saturday we were setting a really good pace and on course for a top position. But that’s how it is and there’s nothing we can do about it now.

“It is for sure a shame, but as I said, we were setting a really good pace, as I think you can see from the Power Stage. Even being second on the road we managed to set the second fastest time and that is a real positive for us going forward.

“We know that the speed is there and now more than ever we are hungry for a good result so we will definitely be pushing for that in Portugal!”

Malcolm Wilson OBE said:
“What a fantastic result for Thierry [Neuville] and Nicolas [Gilsoul]! They controlled the rally perfectly and I am extremely proud that Qatar and M-Sport can be the ones to bring them the first of what I am sure will be many podiums in the WRC.

“Obviously Mads’ [Østberg] problem yesterday was a real blow for the team, but I was extremely impressed with his performance on the Power Stage. To set a time like that with the road position he had was incredible and I know that he will be back as focused and as determined as ever in Portugal.”

ELSEWHERE
Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Killian Duffy brought home an impressive victory in WRC-2. Dominating the category behind the wheel of his Seashore Qatar World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC, the Qatari secured the win by a margin of over nine minutes.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari said:
“This is a fantastic result for us and I could not be happier. The victory may have looked easy from the outside, but I can tell you it wasn’t! When you have big gaps like that, it is so easy to lose concentration – especially on a stage like Guanajuatito [SS21] – so we had to work very hard all weekend. I want to say a big thanks to the team at M-Sport, and I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel. Of course there will be a lot of strong competition in Portugal, but we will try and have a clean run, like we did here, and see what happens.”
13-03-10 Mikko Hirvonen secures Podium Spot
After winning the event’s longest stage, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen ensured they would finish Rally Mexico as runners-up. With the points scored by Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio for fourth position, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team increased its lead at the top of the Manufacturers’ World Championship.

After two long, gruelling days of racing, the final leg of Rally Mexico was considerably shorter. The crews still had to tackle the 54.85km-long Guanajuatito stage, and the Derramadero Power Stage (21.14km) and the Super Special Stage held next to León, the base of the rally.

With a slim 7.5s lead over Thierry Neuville at the start of the final day, Mikko Hirvonen had no choice but to push hard to thwart the ambitions of his rival. The Finn did just that, with style to spare, by beating all of his rivals on Guanajuatito to record his second stage win of the weekend. And although his tyres were already very worn, he also managed to show good speed on the Power Stage.

“We only really had one mission today and that was to keep our second place, so I’m pleased we managed to do that,” commented Mikko at the finish. “I didn‘t go flat out on Guanajuatito because I wanted to keep my tyres for the Power Stage. But I was too cautious in the first section, which was really quick with a lot of dips, and I couldn’t get into the top 3. But anyway, I’m pleased to finish on the podium for the first time this season. It’s a good result which owes much to my consistency. However, it looks like we have a lot of work to do as well.”

Fourth at the end of the second day, Dani Sordo held his position until the finish. “It’s a good result because it means that Citroën has increased its lead in the overall standings,” said the Spaniard.

“Although we have made progress this weekend, I was unable to challenge the other guys because I was struggling to adapt to the car. We are going to keep working, especially in the tests that are scheduled ahead of Rally de Portugal.”

“This rally was a good result for the Manufacturers’ World Championship, as we have extended our lead by four points,” confirmed Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “It wasn’t easy, however, especially for Dani who had difficulty in making the most of the car’s potential. We worked hard throughout the weekend and I think our efforts will start to bear fruit from Portugal onwards. Mikko, on the other hand, was happy with his DS3 WRC and he was able to challenge at the front. Both our cars have finished in the points. That’s in line with the target we had set ourselves and that we’ll be looking to achieve throughout the season.”

Competing in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, Chris Atkinson picked up another position during the morning. The Australian was delighted to have finished sixth overall: “It was a good comeback, we were 15th at one stage, so to get sixth is fantastic! Obviously, it could have been better, but I’m happy. I’d like to thank Khalid Al Qassimi for letting me have this opportunity. Hopefully, I can have another chance, so that I can build on this experience.”

Welcomed by the local media and his home crowed like a winner, the Mexican Benito Guerra was pleased to have picked up the points for eighth place: “It’s really the outcome I was dreaming about before the start of the rally. I am happy to have battled with the other drivers throughout the weekend. This first result in WRC is here, now I would like to speak with my sponsors to see if we can take part in other events at this level. I hope to be in Portugal!”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 4:30:27.0
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +3:28.9
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:23.8
4 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +6:06.7
5 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:34.6
6 Atkinson / Prévot Citroën DS3 WRC +11:28.0
7 Block / Gelsomino Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:48.3
8 Guerra / Rozada Citroën DS3 WRC +12:49.8
9 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14:29.0
10 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +17:15.3

FASTEST TIMES
Day 1 – SS1: Neuville – SS2 and SS3: Ogier – SS4 and SS5: Østberg – SS6 to SS8: Ogier – SS9
and SS10: Østberg – SS11 to SS13: Ogier.
Day 2 – SS14 and SS15: Ogier – SS16: Hirvonen – SS17 to SS20: Ogier.
Day 3 – SS21: Hirvonen – SS22 and SS23: Ogier.

BEST PERFORMERS
Solberg, 16 fastest times – Østberg, 4 – Hirvonen, 2 – Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1: Neuville – SS2 and SS3: Ogier – SS4 and SS5: Østberg – SS6 to SS23: Ogier.
www.citroen-wrc.com
13-03-10 Motorsport Italia Rally México Review
‘Hello everyone, it’s Jack writing to you for the final time from the Poliforum at Rally México.
‘Today wasn’t a good day. Michal started with high hopes. A Top 10 finish was within reach, especially with everyone needing to navigate the tough 54.85km Guanajuatito test safely. However, this year it was Michal’s turn to fall foul of this difficult stage.

‘Everything was OK, until his engine started to overheat approximately 20km into the stage. This didn’t immediately affect the car’s performance. Michal continued to put in strong splits until 44km into the stage when the engine cut out and he was forced to retire.

‘The MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC was collected from the stage by a recovery vehicle and returned to the Service Park where we had the chance to examine the cause of the problem. It seems that a broken alternator belt was the culprit. However, we will have to do more research after the event to work out exactly what happened.

‘Of course any problem on a long-haul rally is tricky to handle logistically, because the car will go directly from here to Argentina in the container. We’ll make sure that everything runs like clockwork though and when Michal gets to Argentina his MINI will be as good as new.

‘It’s a shame for the event to finish like this after Michal battled the first two days to stay in the mix, but that’s rally! Now we will focus on Rally de Portugal.

'We have 10 more events to do this year, so it’s onward and upwards. One positive coming from Rally México is that Michal completed the majority of the itinerary and now has some good gravel experience in competition in his MINI. He will take this to Portugal with him and build on it.

‘I’m off now to help pack up – a coordinator’s work is never done. At least not until the party tonight!

‘Be good.
‘Jack’
13-03-10 Tthe DS3 WRCS strongly placed
Despite its many tricky sections, day two of Rally Mexico still saw the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT put together the makings of a good overall result. Now second overall, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen will need to keep pushing tomorrow to defend their position. Meanwhile, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio have a strong hold on fourth place.

After yesterday’s first leg featured a series of short stages, day two of Rally Mexico focussed on two ‘biggies’: Ibarrilla (30.04km) and Otates (42.17km). Incredibly brittle and rock-strewn, the Sierra de Lobos roads would sorely test the drivers, the cars and the tyres.

Mikko Hirvonen began the day in third position overall, aiming to catch Mads Østberg. After a good first stage, the Finn heard the news that his Norwegian rival had retired before the start of Otates (SS15). He therefore eased off considerably before heading back to León for the mid-day service. “It’s a shame for Mads, but it means that we gain a position. The gaps are pretty big now, so my aim for the rest of the rally is to make sure of second place. It won't be easy because the road surface is particularly difficult. But I’m not worried, I’m used to managing this kind of situation. We’ll just have to stay totally focussed.”

Also having got off to a strong start on Ibarilla, Dani Sordo lost ten seconds or so after picking up a puncture 7 kilometres from the finish. With no second spare tyre, the Spaniard then took it particularly easy on the first run on Otates: “In any case, I couldn't go much faster, the car was sliding around a lot and as soon as I tried to go faster I ended up almost going off. We tested a new set-up this morning, but we are going to make some more changes.”

After the service, the competitors headed off to complete their second runs on the stages. After getting closer to the times of the frontrunners, Dani Sordo was happier again: “This time, we moved in the right direction, and I'm going to be able to move forward. I think we have found the right set-up for me. We are now clear in fourth position, so our aim will be to make it to the finish without incident tomorrow.”

Despite adopting a cautious approach, Mikko almost lost his second place on SS18 after picking up a puncture on one of the rear tyres: “It happened after about twenty kilometres, half-way through the stage. I didn’t feel a thing; we didn’t hit anything. I decided not to stop to change the tyre.” When the no.2 DS3 WRC made it to the finish of Otates, his left-hand rear wheel only had a few shreds of carcass left on it…

Mikko was able to complete the day’s two closing super special stages without incident. However, with his lead over the third-placed driver cut to 7.5s, he will need to keep pushing tomorrow: “It's never over, especially on such a difficult rally. Tomorrow’s 54km-long stage may well prove decisive and I'm sure that Thierry Neuville will push hard to try and get ahead of us. But we are going to defend our position!”

Tenth overall at the end of the first leg, Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot made the most progress on day two. By moving ahead of Martin Prokop and Benito Guerra, the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT crew climbed to seventh overall. “We drove well without taking any major risks,” confirmed the Australian, who set two fourth-fastest stage times on Ibarilla 2 and Otates 2. “We’re now less than thirty seconds behind Ken Block, so we can get one more position tomorrow. So we have a chance of sixth, which wouldn’t be too far off my initial target.”

Increasingly at ease in the DS3 WRC, Benito Guerra held firm in eighth place: “It was another positive day for me. We learned a lot again and I’m pleased that I didn’t make any significant mistakes. It would be a great result for me and the people supporting me here if I could finish in the points.”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 3:38:42.2
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +2:52.4
3 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:59.9
4 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +4:45.2
5 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:33.9
6 Block / Gelsomino Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:57.1
7 Atkinson / Prévot Citroën DS3 WRC +9:23.8
8 Guerra / Rozada Citroën DS3 WRC +10:00.9
9 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11:22.3
10 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15:41.9
13-03-10 Motorsport Italia Rally México Day Two
'Hello everyone, Jack again.
'It was even hotter today than yesterday with outside temperatures well above 30 degrees. You can imagine the temperature inside the cars for the crews!

'Today wasn’t an easy day for Michal. The morning loop went well. Michal wasn’t first on the road in his MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC, which was better for him! However, the more aggressive driving style of the driver in front meant that the lines in the road ahead of him were different to those in Michal’s pace notes, so on occasion Michal had to carve his own path.

'At midday service, Michal was happy with his first pass. We only altered the set-up slightly; making changes to the front anti-roll bar and putting into place an appropriate second pass ride-height. Michal also opted for soft DMACK tyres instead of the hard ones used on the first loop.

'The afternoon should have been easier and the stages cleaner. However, Michal lost around one minute on SS17, because he was worried that the engine was too warm and chose to slow down and drive carefully for the last 10km of the stage.

