WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2014

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VM kalendern 2013 VM kalendern 2015
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
 
 
 
22-25 jan Monte Carlo  
12-15 febr Sverige  
5-8 mars Mexico  
16-19 april Argentina  
21-24 maj Portugal  
11-15 juni Italien  
2-5 juli Polen  
30-2 aug Finland  
20-23 aug Tyskland  
10-13 sept Australien  
1-4 okt Franrkike  
22-25 okt Spanien  
12-15 nov England  
 
 
 
 

14-12-05 Hyundai förbereder sig för svenska rallyt och säsongen 2015
Tre veckor efter finalen i WRC har Hyundai Motorsport redan börjat förbereda sig för de första tävlingarna i stallets andra WRC-säsong.

Förarna för 2015 Thierry Neuville och Dani Sordo har genomfört ett fyra dagar långt test i Hyundai i20 WRC för att förbereda sig för WRC-premiären i Monte Carlo den 22-25 januari.

Förarna tar sig sedan till Sverige för en fyra dagar lång testperiod inför svenska rallyt (Rally Sweden), den andra tävlingen i WRC 2015, som äger rum den 12-15 februari.

Hyundai Shell World Rally Team har dragit igång förberedelserna för rallysäsongen 2015, vilket blir den andra säsongen för ett av WRC:s nyaste tillskott. Just nu befinner man sig i Ardèche-regionen i Frankrike för intensive tester.

Stallets båda förare för 2015 Thierry Neuville och Dani Sordo har tagit Hyundai i20 WRC genom alla möjliga hastigheter och terränger och är förväntansfulla inför öppningstävlingen för nästa säsong den 22-25 januari i Monte Carlo – endast sju veckor bort.

Stallet fick handskas med ett skiftande väderläge under denna vecka när WRC-vinnaren Neuville testkörde under måndagen och tisdagen innan han lämnade över till stallkamraten Sordo för tester på onsdagen och torsdagen.

Den Hyundai i20 WRC som kommer att rulla över startlinjen i den första tävlingen för 2015 i Monte Carlo har genomgått en rejäl utveckling jämfört med den Hyundai i20 WRC som startade på samma plats tidigare i år. Det har därför varit en stor uppgift för stallet att kalibrera den i mångt och mycket nya bilen efter Monte Carlos väglag.

Thierry Neuville säger: det har varit två bra och produktiva dagar i bilen den här veckan och vi har haft mycket att göra inför den kommande säsongen. Jag har haft en bra känsla från bilen och vi har tagit oss framåt steg för steg och blir både snabbare och effektivare. Det är viktigt för oss att börja förberedelserna så tidigt som möjligt, för de första tävlingarna. Nu kommer vi fortsätta med vintertesterna så vi kan möta jul och nyår i den bästa formen.

Dani Sordo säger: säsongen 2014 kanske är över men arbetet stannar inte av för det, då förberedelserna för 2015 är i full fart. Thierry och jag haft två dagar var i Hyundai i20 WRC i Ardèche den här veckan och det har känts skönt att kunna fortsätta köra. Men december är en intensiv månad och nu lägger vi in högsta växeln för nästa säsong.

Stallchefen Michel Nandan säger: Thierry och Dani har båda gjort en fantastisk säsong 2014, likaså hela vårt team. Vi är väldigt nöjda då detta var vårt första år. Våra förare har den här veckan kört två dagar var på asfalt och det både ser och känns bra ut. Vårt nästa stopp är ett fyra dagar lång test i Sverige i mitten av december. Det kommer bli några riktigt intressanta testdagar då det svenska väglaget skiljer sig markant från övriga väglag i WRC.

Svenska rallyt pågår mellan 12-15 februari. Hyundai i Sverige kommer att närvara under eventet. Är du som journalist intresserad av att delta i eventet eller intervjua någon av förarna, kontakta Erik Lindham.

Mer information om Hyundai Motorsport (bilder, filmer etc) finns här:
http://motorsport.hyundai.com/en/main
14-12-04 Mads Østberg to stay with Citroën Racing in 2015!
The Norwegian Mads Østberg and the Swede Jonas Andersson will compete in a works DS 3 WRC for the entire 2015 World Rally Championship. Their season will therefore begin at Rallye Monte-Carlo (19-25 January), alongside Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle.

For the 2014 season, the works DS 3 WRCs were entrusted to two up-and-coming drivers. This approach paid dividends. Between them, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke racked up eight podium finishes on all surfaces: gravel, tarmac and snow.
Recently confirmed for a second season, the Northern Irishman Kris Meeke will once again team up with the Norwegian Mads Østberg in 2015. Mads will have the chance to add to his one WRC win, as he takes part in all thirteen rounds of the calendar.

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will also be competing at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January of next year. The nine-time World Championship-winning crew will be nominated to score points for the Manufacturers’ championship, as will Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle. Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson will take over from them at Rally Sweden, one of their favourite rounds!

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “At 27 years old, Mads Østberg is now one of the most experienced drivers in the World Rally Championship. His first season in the DS 3 WRC allowed us to assess his potential. Mads produced some strong performances, despite being rather unlucky at times during the year. Having scored 108 points, his fifth place in the Drivers’ championship reflects his investment. He’ll be able to build on his first season in the DS 3 WRC and will be beginning 2015 already perfectly familiar with the team and the car… Like with Kris Meeke, the aim will be to reap the rewards of the work we have put in.”

Mads Østberg: “I’m very happy to be able to keep working with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. I have really enjoyed the last few months. I have learned a lot just by being in contact with this fantastic team and I feel that I’m a better driver. With the DS 3 WRC, I had to adjust my driving style. The work I put in has enabled me to discover new techniques, and they have helped me get to grips with certain surfaces and conditions more easily. I’ll be using this experience to go even further in 2015. I’m really looking forward to seeing the upgrades that have been made on the DS 3 WRC. Thanks to the work done last year and the developments we’re testing and confirming this winter, I want to be able to fight to win rallies as often as possible.”

Citroën Racing has been identifying and putting their faith in talented young drivers for many seasons, supporting their progress to the upper echelons of world rallying. With the Citroën Racing Trophy, the FIA Junior WRC and a full range of customer racing products (DS 3 R1, DS 3 R3-MAX and DS 3 R5), many crews have reached the WRC thanks to the driver development programmes created by the French manufacturer.

There will be further news next week about Citroën Racing in 2015!
Watch this space…
t14-11-28 FST champions claim their prize
Various Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy (FST) regional champions will travel to M-Sport HQ next week as they claim their prize – a test drive in one of M-Sport’s globally successful rally cars.

The champions were amongst the most impressive young drivers in their respective regions, displaying a blend a speed and consistency throughout the season. Competitors from Latvia, Finland, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom will make the journey to the northern edge of the English Lake District, eager to show their potential behind the wheel of M-Sport’s latest challenger – the Ford Fiesta R5+.

M-Sport has had a vested interest in nurturing young talent since launching the FST concept in association with Ford back in 2006. The series has found some impressive talent over the years including M-Sport World Rally Team driver Elfyn Evans.

Evans used Ford and M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ to best effect on his journey to the sport’s highest league. The Welshman contested the UK’s FST series in 2007 and became a double FST Champion – in both the UK and Ireland – the following year.

Having stepped up to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2012, he became the FIA WRC Academy Champion which brought with it a season in the WRC’s premier support series. After an impressive four-wheel-drive debut, he was granted a chance at the top-flight and has this year piloted a top-specification Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the M-Sport World Rally Team.

The numerous FST series on offer provide the perfect starter championship for any young driver looking to make their mark on world rallying and M-Sport will be looking forward to discovering what could be another potential WRC contender next week.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“The Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy concept has proven itself to be a great way of discovering new talent and I hope to see some more impressive young drivers come to the fore next week. It is no secret that M-Sport thrives on nurturing the talent of the sport’s future stars and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next crop of drivers can do.”

THE CHAMPIONS:
Ralfs Sirmacis – FST Latvia Champion
Teemu Suninen – FST Finland Champion
Thibault Radoux – FST Belgium Champion
Cristian García – FST Spain Champion
Kevin Van Deijne – FST Netherlands Champion
Calvin Beattie – FST UK Champion
14-11-24 Sébastien Loeb to compette att 2015 Rallye Monte-Carlo in a DS WRC!
ine-time World Rally Champions and seven-time winners of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, Sébast ien Loeb and Daniel Elena are to return to competive action in a DS 3 WRC at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening round of the 2015 World Rally Championship. This one-off appearance, at the most prestigious rally on the WRC calendar, will support the launch of the DS Brand.

From Sweden to Australia, and taking in the likes of Argentina, the WRC is undoubtedly the greatest challenge in contemporary motorsport due to the variety of road surfaces and weather conditions encountered. With two world titles and 23 wins under its belt, DS 3 WRC has one of the best competitive records of the cars currently racing in the WRC. The legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo (19-25 January) will once again kick off the season in the south-east of France.

The two DS 3 WRCs nominated to score points in the Manufacturers’ championship will be driven by Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle – already confirmed as a works crew for the full season – and a couple of familiar faces! Leading specialists at a rally that they have won no fewer than seven times, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will take on the challenge once again as they return to road racing more than a year after the end of their shared career.
Often unpredictable due to the weather conditions, Rallye Monte-Carlo will provide the Franco-Monegasque pair with the perfect opportunity to use their immense experience. Both modest and excited when talking about the challenge ahead, Seb and Daniel’s one-off return will undoubtedly thrill the many fans who had been hoping to see them compete together again at a rally!

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Yves Bonnefont, CEO of the DS brand: “When I told them today that Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena would be driving at Rallye Monte-Carlo in a DS 3 WRC, the news was greeted with great enthusiasm! It is a great opportunity to support the launch of DS as a premium brand.”
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “With seven wins here, Seb and Daniel are undeniably the event’s greatest specialists and I’m sure that they will be extremely competitive in a DS 3 WRC, which will have some significant technical upgrades.” Like our partners Total and Abu Dhabi, our teams are proud to be racing with them again at Monte-Carlo.”