'His concerns were fortunately unfounded, but then the real problem hit on SS18. An issue with the transmission on the 42.17km SS18, Otates 2, left Michal with only front-wheel drive and a time loss of nearly seven minutes, including 54 seconds when he pulled over to make sure the car behind could get past cleanly and didn’t suffer because of Michal’s problems.

'Fortunately, we were able to change the rear differential and fix the problem at service this evening. The technicians did a great job, doing everything efficiently and well within the 45-minute service time allocated.

'Tomorrow is the final day of the rally and the itinerary offers the longest stage of the rally, the 54.85km Guanajuatito Stage. We hope that Michal’s troubles are now over and he has a clear run tomorrow.

'From León, México, I leave you in Dutch: ´Doei en Tot Ziens´
Jack'
13-03-09 Midday quotes, Rally Mexico, Day 2
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“It has been a very stressful morning for us! Half way into the first stage [Ibarrilla 1 – SS14] we caught the inside of a right-hand corner, only very slightly, but we damaged the steering and it just got worse as we went on.
“Then about one kilometre into the long stage [Otates 1 – SS15], in a fast left-hander, the steering just froze and we had a big spin. It was a very scary moment and I think we were very lucky. After that, we just took it very smoothly until the end to ensure we made it through.

“I am very disappointed for Mads [Østberg] because he was doing a great job. For me it’s good of course because it means I gain a position. But now it is even more stressful and we really need to ensure we make it to the end with no problems.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
“It’s been a good morning – not easy because these stages are very fast but our times have been really good. We will try to keep this pace but it is a really long rally. For sure it will be a difficult afternoon with a lot of loose rocks, but we will try to do our best.

“We’ve made a big step forward this year and I am really enjoying driving this Fiesta [RS WRC]. The car is working very well and the team is pushing hard to make everything happen. I hope that we can get a good result here as it will be really important for myself, and the team… and also for Qatar!”

Evgeny Novikov (11th) said:
“Because of yesterday’s problems we are not in a position to fight so we are just trying to keep going with a good speed. I hope the second pass will be better for us as it will be a lot cleaner. The second stage today [Otates 1 – SS15] was especially slipper, and with no lines to follow, we had to make our own way. But that is how it is now and we just need to continue to the end.”

Mads Østberg (Rally 2):
The Norwegian was forced to retire from the event as his Ford Fiesta RS WRC suffered an electrical problem on the road section between SS14 and SS15. Østberg had been running in a strong second place, but will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

13-03-09 Motorsport Italia Rally Mexico Update
'Hello again everyone, Jack here,
'We’ve now been in Mexico for six days and are ready to get started with the rally stages! This morning was Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage. This was the first time Michal had driven his MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC in anger on a warm gravel rally, so it was an interesting test.

'Of course, Rally México is also Michal’s first event this year that he’s competed on before in Super 2000, a car whose handling is relevant to his current WRC car. This meant that unlike in Monte and Sweden – quite specialist rallies – here Michal and Maciek could focus on refining their pace notes during recce rather than completely overhauling them or writing them from scratch.

'Since we arrived, we’ve prepared the Service Area and the car for the rally. It’s complicated behind-the-scenes on a long-haul. You have to create your own village from one container!

'Michal is first on the road tonight and tomorrow, which is a tough shout! He’ll be sweeping the longer stages, but he’ll give it his best shot. As with the last two events, he’s focused on completing the stages safely and building up his experience in his MINI. This is especially important with three more potentially hot gravel rallies following this one back-to-back. That said, he also has his sights firmly set on a Top 10 finish here.

'The two stages this evening should be a great spectacle. The Mexican Event Organisers always put on a good show. They pack a wide variety of stages into a compact itinerary that’s challenging, but spectator friendly. Now I have to go because I’m heading off to Guanajuato, but I’ll make sure to keep you updated throughout the rally. Watch this space – and wish us luck!
'Jack'
13-03-09 Østberg leads the way for Qatar M-Sport
As the first gravel round of the FIA World Rally Championship got underway, Rally Mexico proved fruitful for the Qatar M-Sport and Qatar World Rally Teams. Having both led the event in its preliminary phase, Mads Østberg and Thierry Neuville are leading the way for the team’s four-car squad - the Norwegian battling for victory in second with the young Belgian impressing to fourth place overall.

As rallying met heritage for Thursday’s opening sprint tests, the Qatar M-Sport crews put in an impressive performance which saw Østberg and Neuville both lying less than a second adrift of the lead.

With thousands of fans giving the spectacular Guanajuato opener a real party atmosphere, Neuville was the one celebrating as he led a one, two, three finish for the squad through the cobbled streets of the former mining town. Moving south to the picturesque Parque Bicentenario (SS2) – which honours 200 years of Mexican independence – Qatar M-Sport stayed strong to ensure a near perfect position going into today’s daunting 160.75 km of special stages.

Embarking on the first full day of competition, the stage was set for an almighty battle and the Qatar M-Sport crews did not disappoint. With their Ford Fiesta RS WRC set-up for the slower, twisting sections, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson reaped the benefit through Las Minas and Los Mexicanos (SS4-5 and SS9-10) to take their tally of fastest stage times to four.

Indeed the first pass was enough to propel the Scandinavian duo into the lead of the event. But the fearsome El Chocolate test would prove to be the pairing’s ‘Achilles Heel’. Concerned that he had developed a puncture towards the end of the first pass and struggling to find a consistent rhythm over the second, Østberg was forced to back off the pace losing valuable seconds to main rival Sébastien Ogier.

Yet a determined Østberg refused to let the Frenchman loose. With two days and some of the most demanding stages left to run, the 24-year-old has left Ogier far from pressure free.

Clearly getting to grips with his Fiesta RS WRC, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul demonstrated some sensational pace on what is only their second venture to the Mexican event. Claiming a string of top-three stage times, the pairing found themselves tantalisingly close to a podium position – just 0.4 seconds adrift of Mikko Hirvonen come the close of SS8.

Despite a spin and being forced to slow his pace through the second pass of El Chocolate (SS10), Neuville remains less than half a minute shy of his first WRC podium. Needless to say the world stage has not yet seen the Belgian’s full potential, but the composed way in which he has approached events of late is certainly paying dividends – the youngster currently on course to equal his best ever performance in the WRC.

Making a welcome return to the M-Sport fold and reunited with co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini, Nasser Al-Attiyah was also showcasing the Fiesta’s speed at its best. Significantly improving the pace he displayed last year, the Qatari posted a series of top-ten times to continually challenge the championship regulars.

In this his seventh start in Mexico, Al-Attiyah is well versed in what it takes to get the most from these difficult stages. At one with both the cars and Michelin’s harder compound tyre, the Middle Eastern star now lays a creditable sixth going into tomorrow’s second full day of competition.

Elsewhere Evgeny Novikov’s promise was marred by yet further cruel misfortune. Thrown up by the high speeds of SS4, a rock pierced the underfloor of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC – damaging the connectors in the ECU and resulting in a consequential loss of power.

Fortunately for the young Russian, co-driver Ilka Minor – who is coincidentally celebrating her 100th WRC start this weekend – is as good at mechanical repairs as she is at calling the notes. Replacing the unit, the pairing were soon back to their best – an array of top-three times demonstrating what could have so easily been a fantastic result for the Muscovite.

Mads Østberg (2nd) said:
“We are happy to be second of course, but it’s been an up-and-down day for sure! We have seen what we can do when everything is working, and it’s very disappointing when we lose so much time in just a couple of stages.

“It’s still a big fight and, if we can find a good rhythm tomorrow, we will see what we can do. We are certainly not giving up!”

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“Today has been a good day. When we felt good the times were good, but we are also being clever and not pushing too hard when the confidence is not 100 per cent. Maybe we slowed down a bit too much on a couple of the stages this afternoon, but we are still here and that is the most important thing.

“We definitely have more speed to come, but we don’t want to take any big risks on this event. Last year we proved that we have the speed; this year it’s all about proving that we have the speed and the consistency.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (6th) said:
“Today has been a good for us. The car and tyres are working perfectly and I have been able to continually improve my times from last year. We are pushing, but these stages are very difficult so you need to be careful and make sure that you understand the limits.

“Evgeny [Novikov] was very unlucky this morning, but Mads [Østberg] and Thierry [Neuville] have been very impressive and I hope that all four of us can continue to improve tomorrow.”

Evgeny Novikov (13th) said:
“This morning was a big disappointment for me, I came to this event full of confidence and ready to get a good result for the team, and also for Ilka [Minor, co-driver] on what is a very special event for her.

“But these things happen and there is not a lot we can do about it now. The most important thing for us is to keep motivated and make sure that we make it to the end of the rally.”


Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I have been delighted with Mads’ [Østberg] pace. He and Sébastien [Ogier] have been the only drivers to take a stage win today and when Mads is really in the rhythm, he’s proved very difficult to beat. Thierry [Neuville] too has been very impressive. Like in Sweden, he’s taken a clever approach – not taking too many risks but still setting some fantastic times.

“There is still a long way to go, and as we saw today with Jari [Matti-Latvala] it is so easy to be caught out, anything can still happen. We’ll continue to put the pressure on Sébastien [Ogier] and see what tomorrow has to bring.”

ELSEWHERE
M-Sport’s Adbulaziz Al-Kuwari and co-driver Killian Duffy put in a sensational performance in WRC-2. The pairing claimed all but one of the 13 stage wins on offer thus far to secure a comfortable lead behind the wheel of their Seashore Qatar Rally Team’s Ford Fiesta RRC. Leading the category by almost two and a half minutes, the future is looking bright for Qatar’s latest rising star.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari said:
“It’s a very good feeling to be leading on our first event in WRC-2. Although we might look like we are in a safe position, there is sill a long way to go and anything can happen. Having said that, I think we have got through the toughest day and the full 25 points is definitely possible.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I need to congratulate Abdulaziz [Al-Kuwari] and Killian [Duffy] on what has been a dominant performance in WRC-2. Leading by over two minutes, they’ve had a very impressive day’s rallying and I’m looking forward to following their progress with the [Ford Fiesta] RRC tomorrow.”
13-03-09 Mikko Hirvonen in the thick of it
By the end of the long, gruelling first leg of Rally Mexico, a group of four crews had moved clear of the rest of the field in the fight for the podium places. Third overall, 42s off the pace, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen ended the day in the leading group. Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio coped well with the difficulties of sweeping and getting used to the Central American stages again to gain a firm foothold in the top five.

The rally got underway on Thursday evening, with two super special stages run just after the ceremonial start held in front of Guanajuato City’s Alhondiga, the former granary which is now a huge museum. Mikko Hirvonen, Dani Sordo and Chris Atkinson took no undue risks on these warm-up stages, entering parc fermé for the night bunched together in fourth, fifth and sixth places.

On Friday morning, the WRCs finally stepped onto the gravel. The leg began with El Cubilete, named after the hill with a statue of Christ at its peak, 2,579 metres above sea level. Some drivers were already out of the rally at this point, caught out by the rocks kicked up as more cars completed the stages. Chris Atkinson made it to the end of the stage, but had damaged the power steering of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s DS3 WRC. The Australian and his co-driver Stéphane Prévot had no choice but to go ahead with mechanical repairs that cost them 3m 30s in penalties. They were however able to continue with their race.