Sébastien Loeb: “I didn’t hesitate for a second when I was offered the chance to compete at the opening round of the 2015 World Rally Championship in the DS 3 WRC. I think Daniel and I would agree that Monte-Carlo is one of our favourite events. The beautiful roads, the fact of having to gamble when it comes to tyre choice and the party atmosphere that you get on the stages: we can’t wait to experience it all again! With the DS 3 WRC – “the little racer” as I nicknamed it when it was first released – I have a lot of good memories; I hope that the 2015 Rallye Monte-Carlo will provide yet another. Obviously, it’s going to be a personal challenge for me, as I haven’t competed in a rally for over a year. A few days from now, I’m going to take part in the Rallye du Var and that will give me the chance to reacquaint myself with the car. We have also ma naged to find a few available slots in my schedule so I can take part in testing. I’m absolutely delighted about this opportunity to meet up with the big rallying family during the FIA WTCC off-season!”
14-11-21 A Team with potenital - M-Sport confirm Evans and Tänak
M-Sport is pleased to confirm that Ott Tänak will partner Elfyn Evans next year as the team field one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) most exciting young teams.

As two of the WRC’s most gifted youngsters, M-Sport is motivated by the pairing’s potential and look forward to nurturing their talent as they make their mark behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Following what has been one of the championship’s most impressively controlled debuts in a top-specification world rally car, Evans’ continuation with the team has long been known.

The Welshman, who is partnered by fellow Brit Daniel Barritt, secured two career-best fourth place finishes in Mexico and Germany and took his first stage win – the Power Stage no less – on the asphalt roads of Rallye Deutschland.

With a full year of experience under his belt, Evans will be looking to improve his skills further and the team are encouraged by the prospect of additional progress – the 25-year-old aiming to increase his speed and performance on each of the 13 events.

Following Mikko Hirvonen’s retirement, Tänak was the obvious replacement and a clear favourite amongst the media and fans alike.

The Estonian is blisteringly quick and has already built strong relationships with the team. Returning to the world stage with a Fiesta RS WRC in Sweden and Portugal earlier this year, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder instantly impressed.

After more than a year’s absence from the championship, Tänak proved that he had lost none of his pizzazz – setting fastest times and running as high as second overall at Rally de Portugal. Having combined his speed with a renewed sense of maturity, the 27-year-old will be one to watch as the 2015 season unfolds.

Elfyn Evans said:
“I’m really looking forward to next year. We’ve had a great first season and gained so much knowledge and experience of the events. There’s going to be a lot of hard work next year – analysing all of the data that we’ve collected from all of the rallies – but I’m confident that we can continue to progress and improve our speed and performance on each event.

“We’re really looking forward to working with Ott [Tänak] and Raigo [Mõlder]. We’ve worked together on a few events this year and we all get on really well. They’ll both fit perfectly into the team dynamics and I’m sure we’ll all be able to work together as we strive towards our respective goals.

“Finally I want to say a huge thanks to Malcolm [Wilson] and the team for their continued support and belief. I’m in the best possible place to progress, and none of this would be possible without every single member of the team.”

Ott Tänak said:
“I’m really happy to have been given another chance. I know it’s going to be a big challenge and a big responsibility, but I’m ready for it and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.

“We’ll need to find our rhythm in the first few events, but I’ve been working with M-Sport for a long time and I have a lot of mileage with the Fiesta RS WRC so I hope it won’t take too long to get up to speed. We have some good experience of most of the rallies and I think that there are some events where we could do really well.

“I’ve definitely grown as a driver and I want to thank Malcolm [Wilson] for giving me this second chance. We worked really hard this year and I think we proved that we have the potential; but none of that would have been possible without Malcolm and M-Sport, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received in recent years. There are so many people out there who have stayed with us on this long journey; I am really humbled by that and truly thankful for their faith in me.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think it’s fair to say that we will be fielding what is one of the most exciting driver pairings in the FIA World Rally Championship next year. There is no doubting the potential of Elfyn [Evans] and Ott [Tänak] and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.

“Both drivers have a full season of world rally car experience and the whole team is motivated by the possibility of some break-through performances. I fully believe that both drivers are capable of challenging for the podium on a number of events and we are all looking forward to what looks set to be another thrilling year of rallying.

“We have some exciting developments for the Fiesta RS WRC on the horizon and we plan to implement these upgrades as the season progresses. The signing of Elfyn and Ott has brought a real enthusiasm to the team and we’re all looking forward to fulfilling their potential next year.”
14-11-18 Citroën Racing and Kris Meeke stay toghether for 2015!
After a convincing performance on his first full season in the World Rally Championship, Kris Meeke will be driving a DS3 WRC again in 2015. The British driver will continue to compete alongside Irish co-driver Paul Nagle.

Third in the Junior WRC with Citroën in 2005 and winner of the IRC in 2009, Kris Meeke competed in his first rallies with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in 2013. This season, the Brit play a major part in Citroën securing second place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.
In 2015, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will therefore be joining forces in a works DS3 WRC.
“When we chose Kris Meeke for this season, we took a bit of a gamble,” recalled Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “But he has improved with pretty much every race and has now become a complete driver. The real turning point was at Rally Finland. He adopted the right approach. He has managed to acquire experience throughout the season. He has shown that he not only has real pace, but that he can be more patient sometimes as well. Kris is a competitive driver on all surfaces, capable of being quick on tarmac and on gravel. This versatility is a real asset for Citroën Racing. The name of the second works driver for 2015 will be announced shortly, once we have finalised the various discussions that are still ongoing.”

Having secured podium finishes on surfaces as different as Monte-Carlo, Argentina, Finland and France, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle also led rounds in Germany and Australia. With an identical calendar scheduled for next season, the experience they have acquired this year will help them be even more competitive in 2015.
“It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to continue to work together,” commented Kris Meeke. “Since the end of last year, Citroën Racing has given me the chance to prove my worth. This first full season has been spent learning about the WRC. In the second half of the year, I was able to show part of my potential. There’s room for improvement, but I now have some decent foundations to build on next year, in order to keep progressing. With experience, everything becomes that bit easier. I know the team well and we understand each other. I feel like I’m part of the Citroën family!”
14-11-17 Citroén finishes as runner-up in World Rally Championship *
Day 3
With its eighth podium finish of the season, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team secured second place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship*.

Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson finished third overall at Wales Rally GB. Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended in sixth position, after a dramatic final leg. Mads ended the season in fifth place in the Drivers’ championship, whilst Kris finished seventh. In the Co-drivers’ standings, Jonas finished fourth and Paul took seventh.

After two solid days, the two DS3 WRCs set off this morning for the final six stages of the season in third and fourth positions in the overall standings.
Whilst pushing to try and grab second place, Kris Meeke ran slightly wide into a ditch on the day’s opening stage. Despite being faster than Mikko Hirvonen on the opening three stages of the morning, a puncture at the front and a blistered tyre at the rear made matters difficult for the rest of the final leg.

Full of confidence, Mads Østberg secured several stage wins. The Norwegian’s performances ensured he pull clear of his nearest challengers to consolidate his position
.
In the second half of the leg, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle looked after their tyres. Concentrating on making it to the end of the rally, they dropped just over a minute to finish in sixth place.

Mads Østberg took advantage of Meeke’s misfortune to grab third place in the overall standings. With co-driver Jonas Andersson, he collected another podium finish to add to those secured in Sweden, Portugal and Italy.

The 23 points scored by the crews in Wales, the joint second best result of the season along with Sweden, ensured that the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team finished as runners-up in the Manufacturers’ World Championship*.

After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Stéphane Lefebvre continued to add to his experience in the DS3 R5. He finished in eleventh place in the WRC2 category. He concluded his season with the FIA Junior WRC and WRC3 titles*.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “The aim was to finish on the podium. We fought a lot at the start of the rally. But intercom and tyre problems left us down in fourth position. This morning, I had a very good feeling again. We were able to win a couple of stages and we have finished the rally on the podium. I’d like to thank the entire team. This first year in the DS3 WRC has been especially rewarding and the atmosphere in the team is fantastic. I have never experienced anything like it before!”

Kris Meeke: “I made a minor mistake when we were fighting for second place in the rally. After that, I sacrificed the result to make sure Citroën finished as runner-up in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. I’m disappointed but it’s an experience I’ll take forward with me into the future. We have got quicker and quicker throughout the season, and that’s very positive.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “It’s a very good end to the season. Mads’ podium finish is an excellent performance to round off the year. Second place in the championship means we have achieved one of the goals we set ourselves. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the team and our partners for their investment in 2014. The challenge was a big one given that we were competing in two World Championships.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS18 – Brenig 1 (10.81km) – Mads Østberg began the final day with a stage win. Kris Meeke, who set off two minutes behind him, ran wide into a ditch and picked up a puncture. He nonetheless finished ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and moved closer to second place overall.

SS19 – Alwen 1 (10.04km) – Mads Østberg claimed a second stage win. Kris Meeke was second fastest, a second ahead of Mikko Hirvonen. Andreas Mikkelsen went off, forcing him to retire.

SS20 – Kinmel Park 1 (2.21km) – Jari-Matti Latvala was the fastest on the first pass on this short stage. Sixth fastest, Mads Østberg consolidated his position whilst Kris Meeke closed to within 1.6 seconds of Mikko Hirvonen in second place. An oil leak meant Henning Solberg was unable to start the stage.

SS21 – Kinmel Park 2 (2.21km) – Just like on the first run, Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time. As he attempted to look after his tyres, Kris Meeke dropped three seconds. Mads Østberg moved closer to his team-mate place in third.

SS22 – Alwen 2 (10.04km) – Kris Meeke eased off to try and avoid damaging an underinflated tyre. Jari-Matti Latvala won the stage, ahead of Mads Østberg who moved up into third position.

SS23 – Brenig 2 (10.81km) – Jari-Matti Latvala won the Power Stage, ahead of Thierry Neuville and Mads Østberg. Sébastien Ogier claimed the overall rally win, ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg. Whilst avoiding taking any risks, Kris Meeke made it to the finish in sixth place, scoring important points for the championship.

FINAL PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:03:08.2
2. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +37.6
3. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:03.6
4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:14.9
5. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:24.3
6. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:03.0
7. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:29.7
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:47.5
9. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:43.3
10. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:48.5

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 9 – Andreas Mikkelsen, 5 – Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Mads Østberg, 2 – Kris Meeke, Mikko Hirvonen and Henning Solberg, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS23 (finish): Sébastien Ogier

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 267 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 218 points
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 150 points
4. Mikko Hirvonen 126 points
5. Mads Østberg 108 points
6. Thierry Neuville 105 points
7. Kris Meeke 92 points
8. Elfyn Evans 81 points…

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 447 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 210 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 208 points
4. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 187 points
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 133 points
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 49 points
7. Hyundai Motorsport N 28 points
8. RK M-Sport World Rally Team 26 points

* Subject to publication of the official results by the FIA.