On Las Minas (SS4), Mikko Hirvonen pushed hard to move up into third position. The Finn set another good time on the day’s longest stage, El Chocolate (SS6). After returning to the service park, his overall assessment was fairly positive. “I’m not totally happy, because I would like to be a bit nearer to first place, but it’s nonetheless a good start insofar as the gaps are still pretty small,” confirmed the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT driver. “In theory, we had the best starting position but the roads are so full of potholes and rocks that they are not sweeping clear as much as we had thought they would.”

“It hasn’t been easy returning to this rally in such difficult conditions,” explained Dani Sordo, who was fifth overall, over a minute off the pace. “As there were quite a few retirements among the drivers starting ahead of me, very quickly I found myself running in a more difficult starting position. There were tracks, but the lines weren’t clearly marked out and so I ended up having to sweep my own racing line. Having said that, I had a good feeling on the first two stages of the day, so I'm going to try and keep it up.”

The second runs on the stages enabled Mikko Hirvonen to pursue his battle with Østberg and Neuville. Once again quick on Las Minas, Los Mexicanos and El Chocolate (SS9 to SS11), he ended the day nine seconds adrift of second place. “The second loop continued where the first left off. Apart from on El Cubilete where I lost time without really knowing why, things went well,” reported Mikko. “I am pleased with the car and I’m enjoying the fight. We have completed the longest day of the rally, but we haven’t reached the half-way stage yet, so there is still a long way to go.”

Although he held onto fifth place at the end of the leg, Dani Sordo wasn’t pleased with his performance: “I struggled to find the right pace and adapt to the car. I lacked confidence, and very quickly we were losing a second per kilometre… We’ll analyse my performance today so that we can take a different approach to the second leg.”

After dropping down to fifteenth following the penalties collected on SS4, Chris Atkinson then produced a fine performance with a series of fast times throughout the day. The Australian had moved back up to tenth overall after SS11, which put a big smile back on his face: “I had a fairly standard Rally Mexico mishap, when I hit a rock that wasn’t there in recce. The first result was not having to retire at that point. Then the team did a great job in the service park to fix the car and I was able to continue. It’s nice to be able to pay them back with a few good times. We’ll keep pushing tomorrow to try to keep moving up the standings.”

Proudly carrying the flag for Mexico, Benito Guerra’s DS3 WRC ended the leg in eighth position overall. For his first rally in a World Rally Car, the reigning P-WRC Champion produced a solid performance: “I’m really pleased with this result and the way that things went today! A WRC is very different from the Group N car that I drove last year and I learned a lot as we completed more of the stages. I had a good scrap with Ken Block, who has a lot of experience and who is often quick here. I’m going to try and get a bit closer to him tomorrow...”

OVERALL STANDINGS
1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 1:57:46.9
2 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +33.0
3 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +42.0
4 Neuville / Gilsoul Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:07.1
5 Sordo / del Barrio Citroën DS3 WRC +2:40.1
6 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:24.1
7 Block / Gelsomino Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4:46.5
8 Guerra / Rozada Citroën DS3 WRC +6:03.4
9 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:25.4
10 Atkinson / Prévot Citroën DS3 WRC +7:15.1
13-03-09 Motorsport Italia Rally México Day One
'Evening everyone,
'It was an early start for the team on today. We left the hotel at 5.30am. Fortunately it’s just opposite the Service Park!

'When the rally starts, I spend most of my day staring at monitors and handling computers and phones. I have to make sure that I know exactly what’s going on and keep everyone else updated too. For the crew it’s a different test! I was able to keep cool working from the Rally México Service Park, the Poliforum, but out on the stages it was an average temperature of 25 degrees!

'Michal and Maciek took on 11 stages today, including the brand new 30.57km El Chocolate test. They were also first on the road, which is a real challenge and meant that they were on road sweeping duty all morning. They relished the opportunity to tackle cleaner stages this afternoon!

'It was quite an uneventful day. The biggest excitement came on SS3, El Cubilete, when a stray dog wandered out in front of the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC. Luckily Michal avoided hitting him! Otherwise, everything went according to plan on the morning loop until the final road section back to midday service when one tyre exploded due to a puncture. This didn’t cost the crew any time in terms of the classification, but it does mean they have one less precious tyre available for Days Two and Three!

'Michal used DMACK H3 hard tyres throughout the day, having chosen softs for the two street stages yesterday evening. This seemed like a good choice, especially considering that today was a rough set of stages. Tomorrow’s seven tests should be easier on the tyres!

'SS6, El Chocolate, is a new adaptation of the old rally route and features on the itinerary for the first time this year. It’s slippery and puts a lot of pressure on the brakes. Michal’s brakes overheated during the stage, so at midday service we replaced them.

'The test proved tough second time around too. Michal bent the rear left toe link on his MINI approximately 8km from the end of the stage, costing him around 40 seconds. However, he stopped on the road section to replace it and was able to continue through SS12 and SS13 without any further problems.

'Day One safely completed, Michal is currently 11th overall with the Top 10 in his sights and still focused on picking up WRC points on his third event of the season. Overall, it was a positive day – he even got a bar of chocolate at the end of SS6, El Chocolate, in honour of the history of the region. That seems like a good custom to introduce for coordinators… :-)

'That’s all for now folks! More tomorrow.
'Jack'
13-03-08 Midday Quotes, Rally Mecico, Day 1
Mads Østberg (2nd) said:
“I’ve been struggling a bit with the set-up, but to be honest the times have not been so bad! On the last long stage [El Chocolate – SS6] we had quite a good run but I hit a stone towards the end. I was sure I had a puncture, but I think that what I was feeling was just the tyres overheating slightly. I slowed down because of that and lost a bit of time, but we have also set some really good stage times which is for sure a positive thing.

“I think we still have some speed to come and I’m not scared to push. We’re still in the fight and looking forward to this afternoon. We’ll go back now, refill the drinks bottles, and get back to the battle with Sébastien [Ogier].”

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“We lost 13 seconds on the second stage of the morning [Las Minas 1 – SS4] because I was thinking that I should save my tyres. Obviously that turned out to be the wrong decision because we lost our third position. But we are still in the fight and we can definitely go faster – although I’m not so sure that we should just now!

“There is still a long way to go with a lot that can happen, but we managed to avoid all the stones and I hope we can do the same this afternoon. We were quite clever this morning and I hope that we can continue like this.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah (6th) said:
“The road position does not make life easy for us, but we are happy to be here. The last long stage in particular [El Chocolate – SS6] was very difficult. There are about four or five different surfaces in that stage and it is constantly changing. The rhythm is always changing and you have to think cleverly to ensure you make it through and stay on the road.

“I am very happy with the car and the times show a big improvement from last year. I am sure if we can keep this pace we will be in a good position – especially with a better running order for tomorrow. Keep it calm and finish each stage.”

Evgeny Novikov (21st) said:
“In the middle of the first stage of the day [El Cubilete 1 – SS3] we lost the power and had to pull over. A stone has come up through the floor and damaged some of the connections in the ECU. We changed it to a spare one and were able to continue, but then one of the connectors came loose on the next stage [Las Minas 1 – SS4] so we had to pull over again.

“It is very disappointing to be at the back of the field. I was looking forward to this rally and wanted to achieve a good result here. Tomorrow we will be one of the first on the road which is also very disappointing. Now we just need to keep the motivation up and make it to the end.”

ELSEWHERE
Elsewhere in WRC-2, M-Sport driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari is dominating the field behind the wheel of his Seashore World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC. Claiming six of the seven stage wins thus far, the Qatari has an impressive 1:49.7 lead going in to the afternoon loop.

13-03-06 Ford Fiesta R% impresses on first public outing
The Ford Fiesta R5 had its first public outing last weekend as Matthew Wilson and Chris Patterson took to the wheel of M-Sport’s latest challenger. Continuing the Fiesta R5’s thorough testing and development programme, the pairing ran as Course Car for the 2013 edition of the Malcolm Wilson Rally in Cumbria.

Sporting the model's striking QR-code livery which will adorn the car throughout its development phase, the all-new Fiesta completed all seven stages – setting some promising times in the process.

M-Sport will continue to develop the Fiesta R5 before its launch later this year. With some substantial gravel testing already under its belt, the next phase will see the car put through its paces on asphalt both in the UK and abroad.

Also competing last weekend, M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, had the privilege of debuting the Ford Fiesta S2400. Designed for non-homologated series, the engine is ideal for the Ford Fiesta S2000 – Wilson Snr competing in the chassis that won the Monte-Carlo Rally on its debut in 2010 – but can also be adapted for other models such as MkI and MkII Escorts.

Unfortunately however, Wilson was forced to make an untimely retirement on SS3 and M-Sport’s R&D team will continue development and testing before an official release to customers later this year.

Elsewhere in the Cumbrian event, South African Mark Cronje piloted M-Sport's Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a creditable fifth place overall.

Matthew Wilson said:
“The car felt really good. Development is coming along nicely and the [Ford Fiesta] R5 looks set to be another extremely competitive model.

“Over the last few months we have done a lot of initial testing on gravel, now we just need to ensure that the car works just as well on asphalt. I’m heading down to Wales for a preliminary Tarmac test this week, and then the plan is to head to mainland Europe where we can perfect the car before an official launch later this year.”

Malcolm Wilson said:
“M-Sport is an exciting place to be at the moment with lots of new projects on the way. Early development for both the [Ford] Fiesta R5 and S2400 has been promising and it looks as though both models will be well worth the wait when they are officially released later this year.

“Now it’s all about continuing with the development on both cars to ensure that we provide a package that matches up to our high standards and is capable of securing overall victories around the world.”
13-03-04 Rorbert Kubica opts for Citroën DS3 DSC RRC
A few weeks after having competed in two rallies in a C4 WRC, Robert Kubica has decided to pursue his rally driving career in a Citroën DS3 RRC. The Pole’s 2013 programme will get underway at the Rally Islas Canarias – the third round of the FIA European Rally Championship – before he begins his campaign in the WRC2 at Rally de Portugal.

Eagerly awaited by his fans, Robert Kubica’s 2013 racing programme is set to place much greater emphasis on rallying. After having predominantly taken part in national rallies thus far, the Polish driver will compete in the European and World Rally Championships in a Citroën DS3 RRC.

“I weighed up the different options before deciding on this programme,” confirmed the Krakow-born driver. “I kept in touch with Citroën Racing and both sides were keen to continue working together. I’m really pleased now to be able to return to top-level racing. Taking part in Rally Islas Canarias will be an interesting challenge for me. I can’t wait to start racing, but I haven’t set myself any specific target. I still have a lot to learn in rallying and to improve I will need to rack up the miles on the stages.”

Three weeks after competing in the Canaries, Robert Kubica will line up at the start of his first World Championship Rally in Portugal. Entered in the WRC2, he is committed to contesting seven rounds of the 2013 calendar. He may also end up competing in additional European Championship rallies.

Faithfully derived from the DS3 WRC, the RRC version differs from its big sister in that it has more restrictive aerodynamic features and a smaller turbo flange. Following special dispensation granted by the FIA, the Polish driver’s car will have a specifically-designed gearbox, with a paddle installed to the left of the steering wheel.