14-11-17 Volkswagen vinner även årets sista WRC-rally
Finalen i årets FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) innebar ett nytt rekord för Volkswagen med flest antal vunna tävlingar under en och samma säsong. De nyligen korade världsmästarna Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia gav med sin åttonde seger för säsongen Volkswagen sin 12:e vinst på 13 rallyn. Ogier/Ingrassia tog en komfortabel ledning på över en minut den första dagen av tre i Wales och kunde sedan kontrollera den på lördagen och söndagen.

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) slutade på åttonde plats i Rally Great Britain efter att ha förlorat mer än tre minuter efter ett misstag på lördagens morgon. De extremt svåra förhållandena i Wales skördade offer också när Andreas Mikkelsenoch Ola Fløene (N/N) tvingades bryta tidigt både på fredagen och på söndagen. Men deras kamp för att komma tillbaka på lördagen var tydligt bevis på hur det kunde ha gått, de vann fem specialsträckor och kom tvåa på fyra av de nio specialsträckorna.

En överlägsen säsong
Årets slutomgång blev blev också slutet på en sagolik säsong för Volkswagen som slagit en rad rekord 2014. Den tolfte av 13 möjliga segrar innebar att Volkswagen passerade den förra rekordhavarens elva vinster, Citroën. Volkswagen tangerade också Peugeots rekord från 2002 med åtta dubbelsegrar på en säsong. Dessutom säkrade Volkswagen konstruktörsmästerskapet tidigare på säsongen än på 25 år och blev blott den andra tillverkaren i WRC-historien med alla tre förare i topp i VM-tabellen. Bara Lancia har klarat det tidigare - 1987 och 1988.

Volkswagens framgångar var inte bara imponerande utan också sättet som de kom till på. 2014 lade Ogier, Latvala och Mikkelsen ytterligare 197 av 249 möjliga sträcksegrar till framgångssagan för Polo R WRC. Totalt gick 23 pallplatser till Volkswagen under årets 13 tävlingar. Sedan Polo R WRC debuterade i World Rally Championship i januari 2013 har märket tagit 22 segrar och 41 pallplatser på 26 rallyn. Volkswagen har klockats för bästa tid på 345 av 486 specialsträckor de två senaste säsongerna.

Extremt svåra förhållanden i Wales
Det ymniga regnandet och hotfull dimma över skogarna gjorde Wales grussträckor riskabla på ett sätt som man inte möter någon annanstans i WRC-kalendern. Mjukt på sina ställen, oftast lerigt men alltid halkigt, den 70:e omgången av den här klassikern visade sig än en gång vara en extrem utmaning för förare, co-drivers och WRC-bilar.

Besvikelse för Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila
Efter ungefär halva det 30,5 mil långa rallyt skiljde bara 6,6 sekunder mellan världsmästaren och tvåan i VM-tabellen - rallyt i Wales såg till att börja med ut att bjuda på samma duell som dominerat 2014 år WRC-säsong. Kampen mellan Ogier och Latvala har resulterat i inte mindre än tre av de tio minsta segermarginalerna i WRC-historien och en fjärde förhindrades bara av ett litet misstag. Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila blev offer för den svårbemästrade walesiska leran på lördagens morgon, sladdade ned i ett dike på den nionde specialsträckan och förlorade mer än tre minuter. De kämpade sig tillbaka och vann fyra av den sista dagens sex specialsträckor - inklusive Power Stage - och klättrade från tionde plats till den åttonde.

Segrar och krascher
Rallyt utvecklades till en berg- och dalbana för Andreas Mikkelsen och Ola Fløene. Fem sträcksegrar och fyra andraplatser på lördagen fördunklades tyvärr av krascher på fredagen och på söndagen. Mikkelsen och Fløene startade alltid bland de första - en svår uppgift i Rally Great Britain. En drömsäsong slutade därmed som en besvikelse för Mikkelsen/Fløene. Men det resultatet förtar inte ett i övrigt imponerande rekord: Andreas Mikkelsen kom på pallplats vid fem tillfällen 2014, inklusive andraplatser på tre olika underlag: is och snö i Sverige, grus i Polen och asfalt i Frankrike.
Bounspoäng för Latvala i Power Stage

Volkswagen fortsätter att dominera Power Stage där förare och co-drivers i de tre snabbaste bilarna får extrapoäng. För elfte gången den här säsongen har en Volkswagen gjort den snabbaste tiden. I Storbritannien var det Latvalas tur att ta de tre bonuspoängen. Vid 24 tillfällen under året har en Volksvwagen-förare tagit minst en poäng. Volkswagen kan med stolthet peka på ett rekord sedan de anslöt sig till mästerskapet 2013: vid de 25 Power Stages som körts under den tiden har en Volkswagen-förare suttit vid ratten vid 19 tillfällen, och Volkswagen-förare har slutat bland de tre i topp 44 gånger.

Citat efter dag tre av Rally Great Britain
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Det här är såklart det bästa sättet att avsluta en säsong: med en seger. Vi hade ingen press på oss eftersom VM-titeln redan var klar och vi ville bara njuta av Rally Great Britain. Vi tvingades verkligen att köra för fullt på fredagen och hade en tät kamp om ledningen över team-kollegan Jari-Matti Latvala. Det gjorde att vi fick en stor ledning över övriga konkurrenter. När Jari-Matti gjorde ett misstag på lördagen förändrades naturligtvis rallyts karaktär för oss. Jag behövde bara ta bilen över mållinjen. Men det är allt annat än lätt med de typiska förhållanden som råder i Wales. Sammantaget har det varit ännu en magnifik säsong för Julien och mig med ett fantastiskt team bakom oss. Nu återstår några tester och officiella parties innan julledigheten börjar. Bara några korta ord till Mikko Hirvonen, jag är glad för hans skull att han tog en pallplats i sitt sista WRC-rally. Han har haft en fantastisk karriär och vi kommer att sakna att tävla med honom.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Jag kan se tillbaka med tillfredsställelse på 2014 års säsong. Jag utmanade för första gången på allvar om mästartiteln och höll länge kampen vid liv. Jag vann också mitt första rally på asfalt och det var en viktig milstolpe för mig. Duellen med Sébastien Ogier var extremt spännande. Jag kommer att fortsätta nästa säsong där jag slutade. Rally Great Britain gick inte som jag hade hoppats. Mitt mål var definitivt att försöka vinna här i Wales. Bortsett från misstaget hade vi bra fart. Jag ser redan fram emot nästa år.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Tyvärr blev det inte det slut på säsongen som jag hoppats på. Jag skulle ha velat ge teamet något bättre än två avåkningar. Men förhållandena var särskilt svåra och misstag händer lättare i Rally Great Britain än någon annanstans. Jag är besviken men jag matchade våra team-kollegors fart och hade kunnat utmana som segern. Trots besvikelsen kan vi vara stolta över vad vi åstadkommit den här säsongen. Med fem pallplatser överträffade vi våra förväntningar. Tredje platsen i förarmästerskapet är det bästa resultatet i in karriär. Jag ser fram emot litet vila de kommande veckorna men också mot säsongen 2015. Vi är inställda på att utmana om segern och pallplatser från första början. Det är mitt mål.

Jost Capito, chef för Volkswagen Motorsport
- Tolv segrar på en säsong - vi kan verkligen se tillbaka på ett framgångsrikt år. Vi kan vara stolta över vad vi åstadkommit och njuta av varje ögonblick i World Rally Championship. Rally Great Britain var också en stor framgång och Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassisa gjorde allt rätt på vägen mot sin åttonde seger för säsongen. De är värda all respekt. Jari-Matti Latvala, Miikka Anttila, Andreas Mikkelsen och Ola Fløene slutade inte säsongen på det sätt de önskat. Men de kan också vara stolta över vad de åstadkommit. Vi kommer inte att vila på våra lagrar, 2015 års säsong börjar med Rally Monte Carlo om bara 65 dagar och vi vill vara så väl förberedda som möjligt igen. Förberedelserna har redan varit igång sedan en tid tillbaka.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC),
Rally Great Britain – slutresultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3t 03m 08.2s
2. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 37.6s
3. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 1m 03.6s
4. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 1m 14.9s
5. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 1m 24.3s
6. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 2m 03.0s
7. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford + 2m 29.7s
8. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 2m 47.5s
9. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 3m 43.3s
10. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai + 3m 48.5s
FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Great Britain – Power Stage Resultat
1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen 7m 04.7s
2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 2.3s
3. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 3.1s
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totala ställningen

Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 267
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 218
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 150
4. Mikko Hirvonen 126
5. Mads Østberg 108
6. Thierry Neuville 105
7. Kris Meeke 92
8. Elfyn Evans 81
9. Martin Prokop 44
10. Dani Sordo 40
11. Henning Solberg 26
..............................
19. Pontus Tidemand 6
Konstruktörsmästerskapet
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 447
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 210
3. M-Sport 208
4. Hyundai Motorsport 187
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 133
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 49
7. Hyundai Motorsport N 28
8. RK M-Sport WRT 26
14-11-16 A perfect end to the season for Alstair Fisher
JWRC Day 3
Winner at the last round in France, Alastair Fisher notched up a second consecutive victory as he prevailed in the FIA WRC Junior class at Wales Rally GB. The podium was completed by Martin Koc(i and Henri Haapamaki. Stéphane Lefebvre won the FIA Junior WRC title, ahead of Alastair Fisher and Martin Koc(i*. He will drive a DS3 R5 in the FIA WRC2 championship next season!

lready assured of the FIA Junior WRC and FIA WRC3 titles*, Stéphane Lefebvre was competing at Wales Rally GB in a DS3 R5 in the WRC2 category. Alongside experienced co-driver Stéphane Prévot, he ended the event in eleventh place, after rejoining under Rally2 rules.

In their DS3 R3s, the seven crews competing in the final round of the FIA Junior WRC battled it out in the heart of the Welsh countryside. British driver Alastair Fisher, the Frenchman Quentin Giordano and the Slovakian Martin Koc(i were all still in contention to finish as runner-up in the championship.
On the opening stage, Alastair Fisher wasted no time in establishing an early lead. Winner of the last round in France, the Brit was the first out of the blocks here, beating Finnish newcomer Henri Haapamaki, Martin Koc(i, Quentin Giordano and Simone Tempestini.

And although Martin Koci responded on SS2, Alastair Fisher then claimed two further stage wins before the midday service period to put himself 13 seconds clear of Koc(i and 41 ahead of Tempestini. Haapamaki picked up two punctures, meaning he trailed the leader by over a minute.

In the afternoon, Alastair Fisher extended his lead. After stopping on a stage for a minute, Martin Koc(i dropped down to fourth place before going back on the attack. At the end of the first day of racing, Alastair Fisher was more than a minute clear of Henri Haapamaki, Martin Koci and Simone Tempestini, who were all bunched together, separated by less than six seconds.

Unfortunately, Quentin Giordano’s day came to a premature end. The Frenchman broke a wheel after a roll and had to rejoin under Rally2 regulations.
Alastair Fisher kept his rivals at bay throughout day two. With a lead of more than a minute, he kept an eye on the scrap for second between Martin Koc(i and Henri Haapamaki. The Slovakian and the Finn claimed almost all of the stage wins between them. However, a minor mistake by Haapamaki saw him drop down to fourth on Saturday evening, behind Fisher, Koc(i and Tempestini.

Third ahead of Sunday’s final leg, Simone Tempestini was quickly forced to retire due to a problem connecting the waste gate’s solenoid valve tube. Haapamaki thus inherited third position. The overall standings remained otherwise unchanged after the final day’s stages.
Alastair Fisher, leader from start to finish, secured the win ahead of Martin Koc(i, Henri Haapamaki, the Australian Molly Taylor, the Pole Aron Domzala and Quentin Giordano.

hanks to his second consecutive win, Alastair Fisher ended the season as runner-up in the FIA Junior WRC, just one point behind the champion, Stéphane Lefebvre. With three podium finishes, including one win, Martin Koci ended the year in third position, ahead of Quentin Giordano.
France won the Nations Trophy, with Great Britain second and Slovakia third.
NEW EVENTS ON THE 2015 CALENDAR
Organised in conjunction with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the FIA Junior WRC is set to change in 2015. A seven-event calendar will be offered to the teams, which must choose the six rounds at which they wish to score points.
The calendar will be made up of four rounds on gravel, two on tarmac and one mixed-surface event, to reflect more accurately the character of the World Rally Championship.

The FIA Junior WRC remains restricted to drivers aged under 28, competing in DS3 R3s equipped with the MAX kit that was homologated on 1 January 2014.

With the support of partners Total and Michelin, Citroën Racing will offer the winner a programme of six rallies in Europe in a DS3 R5, competing in the 2016 FIA WRC2 championship.

2015 FIA Junior WRC calendar (subject to approval by the FIA)
– 22/25 January – Rallye Monte-Carlo
– 21/24 May – Rally de Portugal
– 2/5 July – Rally Poland
– 30 July/2 August – Rally Finland
– 1/4 October – Rallye de France
– 22/25 October – Rally de España
– 12/15 November – Wales GB Rally

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Alastair Fisher: “We achieved the target that we had set ourselves for this rally. We didn’t make any mistakes. That was the key to winning here in Wales. This 2014 season has been very positive. We’ve shown that we had the pace to win. It’s just a shame that we made a mistake in Portugal. But we’re very pleased to win in France and here at home, they have definitely been the highlights of this year. I hope I can keep improving next year; I feel I’m ready to step up to the FIA WRC2 championship.”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
Alastair Fisher / Gordon Noble 3:31:20.1
Martin Koci / Lukas Kostka +1:18.8
3. Henri Haapamaki / Marko Salminen +2:54.5
4. Molly Taylot / Seb Marshall +4:37.1
5. Aron Domzala / Szymon Gospodarczyk +6:11.8
6. Quentin Giordano / Valentin Sarreaud +38:37.7

FASTEST TIMES
Martin Koc(i, 7 (including 1 tied) – Alastair Fisher, 6 – Henri Haapamaki, 6 (including 1 tied) – Quentin Giordano, 3

LEADERS
SS1 to SS23 (finish): Alastair Fisher

FIA JUNIOR WRC STANDINGS (6/6)
Stéphane Lefebvre 93 points
Alastair Fisher 92 points
Martin Koc(i 76 points
Quentin Giordano 72 points
Christian Riedemann 46 points
Molly Taylor 35 points
Aron Domzala 32 points
Simone Tempestini 28 points
Eric Camilli and Federico Della Casa 18 points
Kornel Lukacs 16 points
Henri Haapamaki 15 points
Yohan Rossel 10 points
Jan Cerny 6 points
Panikos Polykarpou 2 points

NATIONS TROPHY
1 France 193 points
2 Great Britain 92 points
3 Slovakia 76 points
4 Germany 46 points
5 Australia 35 points
6 Poland 32 points
7 Romania 28 points
8 Switzerland 18 points
9 Hungary 16 points
10 Finland 15 points
11 Czech Republic 6 points
12 Cyprus 2 points
* Subject to publication of the official results by the FIA
14-11-16 Mission a accomplished for Kubica in Wales
It was mission accomplished for RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica at Wales Rally GB – finishing the event with a controlled drive to gain a wealth of vital knowledge and experience.
he FIA World Rally Championship’s traditional finale is renowned as one of the season’s most daunting tasks. The stages themselves may not be as technically difficult as some, but the conditions make it one of the most challenging events of the season.

This year’s edition was to be no different. The stages were coated with mud which made the gravel tracks treacherously slippery but the Pole adopted a cautious approach that played to his advantage.

Making it through all of the stages unscathed, Robert should be pleased with his driving. Having made a vast improvement in such difficult conditions, he ends the season with the experience that will only aid any future rally ambitions.
Robert Kubica (11th) said:

“It’s been a difficult weekend with very difficult conditions, but I think we drove well with no mistakes and no big moments. I was determined to finish this rally because it is so unique and you don’t get many chances to gain experience from these kinds of conditions, so I am glad that we managed to do that.

“I’ve been really starting to enjoy rallying on gravel. Okay we had some difficult moments towards the beginning of the season, but I think that we have improved a lot throughout the year and I want to thank all of the mechanics who worked on my car. All we need is to be a bit more consistent, and that will come with experience.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen a really solid drive from Robert [Kubica] in what were some very challenging conditions this weekend. He adopted a sensible approach and because of that he will be much better placed to progress should we see him here again next year. This is one of those events where experience can count for a lot and I think he can be very pleased with the job he has done. He has progressed a lot – especially on gravel – and I think you can see that from the last couple of events.”

14-11-16 Mikko signs out in style
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen brought their FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) careers to an end in style today – securing second place at Wales Rally GB.

The Finns were locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions throughout the weekend. Ultimately however, their speed, experience and determination saw them over-shadow all who threatened to disrupt a near-perfect weekend.

In true Wales Rally GB style, the stages were treacherously slippery but Hirvonen controlled the situation brilliantly. Conserving his pace when necessary and pushing when comfortable, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver adopted an effective mix of speed and consistency – setting a string of competitive times including the fastest time through yesterday’s second pass of Clocaenog Main (SS15).

Their podium finish was the perfect way to say goodbye to the championship which has given them so much and the sport which they have given so much to themselves.

Having dedicated thirteen years to the WRC, Hirvonen has secured 15 wins, 69 podiums, and six FIA Champions' trophies. Ironically however, Lehtinen has picked up one more FIA trophy than his driver – their result this weekend securing third place in the 2014 co-drivers’ standings.

Both men will be greatly missed, not just by the M-Sport family, but by the entire WRC community.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans secured fifth place on his world rally car debut on home soil. The Welshman, who is partnered by co-driver Daniel Barritt, didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend and displayed real strength of character; unwilling to be pressurised into any unnecessary battles.

Concentrating on his own event, Evans upped his pace considerably throughout the weekend to produce what has been one of his best performances on gravel. Securing a joint second fastest time through the second pass of Kinmel Park (SS21), the youngster was reigning in fourth-placed man Thierry Neuville.

Despite having to settle for fifth, Evans goes into 2015 with his confidence high – ready to show more of his true potential.

Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I couldn’t really think of a better way to end my career. We had a great fight all through the weekend and to finish with the second place is absolutely fantastic.

“Today it was a bit emotional for sure. Before this morning I manage to be pretty on it and concentrate on the rally, but today it was a bit more difficult!

“I just feel really good about the whole weekend. I really couldn’t have asked for anything better and it was the perfect way to end this very special chapter of our lives.”

Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“I think we would have taken fifth place at the start of the event for sure. We knew before the rally started that even bettering our result from last year would have been a good achievement given the depth of the entry. To come away in fifth is strong and I think we’ve managed to show some good speed along the way.

“All in all it’s been a good weekend and a good way to finish off the year. I can’t wait to start next season now. We’ve got a lot more experience and I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another successful season at this level.

“Finally, I want to wish Mikko [Hirvonen] all the best. I really couldn’t have wished for a better team mate this year. He and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] have been so willing to share their experience over the year and if I can achieve anything like his CV at the end of my career then I would be very proud indeed. It was great to see him end such an influential career with such a positive result and I know that the whole team will really miss him and Jarmo next year.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It is such a pleasure to see Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen] end their careers with such a positive result. It’s hard to put into words, but I can certainly say that they have made a lasting impression on the team. They are liked by everyone and will be dearly missed. All of us were immensely proud to see him take such a result away from what has been a very special weekend.

“Elfyn [Evans] has had a really good weekend too. He did exactly what was asked of him and came away with a strong fifth place. He didn’t let the pressure of being at home get to him at all and showed some really encouraging speed along the way. I think it’s fair to say that this has been one of his best performances on gravel and we’re all looking forward to seeing what he can do with a year of experience under his belt next year.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT WRC DRIVERS
Ott Tänak (7th) said:
“I think it’s been a good event for us. The plan was to get used to driving a world rally car again on the first day and then get closer to our best times on day two. That was what we did. Okay we were a bit rusty in the beginning, but we had a good feeling yesterday afternoon. We managed to set some good times and were getting close to the top five. Unfortunately we picked up a puncture this morning so we had to be a bit careful after that as we only had one spare.”

Matthew Wilson (14th / 3rd WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a really good weekend and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Okay it’s been tricky and we’ve had to contend with some difficult conditions at times, but it’s just been brilliant fun from start to finish.