“I am especially pleased to have Robert Kubica as one of our drivers in 2013,” added Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Thanks to the support of his partners, we are in the process of putting together a racing programme that will enable him to improve in a car that offers similar handling to a World Rally Car. Robert’s determination is an example to us all and we are proud to associate Citroën Racing’s image with
such a resolutely positive individual. I would also like to thank the FIA for supporting us with this arrangement.”
www.citroen-wrc.com
13-02-03 Qatar M-Sport prepared for Mecican ‘Fiesta’
Qatar M-Sport’s quartet will be looking for a strong result next week as they head to Rally Mexico and the first gravel event of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The contrast to the opening rounds of the season could not be more different, and with a new Rally Mexico victor guaranteed, Mads Østberg, Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Thierry Neuville will each be hoping that it’s their name which will become immortalised in the event’s history books.

Far removed from the sub-zero climes of late, Rally Mexico will see temperatures rise as high as 30°C with drivers and co-drivers enduring even higher temperatures in the confines of the cockpit. Such heat can place additional stress on the Ford Fiesta RS WRC’s engine and transmission, but the real challenge is the altitude. As 394.88 km of competitive stages climb over 2500m through the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, the starved oxygen can see performance levels fall by as much as 20 per cent.

To best cope with these demands, the team has completed a thorough pre-event test in the south of Spain. Modifying the engine to replicate power levels expected at altitude, all four crews have assessed the Fiesta’s characteristics and braking points in such conditions and are now fully prepared for the challenges ahead.

Having secured a fifth and fourth place finish on their two previous visits to the Mexican event, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson will be looking to go one better next week as they fight for their second successive podium of the year. Having completed 194 km during their pre-event test earlier this week, the Scandinavian duo is well prepared and relishing the fight ahead.

Keen to promote the fact that chocolate originated in the country over 3000 years ago, organisers have included a new special stage this year – the sweetly named ‘El Chocolate.’ Østberg’s week has also had a culinary flavour as he appeared on the Norwegian TV show ‘Fire Stjerners Middag' in which four celebrities take it in turn to host a dinner party for charity. The 25-year-old not only impressed his guests with his skills in the kitchen, but also took them for a spin in his rally car.

Making the move to gravel, Østberg’s fellow Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team driver, Novikov, will be looking to reap the rewards his speed has the potential to deliver. Indeed his progression as a world class driver was celebrated in his native Russia last week as he was named the country’s ‘driver of 2012’ beating the likes of F1 star Vitaly Petrov and two-time Rallycross Champion, Timur Timerzyanov, to the coveted crown.

Novikov will also have the advantage of having the field’s only previous Rally Mexico winner by his side next week – co-driver Ilka Minor. Having secured victory alongside Manfred Stohl in 2009 – when it was not a round of the WRC – Minor will be there to help guide her young charge. Next week’s event will also mark a significant milestone for the Austrian as she celebrates her 100th WRC appearance.

Having had to forfeit the previous round due to illness, Nasser Al-Attiyah will make his 2013 WRC debut next week as he makes a welcome return to the M-Sport fold. Leading the way for the Qatar World Rally Team, this will be the Qatari’s seventh venture to the Mexican stages – his extensive knowledge an advantage he’ll be able to share with his young team mates.

Partnered by Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini, Al-Attiyah claimed his best ever result from the event last year when he secured sixth place overall – a success he will be hoping to replicate on his long-awaited debut with the Fiesta RS WRC.

Completing the Qatar World Rally Team line-up, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will be looking to make an impact next week; and with their least preferred events done and dusted, the Belgian duo will be out to impress. Despite this being only his second venture to Rally Mexico, Neuville displayed some impressive speed on his 2012 debut – running as high as third before a mistake relegated him to 13th place overall.

Between events Neuville went old school as he took to the wheel of a Ford Escort MkII for the Legend Boucles de Spa in his native Belgium. Having led the field for much of the event, an unfortunate mechanical problem meant that the 24-year-old was forced to make an untimely retirement.

Mads Østberg said:
“With [Sébastien] Loeb not competing in Mexico we’re in a good position in the championship – we just need to ensure that we stay in touch with [Sébastien] Ogier. He’s been very strong on the first two rounds and I think we can expect the same from him next week. But I’m ready for the fight and looking forward to the rally. With this being the first gravel round of the season the field will be a lot closer and we should have some really good battles.

“This is an event where road position counts for a lot, so we’ll be pushing from the beginning to make sure we have a good Qualifying. You need to adapt to the conditions straight away. The altitude means that the car handles and reacts differently to the way it would on other gravel events, so you need to be on it from the very beginning.

“I’m really looking forward to what I’m sure will be an exciting battle next week. The podium is my goal and that’s what we’ll be fighting for.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“I’m feeling really good ahead of this rally. We had a good test – once we moved away from the snow – and learnt a lot about how to best set-up the car for the conditions. It’s quite a tricky event with a lot of things you need to consider. Some of the stages are very long and narrow which means that you need to keep your concentration even more than usual. The altitude too means that the car has much less power which can affect the usual braking points for example.

“As always we will fight for a good result and I think this could be a really good event for us. I also want to congratulate Ilka on her 100th WRC event. She knows what it takes to win here and having her by my side can only help.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“I’m feeling much better now and really looking forward to Rally Mexico. We had a great test and really gelled with the car and the team so we’re looking good for the rally.

“Experience is always very important so having competed here six times already I’ll be able to share some of that with Mads [Østberg], Evgeny [Novikov] and Thierry [Neuville]. But to be honest, I don’t think they’ll need so much advice! They’re all very good drivers with a big future ahead of them and each of them has already proven that they have the pace to do extremely well.

“The [Rally] Mexico stages are very good and actually amongst some of my favourite in the championship. Last year we finished strongly, and this year I hope to do even better and that at least one of our cars makes it on to the podium.”

Thierry Neuville said:
“Like in Sweden, we need to take a clever approach for this rally. Last year we proved that we have the speed, but this year it’s all about consistency and making it to the end with no mistakes.

“Of all the events this year, this rally is not the most difficult but it is certainly one of the most beautiful. The biggest challenge will be the long stage on the final day [Guanajuatito]. It’s an amazing stage, but you need to work extremely hard to keep the concentration.

“Road position is also always very significant so a good result in Qualifying is important. That’s the first goal, then a good first day with no mistakes. Although we are still finding confidence with the car – and this will be our first gravel event with the Fiesta – I am really looking forward to next week. If we find ourselves in a position to fight for a good result then that is certainly what we’ll do!


13-03-02 Motorsport Italia Rally México Preview
'Hello everyone, my name’s Jack, the Motorsport Italia Team Coordinator, and I’ll be your ‘guide’ for Rally México.
'It’s the tenth anniversary of Rally México and this’ll be my fifth time there and second year in-a-row working on the event with Michal and Maciek. Last season they were competing with our sister team Ralliart Italy, but now we’re all working on the MINI project.

'Michal is more confident about this event than he was about Monte Carlo or Sweden and we’re really hoping for a Top 10 finish. He hasn’t had the chance to test his MINI John Cooper Works WRC since Sweden, but he’s familiar with the Mexican gravel, having competed here three times before (and finishing in the Top 3 in his class each time!).

'However, it isn’t an easy event, because of the altitude. The service park alone is at 1,800m and the stages are up to over 2,600m. This altitude means the barometric pressure drops and there is less oxygen. That limits the amount of air the engine can take in and, therefore, the engine power. In these conditions, you also have to reduce the amount of fuel in the car to get it going and the less fuel, the less energy, which also limits the horsepower. All together, this is a strange sensation for any driver!

'The rally is one of the shorter events on the WRC calendar at just under 400km, but it still feels like a real endurance test for the crews. I have a lot of confidence in Michal and Maciek though. They’re always very precise and prepare carefully.

'I’m already here in Léon getting ready for the rally. It’s our first long haul event of the season, which means that we had to pack our container off in January with everything we would need for the rally. My first job today is to check the container in the service park. I like the Mexican service park, the Poliforum - it has a really positive atmosphere and is different because it’s indoors.

'I really love Rally México and I’m not just saying that! Firstly, the Mexican spectators are great. I don’t think there are fans like them anywhere else in the world. They’re mad about the sport and they all cheer the cars and line the stages whatever the conditions! Another thing very close to my heart - this year the itinerary contains the 31 kilometre El Chocolate Special Stage, allegedly named, because that’s where chocolate was invented. Thank goodness it was exported to my home country, Holland! ?

'Léon is also a very nice place. It’s quite a cultural centre. There’s an amazing leather industry, especially in shoes, and the hotels and restaurants are always fantastic. I have a good feeling it’s going to be a great rally.

'Watch this space and I’ll be back with updates during the week.
'Ciao, Jack'
13-03-01 Hirvonen and Sordo take over
After two unusual events, the WRC begins a series of six gravel rallies in Mexico. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, which currently leads the Manufacturers’ World Championship, will be representedby the crews Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen and Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio. The DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT will be driven by Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot.

As it celebrates ten year since joining the WRC, this year’s Rally Mexico will be different for several reasons. The first of these is that the list of entrants at the third round of the season does not include the no.1, as Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are not taking part in the rally. This has not been the case since 2006, which means a new line-up for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. Alongside Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, nominated to score points in all thirteen rounds, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will be competing for the works team for the first time this year.

Mikko Hirvonen has high expectations for this first gravel rally: “For me, this is where the season starts for real. We now have a very good idea of the level of our rivals. I think we can say that we’ll have to fight on every stage and produce a series of flawless performances in order to win rallies. Last year, I was pretty close to Seb for long periods of the race. I know I am capable of producing very good performances on this surface and I like racing here. We have done a lot of work in testingsince Sweden, both on my driving and on the set-up of the car.”
“With Seb not competing, maybe this rally is a little bit peculiar for Citroën Racing,” continued the Finn. “It really is the start of a new era for the WRC, but I don’t think that it means there is any additional pressure on me. My job is to get the best possible results and to help Citroën to win. All
the people supporting me want that too. I feel full of positive energy and I can’t wait to show everyone that I can win.”
13-02-04 Al-Kuwari to pilot Ford Fiesta RRC in WRC-2
M-Sport are pleased to confirm that Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari will pilot a Ford Fiesta RRC in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this year as the Qatari driver competes in the new WRC-2 category for the Seashore Qatar Rally Team. Starting his campaign in Mexico – with full support from M-Sport – Al-Kuwari will then tackle the gravel stages of Portugal, Greece and Italy alongside Irish co-driver Killian Duffy.

Well known on the Middle Eastern rally scene, Al-Kuwari has been a regular in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship since 2003 – finishing a close second to fellow countryman Nasser Al-Attiyah in last year’s series. Winning all six rounds of the Qatar Rally Championship, Al-Kuwari was also crowned 2012 Qatar Rally Champion and made his first venture to the international stage with rounds in both the European Rally Championship (ERC) and WRC. Contesting two rounds of the world series, the Qatari even scored a world championship point on his global debut at the Acropolis Rally of Greece.

Taking to the wheel of the Fiesta RRC for the first time during a visit to M-Sport’s headquarters in the north of England earlier this month, Al-Kuwari completed a short 65km test at the team’s test stage in the confines of Greystoke Forest. Relishing the opportunity to prove his potential behind the wheel of the Fiesta, Al-Kuwari will make his competitive debut with the model at Rally Mexico in March.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari said:

“M-Sport is very well known in the industry. They have great marketing and proved that they are one of the best in their field – it’s easy to see when you look at how many Fiestas they have competing all over the world! For Seashore, M-Sport was the obvious choice.

“We didn’t test the [Ford] Fiesta [RRC] for so long, but from the first few kilometres I can say that it is very easy to drive. It has great control, great torque, the suspension is amazing, and that is exactly what you need when you are driving on gravel stages as we will for most of the season.

“Competing in WRC2 this year, I think a top-five finish will be a good overall result in our first full season both in the championship and with the Fiesta [RRC].”
13-01-31 M-Sports Ford Fiesta RF hits the Forest
M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta R5 took to the forest today as WRC regular, Matthew Wilson, put the new model through its paces at the team’s testing ground in the confines of Greystoke Forest in the north of England. Testing durability, reliability and performance, the team are working hard to ensure the outfit’s latest challenger reaches the same high standards as its fellow Fiestas.

Despite harnessing all the same expertise that launched the record-breaking Ford Fiesta S2000, Fiesta RRC and Fiesta RS WRC, the Fiesta R5 is a completely revised model with over 90% of the car designed and developed from new. While this brings its challenges, it also allows the team to expand their previous successes and create a car which is not only affordable and easily maintained, but also highly competitive.

Early indications are promising, and M-Sport’s team of designers and engineers are committed to producing another globally successful rally car. With deposits already being placed for the first batch of Fiesta R5s, those wishing to receive more information should register their interest with M-Sport’s Customer Liaison Manager, Richard Millener (rmillener@m-sport.co.uk).

Ford Fiesta R5 test driver, Matthew Wilson, said:
“We have made some great progress [with the Ford Fiesta R5] today – for a car to come straight out of the box and run like this is fantastic.

“We have mainly been testing the durability and reliability of the car today to see how it fares under the conditions it is likely to face at World Championship level, but we also worked on improving the set-up this afternoon.

“There is still a lot of development to do, but today has been very promising. All the basics are there and this new Fiesta is set to be a really competitive car.”

13-01-21 Stark debut för Volkswagen i WRC
Volkswagen stod för en imponerande debut i FIA World Rally Championship när Sébastien Ogier tog en andraplats i helgens Monte Carlo-rally. Jari-Matti Latvala, som länge låg femma, bröt på en av de sista sträckorna under de vädermässigt tuffa förhållandena.

Sébastien Ogier och hans kartläsare Julien Ingrassia (F/F) klarade att köra sin Polo R WRC till en andraplats i sin premiärtävling. I de vädermässigt svåra förhållanden – en mix av snö, is, våt asfalt, solsken, dimma och ösregn – vann Ogier/Ingrassia två specialsträckor i rallyklassikern i de franska Alperna. De placerade sig strax bakom vinnaren, den niofaldige världsmästaren Sébastien Loeb och hans kartläsare Daniel Elena (F/MC, Citroën).

Det andra Volkswagen-teamet, bestående av Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) var med i topp fem under större delen av rallyt. Men i det extrema vädret som rådde vid den legendariska specialsträckan vid Col de Turini sladdade de av vägen och tvingades bryta. Och strax efter ställdes de sista sträckorna in av arrangören.
- Andra plats i första rallyt för Polo R WRC är mer än vi hade förväntat oss. Teamet gjorde ett exceptionellt bra arbete under rallyt och såg till att våra bilar var perfekt förberedda, säger Jost Capito, chef för Volkswagen Motorsport.
- Jag har aldrig tidigare varit så glad över en andraplats som jag är idag. Att få en pallplats i vår debut med Polo R WRC är fantastiskt. Det här var troligen de svåraste förhållandena jag hittills upplevt i Monte Carlo-rallyt, säger Sébastien Ogier.

Jari-Matti Latvala, som tvingades bryta på en av de sista sträckorna, var mycket missnöjd över att han inte kunde fullfölja rallyt:
- Det var mer blötsnö vid Col de Turini än jag hade förväntat mig. Jag körde för fort alldeles i början av sträckan och bilen betedde sig inte som jag hade väntat mig så jag kraschade ordentligt. Det var en annan bil som hade kört av på samma ställe före mig och jag hamnade i samma spår. Bittert att sluta rallyt så här.

Men Jari-Matti Latvala och Sébastien Ogier får nya möjligheter inom kort. Då är det dags för Svenska Rallyt – en tävling Latvala stod som vinnare av 2012.

Resultat FIA World Championship (WRC) Rally Monte Carlo:
1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC), Citroën
2. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen
3. Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën
4. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën
5. Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (F/F), Citroën
6. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford
7. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford
8. Sepp Wiegand/Frank Christian (D/D), Škoda
13-01-19 Østberg prospers for Qatar M-Sport as Turini proves trea cherous
Rallye Monte-Carlo is treacherous at the best of times, but the 2013 edition of the legendary event witnessed some of the most difficult conditions the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has seen in years. Nevertheless, as always rising to the challenge, Qatar M-Sport’s Mads Østberg put in a sterling performance on his Monte debut to claim sixth place and get his championship campaign off to a solid start.

M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC proved competitive throughout the rally with each of the four Qatar M-Sport drivers taking a fastest time from the event – Thierry Neuville on Shakedown, Evgeny Novikov on SS6 and SS7, Juho Hänninen on SS9 and Østberg on SS12. Equally inspiring, Novikov had been running in a strong podium position before succumbing to the perfidious conditions lying in wait through the fearsome ‘Col de Turini’ stage on the 14th test.

Damaging the rear-left wheel of his Fiesta some three kilometres into the stage, the ambitious Russian was forced into an untimely retirement having impressed on what was only his second venture to the season’s opening classic.

The lack of grip caused by melting snow and ice on SS14 also caught out team-mate Juho Hänninen, who was similarly left with no option other than to retire when he damaged the front-left wheel of his Qatari-liveried Fiesta. Making his debut in the new generation of world rally cars, the Finn had been running strongly – securing the fastest time on SS9, a full 6.6 seconds quicker than his nearest rival.

But it was Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson who were to make the most of the tricky conditions. Claiming a stage win on the third day of competition, the Norwegian joined just a handful of drivers to have impressed to such an extent on their Monte debut. Adopting a composed approach over the final day, Østberg proved he has the maturity as well as the speed.

Despite narrowly avoiding disaster on SS16 when he slid wide and damaged the rear of his Fiesta, the 25-year-old kept his composure. Making it back to service, Østberg secured his sixth place as organisers opted to cancel the final two stages on safety grounds.

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“I have never seen anything like the conditions we had today. There was a good layer of snow, but it was all slushy and wet so there was no grip at all – the car was just sliding around on the top.

“The first time through [SS14] we were just working to stay on the road. I was completely out of stage mode because there was nothing – you just had to try and be really careful on the throttle to find some grip.

“The second stage [SS15] was OK. There were a few slippery places at the top but it was driveable at least. But the next stage [‘Moulinet – La Bollene Vesubie’ – SS16] was just horrible. We hit a wall and had to stop in the stage to check that everything was OK. We bent something on the rear of the car and lost about five minutes but still we only lost one position so that was good at least.

“With the rally stopping now [after SS16], we have sixth position. Considering the conditions that we have encountered here, I am very happy to have finished the rally and to take some strong points away from what has been a really difficult event for us. We’ve learnt a lot and made a lot of progress, so that is something positive. Now I am looking forward to Sweden and an event that I know really well!”

Evgeny Novikov (DNF) said:
“We ran wide on the third corner into the stage [SS14] – it was a very slippery one and the information from the gravel crew was not the same as the conditions on the road. The conditions were changing so quickly, and there was just no way for us to avoid what happened. We hit a stone wall and spun. We damaged the rear-left wheel and then had to stop about four kilometres down the road

“It is true that we were setting some really good times before this, but no-one will remember that; history remembers results so this is very disappointing for me. Having said that, we completed almost the entire rally and had some really good pacenotes up until that point – that means we should be in a really good position when we come back here next year.”

Juho Hänninen (DNF) said:
“I haven’t seen conditions like that ever before – it was horrible if I am honest! But in the end, most of the guys made it through and I didn’t. As I’ve been saying all weekend, I needed to be patient and make sure I learnt the car so I am very disappointed.

“After about 15 kilometres when we started the downhill section [on SS14] there was a very narrow line, and I lost it. If you leave that line then there is no grip and unfortunately it was all over for me. We hit a stone wall quite heavily. OK, the car was still driveable but with two stages to go it wasn’t worth the risk.

“On some stages we set some good times which was promising. I was hoping to set some better times but I need to be realistic. This was my first time in a new WRC car and my first time in the Ford. It was such a difficult rally and I was actually quite happy with my driving up until the mistake. I don’t think I could have done much better to be honest and we learnt a lot for sure. Now we just have to concentrate on doing a good job at Rally Sweden.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE said:
“Obviously the rally didn’t end the way we would have wanted with Evgeny [Novikov] and Juho [Hänninen] not making the finish, but I think that there are still a lot of positives that we can take from this event.

“All of the drivers put in a great performance and I think they’ve all shown a lot of potential. When you take youngsters to an event like this it is always going to be a challenge. Experience counts for a lot here, and especially this year with some of the worst conditions the rally has seen in more than 20 years.

“The whole team is now looking forward to the challenges ahead. Looking at the performance these young guys have shown, I am sure that we will be in contention for some top results as the season progresses.”

13-01-19 Motorsport Italia Rallye Monte Carlo Review
‘Evening everyone,
‘Well I’m writing to you earlier than I thought I would be! I’d just set off for the final loop of stages when I heard that the last two tests wouldn’t be run. After a really tough day, Rallye Monte Carlo’s over and we’re pleased to have made it to the end and finished in the Top 10. Although it’s the second time in my career that I’ve got WRC points*, it feels really special to have picked up a point on my first event in a WRC car.

‘After our long journey down to Monte Carlo last night, we started our competitive stages after lunch today. We knew we were in it for the long haul and were determined to see it through to the third pass of the Col de Turini in the dark late tonight. Relieved to have had a good night’s sleep, we set off on four snow-studded DMACK tyres with two unstudded-snow spares ready to tackle the unpredictable conditions we’d been warned off up on Moulinet and Lantosque.

‘Nothing could prepare us for what we found. I can only say that they were the worst conditions I’ve ever had to compete in. It wasn’t like a rally. It was more like an endurance challenge. As drivers, we like to push as hard as we can, but I knew that if I didn’t tiptoe through the stages and avoid using the throttle (which is horrible for any driver!), I wouldn’t see the end of the event.

‘Really good – and experienced - drivers fell foul of SS14 Moulinet and this allowed us to move up through the field, but also warned us that it wasn’t going to be easy to make it through ourselves. I focused on staying calm. With the help of Maciek, I made it through successfully in my MINI John Cooper Works WRC. On both of today’s stages there was a mixture of snow, ice and slush as well as fog and pouring rain. You name it, we faced it!

‘Honestly, the cancellation of the last loop was bittersweet. Although we weren’t looking forward to heading back out for another battle against the elements, we did have ninth in our sights. We set off focused on catching the car in front and based on our average speed, we had a good chance of achieving this. Although of course this is rally – so anything could have happened!