“This morning we had a real good battle and to finish the last stage with another fastest time was a great way to end the weekend. It’s been spot-on and I want to thank Michelin for their support in bringing this iconic livery back to the stages – the response from the fans has been unbelievable.”

Quentin Gilbert (21st / 8th WRC 2) said:

“We had a difficult start to the weekend without much confidence in the conditions but as the weekend went on we got a lot more comfortable and were able to set some really good times. I’ve been quite happy with the pace although experience counts for a lot here. This was only my second time at this event – my first in a four-wheel-drive car. It was difficult at times but we’ve learnt a lot for sure.”

Nicolas Fuchs (23rd / 9th WRC 2) said:

“Every day it got better and better and I learnt a lot about this rally – mainly about how to set-up the car. I know that if I come back next year I need to do a good test to get the best set-up for the car and to work on my pacenotes because they were not 100 per cent correct for all of the slow corners.”


14-11-16 Kubica´s learning continues in Wales
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica is continuing to learn the stages and conditions of one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s most demanding events – Wales Rally GB.

There is arguably no bigger challenge for the crews than the muddy stages of the Welsh forests. The gravel tracks become treacherously slippery when wet and demand near-perfect pacenotes and expert precision from the drivers.

Taking the difficult task in his stride, Robert adopted a sensible approach – finding his rhythm and gradually improving his pace over the second pass.

Mission accomplished, the Pole made it cleaning through all of the stages and has gained a wealth of knowledge which will only aid any future rally ambitions.

Robert Kubica (12th) said:
“I think it has been a good day for us. There has been nothing spectacular, but also no mistakes. We’ve had a smooth run through all of the stages and I hope that we can continue like that tomorrow.
“Of course the last two stages were a bit more difficult in the dark. On gravel you are often sideways with the car and the lights aren’t necessarily pointing where you want them to. It’s something that I have to get used to as well as the ride-height variations as under braking the lights are dipping a bit too low.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another solid day from Robert [Kubica]. He’s gained more experience of some of the most difficult conditions in the World Rally Championship and has driven well with no mistakes. It’s good to see him embark on the final day without a scratch on the car and I hope he can continue to learn through tomorrow’s final stages.”
14-11-16 Mikko on course to a bid farwell in style
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen is on course to bid farewell to the FIA World Rally Championship in style – locked in an intense battle for second at Wales Rally GB.

The Finn is at the head of one of the most exciting fights of the season – trading places with his rivals throughout the day. His fellow competitors may have had the upper hand over the morning loop, but the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver bided his time.

As the stages became treacherously slippery for the afternoon loop, the team were confident that Hirvonen’s speed and experience would pay dividends. Proving that his team’s trust was not misplaced, he set a string of highly competitive times including the fastest time through the second pass of Clocaenog Main (SS15).

Having had the better of their rivals throughout the afternoon, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen have established a 3.4 second advantage over third-placed man Kris Meeke with just 46.12 kilometres of competitive stages left to run.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt continued to concentrate on their own event. The Welshman is enjoying his first world rally car outing on home soil but refused to let any potential pressure deter his focus.
As one of the most mentally strong drivers in the championship, Evans is motivated towards achieving his own goals and refused to be drawn into any unnecessary battles. But a strong performance over the afternoon loop saw the Welshman reel his rivals to within a handful of seconds. Currently holding a strong sixth place, he and Barritt are just over 10 seconds shy of fourth position.

Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I’ve really enjoyed the fight with Kris [Meeke] and it looks like it’s going to continue right through to the last corner of the rally! There’s no better way to finish the season and my last rally as well.

“I would really love to be on the podium. To be up there waving to all the fans would be amazing. It’s been a pretty perfect weekend so in a way I wouldn’t mind if it was second or third. Then again, I would really love to take the second place so it’s going to be a tough choice. We’ll see. I’ll start flat-out in the morning and see where we are after that.”

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“The stages were pretty much all new to me today. I’ve encountered them in various configurations over the years but never in that direction. The biggest challenge was the surface, especially on the second pass. It was tricky out there and we struggled in places but set some really encouraging times in others. We seemed to favour the last of the two stages as opposed to the first, but it’s not been a bad day and I think we can be reasonably pleased with what we have achieved today.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Mikko [Hirvonen] has had another fantastic day and it’s shaping up to be a great battle between him and Kris [Meeke] for second place. A lot can still happen and I think it is going to be fantastic for the spectators because there is no question that both of them will be flat-out tomorrow.

“Elfyn [Evans] too has had a really good day. He’s still finding the conditions difficult, but from my point of view I think this has been one of his best performances on gravel. If you look at the gaps to the guys ahead of him, you wouldn’t think that it was his first time here in a world rally car so it has been a job well done by him today.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Ott Tänak (7th) said:
“It’s been a lot better than yesterday. We had a good feeling in the morning and we improved the set-up at midday service so I felt a lot more confident. We had a bit of a moment on the last stage but we managed to make it through. It’s normal to have a moment or two in Wales – without one, it’s not a proper GB rally – and I am happy with the job we have done today.”

Henning Solberg (9th) said:
“I was pushing really hard and the day started really well. I was really pleased to set a fast time and I need to thank M-Sport for getting a car ready for me in such short notice, it’s been perfect all day today. Unfortunately we had a puncture at the start of SS16 which lost us a lot of time, but that is just the way it is and I’ll push hard again tomorrow.”

Matthew Wilson (15th / 3rd WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a really good day. The first two stages in the loop were really strong and I just seemed to enjoy that particular forest [Clocaenog]. Obviously it was a shame to have SS12 cancelled. It’s one of my favourites so it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to run it in the daylight.

“Then in the afternoon we had a really strong run again. We had a bit of an issue with the lights which lost us a bit of time, but that was my fault. The last one [SS17] was a bit tricky as we didn’t do it in the daylight and in the dark it was really difficult to judge the grip levels.

“But I’m really happy with the day. We’re in a big fight – the gaps are pretty close behind and Lorenzo [Bertelli] isn’t that far ahead. Anything can still happen to let’s hope for another good day tomorrow.”

Quentin Gilbert (23rd / 9th) said:
“It was a much better day for me today. I felt a lot more confident and we set a lot of good times including a fastest stage time and a couple of second fastest stage times as well. I was really pleased with my pace but we picked up a puncture about one kilometre into the last stage. It’s been a good day and I have been really happy with my pace.”

Nicolas Fuchs (26th / 11th) said:

“It was a better day for me today. We made some changes to the set-up and I felt a lot more confident in the car. On the final stage we had a puncture and lost a lot of time, but this is rallying. Tomorrow I hope that we can progress a little more and continue to learn
14-11-16 Just 46 kilmoeters left to go...
WRC WALES RALLY GB 2014
Fighting for a place on the podium at Wales Rally GB, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson ended day two in third and fourth positions in the overall standings. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team edged closer to securing second place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. There are six stages left to complete tomorrow before the curtain falls on the 2014 season.

Wales Rally GB revealed another side to its character today, as the crews tackled narrower, drier roads in the north of the country. The conditions gave the DS3 WRC crews the chance to showcase their talents.
As they fought for third position in the overall standings, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg profited from Jari-Matti Latvala’s off to move up a place on the first stage of the day.

Among the frontrunners throughout the morning, Kris Meeke returned to midday service in third place, less than a second behind Mikko Hirvonen.
Holding a podium spot after SS11, Mads Østberg was then handed a ten-second penalty for checking in late at the start of the next stage and saw his team-mate move back ahead of him.

In the afternoon, the duel between Hirvonen and Meeke intensified. Kris claimed a stage win on Clocaenog East 2 (SS14) to grab second place. A spin near the end of the second night stage meant he held third place as the cars were driven into parc ferme. However, since he is only 3.4 seconds behind Hirvonen, the fight is far from over.

A tyre problem cost Mads Østberg around twenty seconds on SS16. He ended the day in fourth position.
Tenth in the WRC2 at the halfway stage of the rally, Stéphane Lefebvre’s learning experience at Wales Rally GB came to an end on SS14.
In the FIA Junior WRC, Alastair Fisher controlled from the front in his DS3 R3. He moved closer to a second consecutive win as he ended day two ahead of Martin Koc(i and Simone Tempestini.

The final leg of the rally features six stages. With no service periods, the crews will set off at 7.05am to tackle the final 46 kilometres of timed stages. The second pass on Brenig will serve as the Power Stage at 12.00pm, before the crews head to Llandudno for the last podium ceremony of the season at 1.19pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “We really enjoyed the stages. The roads were magnificent, especially on the night stages. It’s a great fight with Mikko. I really pushed today, but a couple of minor mistakes cost us a few seconds. The aim is still to secure second place in the championship for Citroën. And I want to keep learning for the future.”

Mads Østberg: “Once again, we were very fast in the morning loop. On SS16, the tread on the rear left-hand tyre became really worn on a very quick section. We continued to drive for another four or five kilometres, trying to not break anything and lose as little time as possible. Tomorrow, we’ll have to defend our position. I know we’ll need to push again.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS9 – Clocaenog East 1 (8.25km) – Having rejoined under Rally2 rules, Andreas Mikkelsen was first on the road and began the day with a stage win. Jari-Matti Latvala lost more than three minutes after he went off the road. Kris Meeke moved up into third place, ahead of Mads Østberg in fourth.

SS10 – Cloceanog Main 1 (13.74km) – Another fastest time for Mikkelsen, ahead of Meeke. Østberg clocked the fourth-fastest time on the stage.

SS11 – Aberhirnant 1 (13.87km) – Andreas Mikkelsen kept his run going with a third stage win. Second fastest on SS11, Mads Østberg took third position overall from his team-mate, Kris Meeke.

SS12 – Dyfnant 1 (19.98km) – On the day’s longest test, Mads Østberg almost matched the lead time set by Mikkelsen. However, a ten-second penalty for checking in late at the start meant he dropped down to fourth. Cheered on at “Irish Corner” where a large number of his supporters had gathered, Kris Meeke regained third place.

SS13 – Chirk Castle (2.06km) – This special ‘rallyfest’ tarmac stage gave Henning Solberg a rare opportunity to set a fastest time. Meeke and Østberg remained third and fourth overall.

SS14 – Clocaenog East 2 (8.25km) – Kris Meeke claimed a stage win to move into second position in the overall standings, just ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg.

SS15 – Cloceanog Main 2 (13.74km) – Mikko Hirvonen immediately reclaimed second place with the stage win. Kris Meeke remained just 3.3 seconds adrift, whilst Mads Østberg was 14.7 seconds behind.