‘It was my first WRC outing in a MINI and I can’t imagine I’ll ever face such a difficult event again. Next up is Rally Sweden. I’ve only competed there once before and that was seven years ago in a 2WD rally car when I was a junior, but I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be my first time competing there with Maciek as a co-driver, but I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have navigating me. Whatever challenges we’ve faced over the five years we’ve competed together, we’ve never had a fight. I think that’s because we really trust and respect each other.

‘The last thing I have to say is thank you to Maciek, the team and my sponsors. It would be impossible to face any rally, but especially one like this without their support. Everyone’s worked crazy hours this event and they’re all still smiling!

‘That’s all for now. Thanks to everyone who’s supported us during the event.

‘Michal’

*the first was Australia 2011 where Michal and Maciek finished seventh in their Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
13-01-18 Novikov moves into podium position for Qatar M-Sport
The Qatar M-Sport drivers put in another sterling performance today as Rallye Monte-Carlo ventured south for the third leg of competitive rallying. Producing a string of excellent stage times, Russian star Evgeny Novikov moved into the final podium position with Juho Hänninen maintaining seventh and Mads Østberg securing eighth place overall.

Continually growing in confidence, Novikov and Østberg were the ones to watch. Tackling three stages en route to the Principality of Monaco – which will house the service park for tomorrow’s final day of competition – the pairing impressed despite their limited experience of this challenging event.

Comfortable behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Novikov had the better of rival Dani Sordo. Taking 16 seconds out of the experienced Spaniard on SS12, the Muscovite showcased his potential as a real contender in this season’s championship.

Perhaps more impressively however, SS12 also saw Østberg secure a stage win on his maiden outing at this notoriously difficult season opener. Triumphing by 2.1 seconds, the Norwegian joined just a handful of drivers to have impressed to such an extent on their Monte-Carlo debut.

Østberg’s stage win also means that each of the Qatar M-Sport drivers has claimed a fastest time during the event – Thierry Neuville on Shakedown, Novikov on SS6 and SS7, Hänninen on SS9 and Østberg on SS12 – a feat that goes to prove the competitiveness of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta rally car.

Evgeny Novikov (3rd) said:
“Today has been a good day and of course I am very happy with the position at the moment. Tomorrow we have another five stages so we will have to see what the weather will be, but for the moment we are happy.

“I think it is better for me if it is fully dry or full snow. We still have some difficulties in the mixed conditions, but it is not so bad. We are gaining a lot of experience and that is the most important thing.

“Yes, this is only my second year and I am doing quite well, but it is difficult to explain exactly why. I am here to fight and achieve good results – that is all I try to do on every rally.”

Juho Hänninen (7th) said:
“Today has been OK. We went on the safe side with the tyres because I want to save some new studs for tomorrow if it snows as the weather is suggesting. I am quite happy with my driving and I feel as though we are learning more and more each stage.

“Thanks again to the team because the car has been perfect all rally.”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“We made some more changes to the car in service and that worked a lot better for me this afternoon. We had a stage win [SS12] which was really good – it felt like everything just came together for us on that stage. To be honest I think we just calmed down and started again – that’s where the confidence has come from.

“We had a lot of discussions with our engineer last night so we knew what to do and understood what was necessary to go faster. Instantly it worked, and that was a good thing for sure.

“I think we had a really good run on the last stage as well but we were on the wrong tyres. I have certainly learnt a lot more about driving on Tarmac with snow tyres and I think we are progressing well in all areas. Hopefully we can continue to improve tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE said:
“It’s been another fantastic day for the team. It is especially pleasing to see that all of our drivers have now had a fastest time. We have a big team and the fact that all of them are capable of recording stage wins just goes to prove how competitive the Fiesta [RS WRC] is and certainly bodes well for the rest of the season.

“It is also good to see how all three drivers have adapted to what have been some of the most difficult Monte conditions for many years – I certainly haven’t seen conditions as tricky as this for a long time!
13 -01-18 Motorsport Italia Rallye Monte Carlo Day Three
‘Hello Michal here again,
‘We’ve just arrived in Monte Carlo. Our MINI John Cooper Works WRC is safely in parc fermé and we’ve successfully finished a long day driving. It was a good day for us. We moved up one place to thirteenth in the overall classification and got through all the stages without any problems.

‘There was a lot of deliberation over tyre choice today. It was the toughest choice so far. In the end we went for five snow-studded DMACK tyres in the morning. With only one stage before midday service we opted for one spare less than on Day One and Day Two, which saved us about 20kg in weight.

'This afternoon we set out with four snow-studded tyres and two super softs. Both of these options worked well, especially because SS12 St Nazaire was patchy with constantly changing grip levels. Then in SS13 Sisteron, which was mainly dry Tarmac, there was a treacherous 5-6km section in the middle of the stage, which everyone said they found difficult!

‘We didn’t have such great gravel updates for the stages after lunch, but we made the best of it and Maciek is a very experienced co-driver so he guided me through. After the competitive stages we headed down to Monte Carlo on a long road section to parc fermé near our new service park. I really like Monte Carlo. There’s a great atmosphere and if I weren’t 110% focused on the rally then there’s a strong possibility that you might be able to find me in the casino ;-)

‘Tomorrow’s another day – our aim is still to make it through all the stages successfully, but we’ve also got our eye on the Top 10 and think it’s within our reach now. It’s a tricky run tomorrow – we’ll have to tackle Col de Turini three times in possibly mixed conditions and finally in the dark. It’ll be a late finish, but I’m looking forward to it.

‘That’s all for now. One more time – wish me luck!
‘Michal’
13-01-18 Midday Quotex, Rallye Monte Carlo, Day 3
Evgeny Novikov (4th overall / 4th on SS11) said:
“This was a very nice stage – very slippery with very tricky conditions. We weren’t pushing to the maximum on this stage but for sure we will still fight to improve our position. Now we just need to make sure we have a clean run this afternoon and safeguard our tyres for tomorrow.”

Juho Hänninen (7th overall / 6th on SS11) said:
“The stage was OK. We didn’t make any mistakes, but still it was quite slippery and I was a bit too excited to push on the downhill sections. I just lost the line and was too much sideways which meant we lost the speed. But all in all it was quite OK. “

Mads Østberg (8th overall / 3rd on SS11) said:
“I was quite pleased with the opening stage. I think we are definitely learning on Tarmac and then when we got to the snow section towards the end I was able to set some quite good split times.

“We have improved a few things from yesterday and we know a little bit clearer now what we need to do to improve the driving. I need to alter the way I brake into the corners when there is a Tarmac line through the snow, so we’ll keep practising that and work on building up our experience.”

13-01-17 Quatar M-Sport stars make their mark on Rallye Monte Carlo
Qatar M-Sport’s stars came to the fore today as the Ford Fiesta RS WRC secured more fastest stage times than any other model on Day 2 of Rallye Monte-Carlo. With two speed test victories for Evgeny Novikov, and Juho Hänninen securing his first WRC stage win at the wheel of the Fiesta, the squad has made its mark on the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Following two loops of three identical stages high in the Ardèche mountains north-west of Valence, Novikov holds fourth place with Hänninen seventh and Mads Østberg adopting a sensible approach on his first venture to the classic event in ninth.

Over the morning loop, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor were the stars of the show. Thoroughly enjoying the heavy braking and sideways drifting required to prosper in these tricky conditions, the Russian set the second fastest time through the opening test – just 2.9 seconds adrift of victory despite a less than perfect run having darted wide at the midway point.

Gaining more and more confidence, Novikov could not be matched through a snow-covered SS6 as he set the fastest time – almost a full five seconds clear of his nearest rival. Similarly impressive were Østberg and Hänninen as the pairing proved how comfortable the Fiesta RS WRC is in the challenging conditions to complete a 1-2-3 for the Qatar M-Sport squad.

Embarking on the final stage of the morning, Novikov was again out in front. Taking his second successive stage win, the Muscovite climbed to fourth place overall, just 7.6 seconds adrift of a podium finish.

The bitterly cold weather meant that the later stages remained compacted with snow for the second loop – a fact that once again played into the hands of a charging Novikov. With just one spare tyre for the afternoon, the 22-year-old took a conservative approach over the asphalt stretches on SS8 – safeguarding his studded Michelin rubber for a full-scale attack on the penultimate wintry tests. Attack he did and Novikov claimed a second and fifth fastest time to keep a podium position well within his grasp.

But it was team-mate Hänninen who was to shine. Finding confidence and rhythm on the equal grip throughout SS9, the Finn claimed an impressive first WRC stage win on his debut with the new generation of world rally car – 6.6 seconds ahead of a charging Novikov and a full 13.4 seconds clear of six-time Rallye Monte-Carlo winner, Sébastien Loeb.

As the rally heads to the glamorous principality of Monaco tomorrow, Novikov, Hänninen and Østberg will be looking to prove the speed and potential of the Fiesta RS WRC once again as the crews tackle three stages south of the permanent rally base in Valence.

Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
“It has been a very good day for us. There were some quite interesting conditions on the stages and it was very slippery, but there are still two days to go. It’s a long rally and we will fight on for sure.

“This is Rallye Monte-Carlo and to go well here you have to be confident and enjoy driving the stages. Now, I am on a mission. I am really enjoying the stages and looking forward to tomorrow – there is no question that I will be fighting for third position in the days to come.”

Juho Hänninen (7th) said:
“I am still learning with this car, but when the grip is equal throughout the stage I feel much more confident. On ‘St Bonnet’ [SS6 and SS9] I felt much more positive and had a clean, smooth run through the second pass with no mistakes – the time was also quite good!

“I don’t know about tomorrow, but for the future and for myself I can see now that once I have learnt how to get the potential from the car, I will be able to set some good times. It’s getting better and better, it will just take time.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“Today started quite well. We were able to increase the speed in some areas, but in others we have definitely not been able to do that. On the snowy sections where there is a Tarmac line I am still struggling a lot. I tried some different approaches, but it seems that whatever I do I just lose more time.

“On the snow and clean Tarmac we have improved a lot, but there is still a lot of work to do overall. I think now it’s all about trying some different things to see if the feeling improves on the sections we’re finding difficult. We’ll change a few things in service tonight and hopefully we can move forward tomorrow.

“This is a long and difficult rally and I think that we must take the fact that we are still here as a positive.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“After what wasn’t a great opening day for us yesterday, today has been very encouraging. All three drivers did a great job. It was naturally pleasing to see Juho [Hänninen] achieve his first stage win on a WRC event, but I think you’d have to say the absolute highlight has been Evgeny’s [Novikov] performance. He’s shown on several occasions in the past that he can set the odd fastest time here and there, but he’s been impressively consistent today and has put some real pressure on Dani [Sordo] in third.

“To win SS6 by almost five seconds, given his level of experience, was quite something. We saw last year how he has developed and progressed, and he seems to be very happy and comfortable in the pace he is setting.

“For Mads [Østberg], it’s his first Rallye Monte-Carlo, and when the grip is consistent he is setting some strong times; it’s when the conditions are changeable with patchy snow and ice that he is finding it difficult to gain confidence. But to come here for the first time and be setting the kind of times that he is, I think he is doing a good job.”
13-01-17 Motorsport Italia Rallye Monte Carlo Day Two
‘Hello again from Valence!
‘This is the last time I’ll be able to say that, because tomorrow after midday service, we start our journey down to Monte Carlo and the new service park.

‘Today was a better day. We moved up seven places overall and our MINI was in top shape! We had a few ‘moments’, but nothing that stopped us moving ever closer to our goal of getting to the end of ‘the Monte’.

‘With unpredictable weather conditions from the outset and reports of heavy snow in places, we headed out on snow-studded DMACK tyres again. The day opened with SS5, which went well. Our pace was better and we started to get an idea of the car ‘in anger’. Unfortunately, about 21km into SS6 (not far from the finish!), snow being blown across a corner obscured the braking point and we clipped the rear-right of the car damaging the suspension. Despite having to work on frozen ground, we stopped on the road section to see what we could do. Not to be defeated, we decided to brave the cold and patched the problem up well enough to get the MINI back on form, able to reach to refuel and survive SS7.

‘At midday service, the mechanics repaired the problem and sent us out for the afternoon loop. SS8 conditions were very tricky and we didn’t want to push and take risks when we still needed to learn the car. However, we’re always getting to know the MINI better and were already more confident by SS9. It was a shame to spin on SS10, but the only damage to the car was superficial and we didn’t have any problems getting back to service.

‘Today was a big lesson for me. Each stage here at Rallye Monte Carlo is like a new lesson and I try to get the most I can out of each one. We need to find a good rhythm and this is a real challenge, because grip levels are continually changing. As a driver, you need to control your car 100% to drive fast here.

‘As I said yesterday, now I’m looking forward to Sisteron tomorrow afternoon – although I just heard that there is heavy snow lying on the stage, so it could be another epic adventure! It’s a rally of survival at the moment, but it’s our aim to keep improving and stay in the game. Fingers-crossed for a good run on Day Three.

‘For now – as always, wish me luck!

‘Michal’
13-01-17 Midday quotes, Rallye Monte-Carlo, Day 2
Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
“The feeling has been very good this morning. We have one of the best gravel crews and Ilka [Minor, co-driver] is delivering perfect pacenotes. I am feeling really confident. Yesterday I was maybe a little too careful, but now that I am pushing a bit more the rhythm is much better.

“The conditions are very tricky, but they are also very enjoyable to drive. You have to be always sideways and very strong on the brakes. I think it is possible to go a bit faster, but then I will be driving on the limit and this is for sure not the best time to do this!”

Juho Hänninen (7th) said:
“The middle stage [SS6] was much easier – if there was any grip out there, then that was where it was! On the other two stages [SS5 and SS7] the grip was really changeable and I was not so confident – they were really different from SS6 where the grip was more consistent all the way though.

“For the moment I am just being patient – trying to learn and get used to everything. It is so easy to make a mistake in these conditions, especially if you are not fully confident. The best plan is just to take it stage by stage.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said:
“Today has been a lot better. I was thinking a lot last night and decided to take a different approach. I knew yesterday that I was the problem as I tried to change the car a bit but nothing really helped. I looked specifically at my driving style to try and understand why and where I was losing so much time. Now I know that I have to push more where there are clean lines. Where there is snow, but clean Tarmac lines, I need to look outside of these lines to find better grip.

“It seems to be working a lot better today. I changed my mentality having started the rally thinking that I just had to get through to the finish – it has been a long time sine I have approached an event like that and I just couldn’t get it to work. I think for me I need to push a little bit to make it work. It feels a lot better now that we are focussing on trying to catch [Bryan] Bouffier and Juho [Hänninen].”
13-01-16 Trea cherous Monte Conditions test Quatar M-Sport Quartet
Qatar M-Sport’s quartet tackled the challenge of Rallye Monte-Carlo head-on today as they embarked on the traditional start of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

After the first full day of competition, Evgeny Novikov lies sixth with Mads Østberg seventh* and Juho Hänninen eighth. Unfortunately there was misfortune for Belgium’s latest protégé, Thierry Neuville. Having set an impressive pace on his debut with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the young Belgian was forced to retire from the event on SS4.

With treacherous conditions the order of the day, confidence in compromise and tyre selection was key – something that the foursome initially took in their stride. Attacking the opening loop with Michelin’s studded winter tyre, the largely dry asphalt of SS1 meant that the tungsten studs – that are designed to capture grip on the ice and snow – were all but gone by the start of the second test. With much of SS2 encompassing more wintry conditions, the going was tough, but the Qatar M-Sport crews proved that they could maintain their composure and keep their Ford Fiesta RS WRCs firmly on the road.

Contesting his first event in a world rally car, Hänninen set the third fastest time through SS2 to secure fourth place overall going into midday service. Neuville also impressed with a series of competitive split times aiding his journey to fifth place in the overall classifications. Elsewhere, despite struggling to find a consistent rhythm in the continually changing conditions, Østberg and Novikov were holding their own in seventh and eighth places respectively – 15 seconds up on Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jari-Matti Latvala.

Returning for the afternoon loop, tyre management was key as all four Qatari-liveried Fiestas left service with a combination of two slick, two snow and two studded tyres. Struggling with the tyre combination, Hänninen lost time to fall from fourth to eighth.

Østberg was the man on the move through the second pass of ‘Burzet – St Martial’ [SS4] setting the third fastest time to prove that the Norwegian has some real pace on a difficult event on which he has never previously competed. Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, an electrical problem on the road section delayed his return to service. Despite incurring a one minute and fifty second penalty, Østberg holds seventh* place going into the final day of competition.

Elsewhere however, Neuville damaged the front-left wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC having clipped a deep cut on SS4. Unable to get his Fiesta back on the road, the 24-year-old was forced to make an untimely withdrawal from the event.

Evgeny Novikov (6th) said:
“This afternoon was quite difficult with the combination tyres. The grip is changing all the time which makes it difficult to know when you can and can’t push to the maximum. But [overall] I am happy with the pace we are setting. This is a long and difficult rally and the most important thing is to stay on the road to gain as much experience as possible.”

Mads Østberg (7th)* said:
“I was quite happy with the results on the stages. When I came to the end I felt that my time was really bad, but then I saw that the others were suffering a bit as well, so I think it was difficult for all the cars further back [in the running order]. So actually I was quite happy with my performance this afternoon.

“We are struggling a little bit and I can’t quite get the rhythm 100 per cent correct. I don’t know exactly what to do when driving with winter tyres on Tarmac – I’m finding it a bit difficult in that situation. When we are on the snow and the tyres are correct then it’s going well, but on the Tarmac I’m still learning.

“Then on the road section back to service after the last stage [SS4] we had an electrical problem on the car. Luckily we made it back to service and we are still here – and not in so bad a position actually!”

Juho Hänninen (8th) said:
“This afternoon was not as good as this morning. I had two slicks crossed with the snow tyres on SS3 and I was not so confident with this combination. I drove quite carefully over the last stage [SS4], but I had a spin about four or five kilometres from the end in a very narrow section. I had to reverse three or four times and stalled the engine so we lost quite a bit of time there.”

Thierry Neuville (DNF) said:
“We were working really hard to try and find a good rhythm and finish the rally. We were following the line on SS4 but there was a big cut and we knocked the wheel slightly against the side. We continued but something did not feel right at all. We stopped to check what was wrong and the front-left wheel had been damaged. Unfortunately we were not able to fix it.

“Obviously this is very frustrating for us as we were quite happy with the pace and running in a really good position [fifth place]. Yes, this is a difficult rally and these things happen, but it is very disappointing for me.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“There has certainly been some drama today. Sadly we lost Thierry [Neuville] on the last stage [SS4] while he was going well, which was obviously disappointing. But if you look at the time differences inside the top-ten, you would have to say that anything is still possible.”

*Subject to addition of time penalty.

13-11-16 Motorsport Italia Rallye Monte Carlo Day One
'Good evening everyone,
'Well, we always knew that Monte was going to be challenge and today certainly proved that! Most importantly, we’re happy to have completed both loops of stages successfully and be back at evening service. As I said earlier in the week, it’s a rally of endurance. We’ve made it through the first test and will be fit to fight another day tomorrow!

'We headed out this morning in our MINI John Cooper Works WRC on snow-studded DMACK tyres and started off well. However, 8km into SS1 we began to have some problems with a fuel injector. When a fuel injector fails, there is no fuel flow. This causes a cylinder to fail and the engine to lose power. For us, it meant that we had to complete SS1 and SS2 on only three cylinders.

'That said, we were pleased to make it safely back to midday service where the mechanics did a fantastic job. They worked on the car flat out to replace the part - alongside softening the set-up a little to improve turn into icy corners - and we managed to get out on time for the second loop (still on our trusty snow-studded tyres).

'Unfortunately, we had another fuel injector failed early in SS3, this time costing us a different cylinder. Then approximately 22km into SS3 we picked up a front left puncture. We stopped to change the tyre and this lost us just under two minutes.

'We didn’t really have an opportunity to test our MINI’s limits under these conditions. I did learn a little about how the chassis works, but our focus became the end of the day and making it back to service. After all, tomorrow’s another day and with Monte, if you’re still in the mix, anything can happen!

'There are three days of rally stages to go now. If the conditions are similar to when we did recce, on Day Two we’ll face two dry stages and one snow-covered test. I hope to have a better day tomorrow, especially, because the stage I’m most looking forward to is Sisteron on Friday. On recce this 36,70km stage was around 30km of dry Tarmac and the rest full snow. That means we’ll probably go for a slick tyre, so that we can push on the asphalt, but we’ll have to be very careful on the ice!

'Before we get that far, we need to conquer Day Two. For updates from the team throughout the day, please visit www.facebook.com/motorsportita or follow @motorsportita on Twitter. And as always - wish us luck!

'Bye for now, Michal
13-01-16 Midday Quotes, Rallye Monte Carlo, Day 1
Juho Hänninen (4th) said:
“We were lucky on the last stage [SS2] – I went a little wide and hit a bridge but luckily we had no punctures or anything like that.

“Still I’m not 100 per cent happy with my driving. I’m struggling to find a good rhythm. But the second stage was better and I hope that I can gain more pace and more confidence as I get more familiar with the car.

“It is a very difficult rally to come to when learning [the characteristics of] a new car, but I just need to be patient. I can’t promise anything, but I will try for sure.”

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“This morning has been OK – we are just trying to find the rhythm without pushing too much. We’ve had a clean run, and avoided all of the mistakes and troubles that are so easy to encounter on this rally, so that is good.

“I think we took the best choice with the tyres on both stages one and two [diagonal configuration on SS1 and full-studs on SS2]. The car feels very stable and we have a very good feeling for the afternoon.”

Mads Østberg (8th) said:
“It was... interesting! The conditions were very difficult; in some places the asphalt was dry, whilst other places were much more wintry with a lot of ice and snow. The trickiest thing was trying to save the tyres so I still had some studs left, and I did struggle a little – it was certainly quite a challenge driving with studded winter tyres on dry asphalt!

“It was all a bit of a new situation for me, and I wasn’t completely sure how I should approach it. But we learnt all the way through and now we will make some changes to the car during service. If I can continue to adapt my driving style, too, hopefully we can head into the afternoon with a bit more confidence.”

Evgeny Novikov (9th) said:
“This is only my second time here and I cannot afford to make a mistake – so this morning has been difficult for sure. I need to learn this rally. When I don’t feel confident I am not pushing, but then when the confidence is there I can push a bit more.