SS16 – Aberhirnant 2 (13.87km) – Andreas Mikkelsen took another stage win. Slowed by a damaged tyre in the latter part of the test, Mads Østberg lost over twenty seconds. The gap between Hirvonen and Meeke nudged up to 4.5 seconds.

SS17 – Dyfnant 2 (19.98km) – Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest on the day’s final stage. Kris Meeke finished with the third fastest time, cutting Mikko Hirvonen’s lead in third to 3.4 seconds. Mads Østberg defended his fourth position ahead of the final leg.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:33:19.3
2. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +58.1
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:01.5
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:41.2
5. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:44.5
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:52.4
7. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:33.3
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +3:28.1
9. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:37.4
10. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:54.5

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, 5 – Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Kris Meeke, Mikko Hirvonen and Henning Solberg, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS17: Sébastien Ogier
14-11-15 Midday wuotes Wales Rally GB, day two
Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“The boys [Meeke and Østberg] have slowly crept up on us but it’s a nice fight and it’s great to finish my career with such an exciting battle. The stages will get much more slippery this afternoon so let’s see what we can do in those difficult conditions.”

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“We struggled a little bit on the first two this morning [SS9 and SS10] – my braking was very inconsistent into the junctions, and there were a lot of junctions, so I think it’s fair to say that we weren’t exactly clean and tidy through those two! The grip was a little better for the second two and we were able to tidy it up and settle into a more comfortable rhythm. All in all, it’s not been a bad morning.”

Robert Kubica (12th) said:
“It’s been an okay morning for us. The grip levels are still changing a lot and these stages are certainly not easy. We’re just driving at a comfortable pace with no big risks and nothing spectacular. It is important to get as much experience as possible on what is a very unique event.”
14-11-14 Meeke and Østberg bunched at the front!
With two DS3 WRCs in the top 5, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s crews were among frontrunners during the first leg of Wales Rally GB.
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended the longest day of the rally just ahead of Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson.
The competitors were greeted by typically autumnal conditions throughout the day’s stages in Wales.
Heavy rain had been forecast for this, the first leg of Wales Rally GB. However, although showers fell at the service park and in the surrounding area overnight, the crews were mostly able to avoid the rain as they completed the first few stages.
Despite the lack of rain, the wind and a few rays of sunshine in the afternoon made little inroads in drying out the damp road surface. The big classic stages of Wales Rally GB remained particularly slippery.

As soon as the rally got underway, Mads Østberg, fifth on the road, and Kris Meeke, seventh in the running order, had to deal with the increasingly greasy, slippery line left by the crews completing the stages before them.

Mads Østberg was in impressive form in the first loop of stages. The Norwegian reached Newport for the midday service in third overall. Kris Meeke produced similar times to those of his team-mate. However, he slightly jumped the start on SS1 and was handed a ten-second penalty as a result, dropping him down to fifth position.

In the afternoon, the changing conditions slowed the progress of Mads Østberg. Whilst staying close to the pace of the leaders, he was passed by Kris Meeke on SS8. The Briton notched four third-fastest times today to end the leg just shy of the podium places in fourth overall.
Already assured of the FIA Junior WRC title, Stéphane Lefebvre continued on his learning curve in the DS3 R5. Alongside experienced co-driver Stéphane Prévot for the first time, he made it back to the Deeside service park this evening tenth overall in the WRC 2.
In the DS3 R3, Alastair Fisher took a clear lead in the FIA Junior WRC. The Briton ended day one ahead of newcomer Henri Haapamaki, Martin Koc(i and Simone Tempestini, who were all grouped within a matter of seconds.

After a 45-minute service, the cars will be driven into parc ferme for the night. Tomorrow’s leg gets underway at 6.40am, featuring a total of nine stages and 113 timed kilometres. A midday service in Deeside will split the day in two. A flexi-service will conclude the leg starting at 7.59pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “The day had started very well. The car was very fast right from the word go on stage one. This afternoon, I couldn’t find the same pace when the roads became even more slippery. I tried to change my driving style and we made a few changes to the set-up of the DS3 WRC but it didn’t really work. We’re still right in the fight for a place on the podium. We’ll have to keep pushing tomorrow!”
Kris Meeke: “This is the position we were hoping to be in at the start of the rally. The roads are as slippery as driving on ice. I made a minor mistake on the final stage which must have cost me about five seconds. I think we might have won the stage without that. The set-up of the DS3 WRC has helped me to feel confident. The team has worked really hard. We’re going to fight to finish on the podium.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Gartheiniog 1 (14.58km) – The opening stage of the rally was won by Sébastien Ogier, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen. In the mud, Mads Østberg grabbed the fourth fastest time and Kris Meeke finished sixth. The British driver was given a ten-second penalty for jumping the start.
SS2 – Dyfi 1 (21.90km) – Confirmation by Sébastien Ogier, this time finishing ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. Mads Østberg was fourth fastest again to grab third position in the overall standings. Kris Meeke ended the test in fifth overall. Andreas Mikkelsen retired at the end of stage.
SS3 – Hafren Sweet Lamb 1 (23.55km) – Jari-Matti Latvala reduced the gap to the leader on the longest stage of the rally. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished third and fourth fastest on the stage to make up a few valuable seconds on their rivals. Juho Hänninen went off.
SS4 – Maesnant 1 (12.86km) – Just before the midday service, Kris Meeke clocked the third fastest time, behind Ogier and Latvala, ending the morning in fifth overall. Mads Østberg remained third after the first four stages.
SS5 – Gartheiniog 2 (14.58km) – Jari-Matti Latvala went quicker on the second pass on this stage, moving closer to Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke continued to gain a few seconds with the third fastest time. Mads Østberg finished sixth on the stage.
SS6 – Dyfi 2 (21.90km) – Sébastien Ogier responded immediately with the stage win on Dyfi 2. With the roads becoming increasingly slippery, Mads Østberg lost his third position to Mikko Hirvonen. Kris Meeke remained fifth overall.
SS7 – Hafren Sweet Lamb 2 (23.55km) – As in the morning loop, Latvala beat Ogier on Hafren Sweet Lamb. The battle for third remained intense with four drivers bunched together, separated by less than fourteen seconds: Hirvonen, Østberg, Meeke and Neuville.
SS8 – Maesnant 2 (12.86km) – Another stage win for Jari-Matti Latvala – his fourth of the day – left him just 6.6 seconds behind overall leader Sébastien Ogier. Third fastest time for Kris Meeke, who moved into fourth position ahead of his team-mate Mads Østberg.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:29:04.0
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6.6
3. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:13.8
4. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:21.5
5. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:22.2
6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:33.9
7. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:50.3
8. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:29.4
9. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:39.5
10. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:49.8

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, 4.
LEADERS

SS1 to SS8: Sébastien Ogier
14-11-14 Kubica tames the Welsh forests
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica made a steady start to the FIA World Rally Championship’s final round. Wales Rally GB is renowned as one of the series’ most difficult fixtures and the Pole made the most of the experience – gradually taming the Welsh forests and gaining vital knowledge of some of the championship’s most difficult stages.

Rain, fog and mud made for a challenging first day of competition, but Robert took the daunting task in his stride. With little experience of the Welsh speed tests, the Pole adopted a risk-free strategy which played to his advantage.

Where others faltered, the Formula One race winner found his own rhythm and improved his pace as the day progressed. Gaining knowledge with each new kilometre, the Pole is keen to continue his development. There are few events in which a driver has the opportunity to discover such unique conditions and Robert is determined to make the most of it.

Robert Kubica (11th) said:
“It has been a difficult and long day with a lot of work to do on the road sections as well as the stages. The conditions on the stages themselves have been very difficult. This is a unique rally with unique conditions but I think that we are driving much better than we did last year. Tomorrow is another day when I hope that we will discover more new things and enjoy.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Robert [Kubica] has adopted a very sensible approach today. Considering his lack of experience in these difficult conditions he has done a good job and made it through all of the stages relatively unscathed. Tomorrow, I hope that he can build on everything he has learnt today and continue to make progress.”
14-11-14 Hirvonen takes on one final fight
Wales Rally GB brings some of the most challenging conditions of the year and today’s action proved to be no exception. Contesting eight stages in the heart of some of Wales’ most iconic forests, mud and rain were the order of the day – but that wasn’t going to stand in the way of Hirvonen and his devoted co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen.

Setting a consistently strong pace, the pairing looked at one behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC; and as the conditions became more challenging, the Finns came into their own.

The duo posted a string of competitive times throughout a difficult afternoon loop. Regularly just a handful of seconds adrift of the fastest times, their pace paid dividends and they climbed into a podium position through the second pass of Dyfi (SS6).

Hirvonen is keen to bid a fond farewell to the championship with a positive result, and is looking forward to continuing the fight tomorrow.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans was taking the demanding stages in his stride. Leaving any pressure of a home event outside of the cockpit, the youngster focused on his own rally and his own ambitions.

The Welshman – who is partnered by experienced co-driver Daniel Barritt – came to Wales intent on gaining as much experience as possible whilst challenging the more experienced on occasion. Building his pace throughout the morning, the Welshman did just that.

Upping his pace over the afternoon loop, Evans will be keen to show further progress as the action reconvenes tomorrow.

Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“I’m really happy – it’s been a good day, although definitely not an easy day! The conditions have been changeable and it’s been really slippery out there. We had to make some changes with the car as we weren’t completely happy with the set-up through all of the stages, but we came through holding third place which is great.

“To finish my career on the podium would be really cool, but there is still a long way to go and a close fight with the guys behind. I think tomorrow will be similar to today. Okay the stages are a bit shorter and the character is quite different from one to the next, but I think it could be another good day for us.”

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“It’s been tough out there to be honest. The first pass was very enjoyable but I think it was clear to see that the further down the order you were, the more slippery it got. Then afternoon was really difficult and the grip was very, very low on most of the stages to be fair. We struggled at points, but I think that there were also a lot of positives and we’re glad to be here.

“I’ve got very little knowledge of tomorrow’s stages – apart from Dyfnant, albeit in the opposite direction. I won’t have the knowledge that I had today so we’ll just have to see how we go. If the notes are working well then we might push a bit more as we are here to perform as best we can.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Mikko [Hirvonen] has done a great job and he’s in a good position going into tomorrow. He has plenty of experience of those stages and the sorts of conditions that we have experienced today. I’m confident that he can continue to set a good pace so let’s see what he can do. Of course there is still a long way to go, but it would be so fitting for him to finish his last rally with a podium.