“Being part of this team is very good for me, and we will of course go faster with the more tests and the more confidence that we get.”

13-01-15 Motorsport Italia Rallye Monte Carlo Update
'Hi everyone!
'Michal here again. It’s been a busy few days! After three days recce and driving around 1,600km (a whole new scale compared to other rallies!), we did Shakedown this morning before heading to the FIA Pre-event Press Conference, official photograph and finally the autograph session.

'The recce routes were quite similar to last year, with only two new stages on the itinerary. Although the roads were the same, the conditions were more difficult! We often found snow and ice where last year we only had bad weather on one stage. This time around it’s very different – you can drive half a stage in the dry then the second half has a landscape more like Rally Sweden!

'This is my first WRC event in a MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC, so it’ll be a real challenge. I think the more difficult it is, the better, because I can learn how to handle the car in a wide variety of conditions, which is great experience. In unpredictable conditions, the top drivers may also make mistakes, which could mix the field up quite a lot. Of course we can also make mistakes easily – but I’ll be careful! We’ve made very precise pace notes so now it’s
over to our gravel crew.

'After the recce it was time for Shakedown. I woke up this morning without looking out the window and was in a great mood, until my Team Manager Bruno met me for breakfast, pointed outside and showed me that everything was covered in snow, which was still falling. It was crazy to drive my first run on Shakedown in conditions like this, especially on small Monte Carlo snow studs, but the MINI was surprisingly easy to handle.

'I thought it would feel more nervous and be harder to control, but it felt quite comfortable and was a lot of fun. It seems that the MINI handles well in the dry, wet and snow. There was one clean Tarmac line revealed for later Shakedown runs so everyone’s times improved a lot. We could move our braking point a little further, but still had to be careful of the mud, snow and ice in the corners, which meant the grip wasn’t perfect. It was tricky, but we were pleased with our times.

'Shakedown done, I headed to the press conference, which was a great experience. I’ve done press conferences before as part of the WRC Support Championship line-up, but this was the first time that I was sitting with the guys in the top category. It was incredible to be there with the multiple World Champion, Loeb, and my friend Séb Ogier, who I am sure is a future World Champion!

'The rally starts tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a lot to learn and this will be a steep learning curve, but it’s the first event of the season and I am going to take it steady and get as much experience as possible. My MINI feels good, the team is very supportive and I trust my co-driver Maciek completely. So I guess all that’s left to say is – here goes! Wish me luck…

'Speak soon, Michal'

13-01-15 Volkswagen Polo R WRC gör debut i Monte Carlo-rallyt
Efter 17 månader av förberedelser, 20 000 testkilometer och 1 700 nykonstruerade bildelar är det nu dags att bekänna färg. Det legendariska Monte Carlo-rallyt markerar starten på en ny era för Volkswagen i motorsportens värld; första tävlingen med nya rallybilen Polo R WRC.

Monte Carlo-rallyt går av stapeln 15-20 januari och är säsongens första av 13 deltävlingar i rally-VM. För Volkswagen blir det tävlingsdebut med den helt nyutvecklade rallybilen Polo R WRC. Första specialsträckan körs på morgonen den 16 januari.
– Jag kan inte vänta med att äntligen få komma igång. Hela teamet på Volkswagen ser fram emot WRC-debuten av Polo R WRC, säger Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport.

Med starten i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) fortsätter Volkswagen sin framgångsrika väg inom motorsporten. Senast vann Volkswagen totalsegern i det tuffa Dakar-rallyt tre år i följd; 2009, 2010 och 2011 med Race Touareg. Nu är det rally som gäller.
– VM-tävlingar i toppklassen WRC är ny mark för oss. Dessutom har Polo R WRC utvecklats från grunden med nya innovationer. Monte Carlo-rallyt kommer att ge oss en första indikation på hur vi står oss jämfört med de andra teamen. Våra konkurrenter har två års erfarenheter av de regler som trädde i kraft 2011 och har kört WRC i många år. Vårt mål med Monte Carlo-rallyt är att få så mycket erfarenhet som möjligt och att komma i mål med båda bilarna, fortsätter Capito.

Volkswagens fabriksteam består av förarparen Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) och Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike) – två unga förarpar som redan har lång erfarenhet av VM-tävlingar. Liksom Latvala och Anttila, har Ogier och Ingrassia vunnit sju deltävlingar i WRC.

Latvala och Anttila startar säsongen i bil nummer 7. I nummer 8 sitter Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia, som har varit kontrakterade för Volkswagen sedan slutet av 2011 och har spelat en betydande roll i utvecklingen av Polo R WRC. Rallybilen är permanent fyrhjulsdriven och har en 1,6-liters motor på 315 hästkrafter. Vridmomentet är 425 Nm vid 5 000 varv/minut.

Volkswagen Motorsport kan knappast stå inför en svårare utmaning. Monte Carlo-rallyt är det äldsta rallyt i världen och kördes för första gången 1911. Majoriteten av rallyt körs på smala och hala asfaltsvägar i de franska alperna norr om Monaco. Medan vägarna nära Medelhavet är mer torra, står förarna inför svartis och snö på de många bergssträckorna. Detta gör det nödvändigt att välja rätt däck, och gör rallyt till en av de tuffaste i VM-kalendern.

Tankar inför Monte Carlo-rallyt
Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
– Jag kan knappt vänta på att säsongen ska komma igång. Jag har fem år som fabriksförare i WRC i bagaget, men både Volkswagen Motorsport och Polo R WRC är nytt för mig. I det avseendet kommer jag att göra två debuter. Testerna hittills har visat att Polo R WRC är mycket tillförlitlig. Detta är förmodligen den viktigaste upptäckten hittills och en bra grund för den framtida tekniska utvecklingen under säsongen. Jag har redan fått en bra känsla för bilen på asfalt och snö, vilket är ett gott tecken inför Monte Carlo-rallyt. Det är jättekul att köra Polo R WRC. Den är mycket stabil och motorns körbarhet är också mycket bra. Jag skulle vilja få en bra start på säsongen. Resultatet är inte högsta prioritet ännu, även om jag naturligtvis gärna vill plocka några VM-poäng.

Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
– Monte Carlo är ett mycket speciellt rally. När allt kommer omkring är det mitt hemmarally. Säsongsöppningen nära mitt hem blir en upplevelse utöver det vanliga för hela teamet, eftersom det är första rallyt med nya Polo R WRC. Vi har arbetat för detta ögonblick i över ett år. Vi kan knappt vänta med att äntligen komma igång. Det är emellertid svårt att bedöma hur vi kommer att stå oss jämfört med de andra teamen som vi ännu inte har tävlat mot under konkurrensmässiga förhållanden. Att göra sin debut i ett VM med en helt ny bil är en stor utmaning, särskilt som de andra tillverkarna har flera års mer erfarenhet än oss. Av denna anledning måste vi vara tålmodiga och koncentrera oss på att komma i mål utan problem. Erfarenheten visar att detta är allt annat än enkelt i ett rally som Monte Carlo där vad som helst kan hända.

Tre frågor till Jost Capito
Om du kunde välja ett rally för Polo R WRC att göra sin debut på – skulle du då välja Monte Carlo-rallyt?
– Monte Carlo-rallyt är inte bara det mest legendariska rallyt i kalendern, utan också det svåraste och mest komplexa. Underlaget växlar mellan is, snö, regn och torr asfalt, vilket kan göra strategin svår och val av däck något av ett lotteri. Rallyt är en höjdpunkt och vi är självklart mycket glada över att Polo R WRC gör sin debut här.

Med Sébastien Ogier och Jari-Matti Latvala har du två mycket snabba förare. Vem tror du mest på?
– De är båda lika starka. Som skandinav växte Latvala upp på grus, men han har gjort enorma framsteg på asfalt under de senaste åren. Detsamma gäller Ogier, som också har vad som krävs för att vinna på alla underlag. Båda har sju WRC-vinster. I slutändan kommer det att vara den som har bäst form för dagen som avgör vem som är snabbast.

Vilka mål har Volkswagen för 2013-säsongen?
– Vi är medvetna om att vi får starkt motstånd från konkurrenter med årtionden av erfarenhet från WRC. Och vi har en ny bil som gör sin tävlingsdebut. Därför måste vi vara realistiska. Målet är att komma på pallen i tävlingarna under andra halvan av säsongen.

WRC-kalendern 2013
Monte Carlo, 15-20 januari
Sverige, 7-10 februari
Mexico, 7-10 mars
Portugal, 11-14 april
Argentina, 2-5 maj
Grekland. 31 maj-2 juni
Italien, 20-23 juni
Finland, 1-3 augusti
Tyskland, 22-25 augusti
Australien, 12-15 september
Frankrike, 3-6 oktober
Spanien. 24-27 oktober
Storbritannien, 13-17 november
13-01-09 On The Road Again
'Ciao a tutti Bruno here,
'Yes, WRC season’s about to start up again and I’m back to let you know what Motorsport Italia’s up to this season, starting with Rallye Monte-Carlo.

'Our first piece of exciting news is that Polish driver Michal Kosciuszko and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak are joining Motorsport Italia this year to tackle the WRC in a MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC. They’ve been running with our sister team Ralliart Italy for the last two seasons, but now will compete for Lotos WRC Team on all thirteen events starting in Monte Carlo next week. For a sneak preview of their new livery / overalls, please see below.

'It’ll be an interesting step for Michal to move from a Mitsubishi to a MINI. For those of you who don’t know, I’ll explain a bit better exactly what that challenge means. Then we’ll talk more about the excitement of the legendary challenge that is ‘the Monte’ in our Event Preview.

'It’s a big change from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X to the MINI, but Michal has an idea what to expect. He competed in a MINI on his home event Rally Poland in 2011, so although it’s his WRC début and is completing a 100km test this Friday in Italy in preparation for the event.

'The main difference between the Mitsubishi and the MINI is how the car must be treated. The MINI is more or less a prototype, while the Group N Mitsubishi is developed from a showroom specification car. The MINI is designed to allow the driver to be more aggressive, whereas it's a driver's job to protect the Mitsubishi, not to make fierce cuts or push the car as hard (try telling that to a driver! ;-))

'Handling either car well takes skill and time to learn, but the principal advantages of the MINI are its weight and strength. Despite only being 1200kg where the Mitsubishi was 1350kg, it is robust, the brakes are good and the driver can really feel the car dig in ready to tackle any surface or environment.

'Michal and Maciek are also making the move from the PWRC to the WRC. This change shouldn’t be too hard – and we’ll make it as easy as possible. The cars are different and the programme is fuller, but whichever WRC series you are in the level of competition is high and the drivers who you battle for the title are in cars of the same specification as yours.

'It will of course help Michal to keep the same co-driver. He and Maciek have a strong partnership and trust each other, which is essential. There are also lots of familiar faces in the team from their Ralliart Italy days. The only person they haven’t worked with before is our Chief Engineer Tomo, but as you all know he’s very experienced so they’re in the safest of hands with him!

'So, the spotlight will be all for Michal in Monte, but – yes, there's a but – stay tuned for news on who else might be joining us on upcoming events to complete Motorsport Italia's 2013 programme. For now my lips are sealed. :-)

'A presto, Bruno'