“Elfyn [Evans] has done exactly what we asked of him today. This is his first time here in a world rally car and the conditions are extremely difficult. It’s so hard for the crews to judge the grip – especially over the second pass – but he’s in a strong seventh place which is where we would expect to see him given his limited experience.


ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
tt Tänak (8th) said:

“It was a tricky morning, but there was definitely more grip then than there was this afternoon! The main thing for us was to get used to a world rally car again and improve the speed stage by stage – and I think that was exactly what we did. We’ll do some fine-tuning with the set-up tonight to try and get some more confidence, and then tomorrow we just need to try and push a little bit more.”

Henning Solberg (9th) said:
“We had some problems this morning, but they were fixed for the afternoon and I pushed really hard. I’m going to push like hell to improve our position tomorrow.”

Matthew Wilson (19th / 6th WRC 2) said:
“This morning the first stage [Gartheiniog, SS1] was pretty good – I have good knowledge of it from previous years – but then when we went into the second one [Dyfi, SS2] the grip level was changing all the time and I struggled to get the rhythm. We had a bit of a slow time in there, and then we caught a slower car in [Hafren] Sweet Lamb [SS3] and had to give him a bit of a nudge to let him know we were there. But generally, the morning was really good. These Michelin tyres seem to be performing really, really well over the opening loop so I think we’ll go for a bit of a push to make the most of it tomorrow.

“Everything seemed to get better and better this afternoon and we had a much better run through Dyfi [SS6] in particular. The car has been great – it’s just the driver that needs to get a bit more consistent! In some places it’s been good, but then we’re losing a bit too much in silly places. Having said all that, I’ve really enjoyed it – it’s been great to be back and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Quentin Gilbert (22nd / 9th WRC 2) said:
“The conditions were really tricky today and I didn’t have so much confidence. The pacenotes are okay, but I just didn’t have the confidence to push. This is only my second time here and my first time in a four-wheel-drive car. To drive quickly here you really need the experience, but we’ll work hard and see what we can do tomorrow.”

Yuriy Protasov (26th) said:
“It’s not been such an easy day for us. The pacenotes are a little too slow – I think I expected there to be less grip that there actually was because even though the grip is low, in places it is definitely possible to go faster. But we have finished the first day which is important. It’s a new experience for me with this weather, so it is important to get the experience and to continue to learn.”

Nicolas Fuchs (29th / 13th WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a very difficult event. I did this rally in 2011, but it is all different this year. We didn’t test before the event so we’ve been speaking a lot with our engineer to try and find the best set-up. Okay, we had a few problems, but it is a nice rally and I just need to learn more about these stages and these conditions.”

14-11-14 Midday quotes Wales Rally GB day one
Mikko Hirvonen (4th) said:
“I’ve just been driving at my own pace and it’s really close with Mads [Østberg] so I think we’re going to have a good fight there. Everything has been going well and I feel really comfortable so let’s see how it goes.”

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“It’s been slippery out there, but there are people behind me who have had to deal with even worse conditions and I think that is reflected in the times. It’s difficult to determine the true performance. In areas I feel that it’s been okay, and in others I feel that there’s room for improvement. There’s more to come, but I’m conscious of the fact that I don’t want to make a mistake on the first day. Then again everyone seems to be going pretty quickly so let’s see what we can do.”


Robert Kubica (12th) said:
“I took it very easy this morning. On the last stage [SS4] I made a mistake and missed a junction as I was correcting a pacenote from the corner before. But other than that it’s been a good, steady morning.

“The conditions are not easy. The stages are really nice, fast and flowing, but the grip levels are changing all the time. Only here can you gain experience of these kinds of roads and these kinds of conditions so we won’t take any risks and will just concentrate on learning as much as we can.”

14-11-11 Regn, lera, dimma väntar i Rally Great Britain
Volkswagens förarteam Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) och Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) åker till Rally Great Britain med ett gemensamt mål - att vinna. Världsmästerskapet och de tre första placeringarna för förare och co-drivers må redan ha avgjorts före den 13:e och sista deltävlingen för året som körs i norra Wales men förarna är lika hungriga på seger som någonsin. Rally Great Britain är en äkta klassiker i WRC-kalendern.
Ogier och Ingrassia som med framgång försvarade sin världsmästartitel i Spanien för tre veckor sedan är inställda på att sluta säsongen högst på pallen - precis som de gjorde förra året.

Latvala och Anttila på andra plats i mästerskapet siktar också på en perfekt avslutning på säsongen - liksom Mikkelsen och Fløene på tredje plats. Latvala/Anttila satsar på att ta sin tredje seger i Wales medan Mikkelsen/Fløene som inledde sin rallykarriär här kommer att ge allt för att ta sin första seger i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Men Volkswagen-förarna är inte ensamma om det målet. Ogier, Latvala och Mikkelsen möter elva starka konkurrenter från Hyundai, Ford and Citroën.
- Rally Great Britain lovar att bli en spektakulär final för fans, förare och team, säger chefen för Volkswagen Motorsport, Jost Capito.
-Den här klassikern är ett av de rallyn som alla vill vinna åtminstone en gång i karriären. Rallyt i Wales är där tillsammans med "Monte", Rally Sweden och Rally Finland. Med unika specialsträckor och unika väderförhållanden som ibland är svåra att förutse - det är verkliga utmaningar. Det finns absolut inga tvivel om våra förares motivation. Som alltid får Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala och Andreas Mikkelsen fria tyglar. Än en gång, låt bäste man vinna.

Regn, dimma, lera - Wales i november
Rally Great Britain är det enda rallyt i WRC-kalendern där fansen skulle bli besvikna om de inte får horisonellt regn piskande mot ansiktet. Vädret och åtföljande drama med heroiska historier har gjort Rally Great Britain världsberömt. Klassiska sträckor som "Gartheiniog" "Dyfi" och sträckan genom Clocaenog-skogen kommer än en gång att bli avgörande i den 305 km långa kampen mot klockan. Regnet som som kan väntas i mitten av november förvandlar grusvägarna till lervällingar medan dimman som hänger hotande över skogspartierna minskar sikten. Totalt har rallyt 23 specialsträckor i Wales.

Volkswagen satsar på dussinet fullt
Full fart framåt gäller för årets 13:e rally. Med elva segrar i bagaget är Volkswagens VM-vinnande team inriktat på att sluta sin fantastiska säsong med en seger. Redan före starten i Rally Great Britain tangerade Volkswagen Citroëns rekord med elva segrar på en säsong men med betydligt bättre segerprocent. I Wales har Volkswagen nu chansen att passera Citroën och sätta ett nytt rekord för antalet segrar under en säsong.

Fakta och siffror från Volkswagens WRC-säsong
Volkswagen tangerade också ett annat WRC-rekord i Rally Spain. Inför årets säsong hade bara Peugeot tagit åtta dubbelsegrar under en säsong (2002). Volkswagen har vunnit lika många hittills i år, etta och tvåa i Sverige, Mexico, Argentina, Polen, Finland, Australien, Frankrike och Spanien. Volkswagen är stolta över den bedriften eftersom Polo R WRC har varit snabb hela säsongen. Sedan Rally Monte Carlo i januari har 179 av 226 specialsträckor tagits hem av Volkswagen liksom 417 av 678 möjliga topp-tre-placeringar. Volkswagen-förare har också vunnit tio av tolv Power Stages hittills 2014. De tre snabbaste bilarna får bonuspoäng i Power Stage och hittills har Polo R WRC tagit extrapoäng vid 23 tillfällen.

Duell utan förbehåll
Kampen mellan Sébastien Ogier och Jari-Matti Latvala var redan ansedd som en av de tätaste i WRC-historien, även innan Volkswagen gav sig in i matchen. 2014 har de skiljts åt med mindre än tolv sekunder vid inte mindre än tre tillfällen. Latvala vann i Finland 3,6 sekunder före Ogier, i Australien var det Ogier som slutade 6,8 sekunder före Latvala och nyligen slog Ogier Latvala med 11,3 sekunder i Spanien.

Inför rallyt i Wales har Ogier redan säkrat VM-titeln och säsongens två toppförare går in i den prestigefyllda duellen utan några taktiska hänsyn. Men avskriv inte Andreas Mikkelsen, han har utmanat sina äldre kollegor om segern vid minst ett tillfälle. Han slutade alldeles bakom Jari-Matti Latvala i Sverige och Ogier i Polen. Och de är inte de enda medtävlande som har en seger i sikte, inte minst Kris Meeke (Citroën) på sin hemmabana.

Citat inför Rally Great Britain
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Vi nådde det viktigaste målet för säsongen i Rally Spain så nu slipper vi trycket. Jag vill njuta av det sista rallyt för säsongen, vilket betyder att nå ett bra resultat. Våra tester i Wales betyder att vi har förberett oss perfekt för komplicerade förhållanden. Framförallt det oförutsägbara vädret gör Rally Great Britain mycket svårt och verkligt utmanande. Av erfarenhet vet vi att alla förare vill avsluta säsongen så starkt som möjligt vid årets sista rally innan det blir en välförtjänt vila. Jag kan mycket väl föreställa mig att Jari-Matti Latvala ser fram emot att fira sin tredje seger för säsongen i Wales.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Förra året slutade jag som tvåa efter Sébastien. Jag vill komma före honom den här gången. Det skulle vara ett riktigt trevligt sätt att avsluta säsongen. Jag gillar Rally Great Britain för att det är så krävande. Specialsträckorna är mycket snabba och kräver bra flyt i körningen. De går genom skogar där det ofta är dimma som hindrar sikten. Det regnar mycket där den här tiden på året vilket gör grusvägarna till en riktig lervälling. Eftersom rallyt är så krävande kan man vinna mycket tid om man kör bra. Rally Great Britain är det perfekta sättet att avsluta säsongen.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Jag vill sluta säsongen med ett riktigt bra resultat. Rally Great Britain ligger mig särskilt varmt om hjärtat eftersom det var här min karriär började 2006. Sedan dess har det varit ett hemmarally för mig. Jag känner mig hemma i Wales och jag känner väl till förhållandena. Jag är så optimistisk att jag tror att jag kan ta min första seger här. Trots det kommer jag inte att riskera allt för att få min första seger. Den kommer ändå, förr eller senare. Men situationen i mästerskapet betyder att jag kommer att ta litet större risker än vanligt. Å andra sidan måste jag ta hänsyn till min co-driver Ola Fløene. Han ligger nu fyra i mästerskapet för co-drivers, bara två poäng efter Mikko Hirvonens kartläsare Jarmo Lehtinen. Jag hoppas vi kan göra något åt det.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställningen
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 242
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 211
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 150
4. Mikko Hirvonen 108
5. Mads Østberg 92
6. Thierry Neuville 91
7. Kris Meeke 84
8. Elfyn Evans 71
9. Martin Prokop 42
10. Dani Sordo 40
.......
11. Henning Solberg 26
19. Pontus Tidemand 6
Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 416
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 187
3. M-Sport 180
4. Hyundai Motorsport 175
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 133
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 45
7. Hyundai Motorsport N 26
8. RK M-Sport WRT 25
14-11-10 Kubica Keen to show progress in Wales
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica made his world rally car debut at last year’s Wales Rally GB. One year on, the Pole will be keen to show how far his has progressed on the loose-surface terrain.

Following a year of competition at the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) highest league, Robert has shown vast improvement on gravel – delivering what was arguably his best ever performance on the surface at the previous outing in Spain.

Of course the dry and dusty stages of the Costa Daurada are far removed from those in the Welsh forests.

As the championship’s traditional finale, Wales Rally GB is widely acknowledged as the ultimate test of a driver’s ability. The stages may not be as technically challenging as some, but the conditions provide one of the most daunting and anticipated events of the year.

The crews can expect rain, mud, fog, ice and even snow as they traverse some of the WRC’s most iconic speed tests. Knowledge of the stages is beneficial, but it is those who are able to judge the available grip that will prosper the most.

The Formula One race winner has shown vast improvement behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC but will need to apply all of the knowledge and experience gained as he looks to bring his season to a close with a positive result on one of the season’s most challenging events.

Robert Kubica said:
“Last year we did not get far, but it was a difficult situation having to make the switch to a world rally car with a new co-driver and Italian pacenotes. For sure with more experience from this year I expect next week to be a better rally for me.

“It is a very difficult event, mostly because of the weather. If it is sunny it can be a really nice rally and that is what I am hoping for. Having said that, there is a very high possibility of rain, fog and mud and that will make things much more difficult – but that's a GB rally!

“About 70 percent of the stages are new compared to last year and since my first attempt was troublesome, this year's event will be like a new experience for me. It is a unique rally because of the surface and the weather can play a big role. It might be a tough one, but I am hoping for a good experience and a smooth drive to the finish as always.”
14-11-07 Wilson and Michelin Reunite for Wales Rally GB
In 1994 Malcolm Wilson OBE piloted the Michelin Pilot Escort RS Cosworth to championship glory in the MSA British Rally Championship. Twenty years later, the iconic livery will be reunited with the Wilson family as Matthew Wilson takes to the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RRC at the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) similarly iconic finale - Wales Rally GB.

Built and prepared by Malcolm Wilson Motorsport, the Michelin Pilot Escort secured victory on four International rallies during its championship winning year. Tackling the WRC2 series with a Michelin Pilot Sport Fiesta, Wilson Jnr. will be looking to emulate that performance with a successful outing on home soil.

Wilson Jnr. has a vast knowledge of the Welsh fixture having contested the event on nine previous occasions – the majority of which alongside long-term co-driver Scott Martin. Having made their WRC debuts at the event in 2004, the pairing will be reunited for the 10th anniversary of their first appearance on the world stage.

In their WRC careers, Wilson and Martin contested 57 events together and secured fourth place finishes at Rally Japan in 2007 and again at Rally Australia in 2011.

Making a return to the stages, Wilson Jnr. is looking forward to entertaining the home crowd with one of the sport’s most celebrated and recognisable liveries.

Mattew Wilson said:
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been behind the wheel of a rally car in competition and I can’t wait to get out and experience some of Wales Rally GB’s most legendary stages. Scott [Martin, co-driver] and I are really looking forward to entertaining the home fans and to be able to do it with such a well-known livery is a real honour.

“The Michelin Pilot Sport car is an important part of British rally history; as well as for us in the Wilson family. It is recognised all over the world and I would like to thank Michelin for their support in bringing this iconic livery back to the stages.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I had two fantastic years driving the Michelin Pilot Escort RS Cosworth and enjoyed wonderful support from Michelin. It’s great to see that Matthew [Wilson] is able to bring the livery back to the stages in celebration of the 20th anniversary of our [BRC] championship winning year.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since I was driving the Michelin Pilot Escort. I still get asked about it today which I think goes to prove how fondly it is remembered within the rally community.

“It’s been a while since Matthew [Wilson] has contested a WRC event, but I have no doubt that he and Scott [Martin, co-driver] will have a lot of fun and give the spectators another British crew to support.”
14-11-07 A Home event with significance
M-Sport’s home event has always been a season highlight but this year’s Wales Rally GB will be all the more momentous. Not only will the team have the opportunity to fight for the runner-up spot in the manufacturers’ championship, but the rally also holds special significance for both of the squad’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers.
Having announced his retirement from the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), next week’s event marks Mikko Hirvonen’s last appearance at the pinnacle of the sport; the legendary stages of North Wales providing the perfect backdrop for the Finn’s final farewell.

On the other side of the M-Sport World Rally Team service area, Elfyn Evans will be making his world rally car debut on home soil – the first Welshman to pilot a top-specification rally car on the event since his father took to the stages in 2001.

Wales Rally GB is one of the championship’s most iconic events and is widely recognised as the season’s traditional finale. The gravel stages may not be as technically challenging as some, but the conditions make it the ultimate test of a driver’s ability.

A familiarity of the stages will see the crews well placed, but it is an understanding of the surface which will be the biggest advantage next week. The Welsh fixture is notorious for its unpredictability; rain, fog, ice and even snow all to be expected.

The grip levels can vary considerably from one corner to the next and it is the crews with a sixth sense for judging the available traction that reap the rewards.

Hirvonen has a vast knowledge of the event. Having contested the rally on 11 previous occasions, he claimed the coveted gold trophy as part of Ford and M-Sport’s championship winning year in 2007.

Coming off the back of a podium finish at the previous outing in Spain, he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen will be looking to end their professional partnership on a high. The pairing has all the tools to affect a strong result and will be looking to do just that as they bid a fond farewell to the series in which they have competed for over a decade.

For Evans, this is an event that he has been looking forward to all year. There can be no bigger thrill than piloting a world rally car through the Welsh forests, and the experience will be all the more exhilarating in front of his home fans.

This will be the Welshman’s first taste of the power and performance of the Fiesta RS WRC on home soil and the youngster will be keen to better last year’s eighth place finish. With the experience of co-driver Daniel Barritt behind the notes, Evans is well placed to finish a highly impressive debut season with another strong result.

Wales is also home to Ford’s Bridgend Engine Plant and the Blue Oval’s globally successful EcoBoost technology. Ford’s ultra-modern engine plant produces close to 3,000 four-cylinder engines each day; equipping Ford’s hugely successful production range as well as sharing technology with the Fiesta RS WRC.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“This is going to be a very special event for me, my last in the FIA World Rally Championship. It was actually my first WRC event in a world rally car and I can’t wait to get out there and experience it all for the final time. The stages are really nice – fast and flowing – and I’m sure that I’m going to enjoy every single corner.

“I’ve always enjoyed this event. It’s a tough one, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. The conditions are really challenging and the grip is changing all the time. There can be mud, fog, even snow and that makes it one of the biggest tests of the year for the drivers.

“It felt really good to be on the podium in Spain, and to do it again at my last event would be amazing. I think we’re going to have an emotional day on Sunday, and it would be great to say our final farewell from the podium.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“The event itinerary and the route look really good so I think it’s going to be an exciting weekend. To have the opportunity to drive a world rally car for the first time so close to home will be a fantastic feeling.

“The stages themselves aren’t overly technical; the challenge comes from the changeable conditions. If we get fog or heavy rain it can make it really difficult and that changes the surface of the roads quite a lot. There’s also an element of being able to judge where the grip is and that’s one of the things that makes this event such a challenge. It’s always been a rally of high attrition and it’s almost about getting to the end as much as it’s about performing well.

“I learnt how to drive a rally car in the Welsh forests and I’ve always really enjoyed driving there. Needless to say it will be pretty special to come back to these stages in a world rally car for the first time.

“There will be a lot of competitive drivers at this event so I think we need to be realistic. We were eighth here last year, so it would be good to better that – although it would be nice to be at the higher end of the top-eight. Let’s wait and see. It will be a difficult event and anything can happen.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
It’s another bumper entry for M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars with close to 50 per cent of the entry list. Five Ford Fiesta RS WRCs have been entered alongside four Ford Fiesta RRCs, three Ford Fiesta S2000s, 12 Ford Fiesta R5s, six Ford Fiesta R2s, one Fiesta R1 and three Ford Fiesta STs – the most complete range of Ford Fiesta rally cars to contest a WRC event to date.

In addition to Hirvonen and Evans, M-Sport will also run the Fiesta RS WRCs of Robert Kubica and Ott Tänak as well as the Fiesta RRCs of Matthew Wilson and Yuriy Protasov, the Fiesta R5s of Nicolás Fuchs and Quentin Gilbert and the Fiesta R2 of cricket legend Graeme Swann.
14-11-06 He DC3 WRCs look to confirm
Wales Rally GB is the thirteenth and final round of the 2014 World Championship. In their DS3 WRCs, Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will be looking to secure the second place of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in the Manufacturers’ standings.

Wales Rally GB is the thirteenth and final round of the 2014 World Championship. In their DS3 WRCs, Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will be looking to secure the second place of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in the Manufacturers’ standings.

One of the oldest events in world motorsport, Wales Rally GB was first contested in 1932. Since then, only World War II, the Suez Canal crisis and the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 1967 have prevented it from being held. For a long time, British, Swedish and Finnish drivers dominated the list of winners of the event, previously known as the RAC rally.

Although the Citroën Visa was driven to a few class wins at the start of the 1980s by Maurice Chomat and Mark Lovell, it was with the C4 WRC that the Brand scored its first overall win. Between 2008 and 2010, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena racked up three consecutive wins.

HIGH-SPEED MUD BATHS
“This thirteenth round of the season provides the crews with the final opportunity to showcase their talents. However, our main goal will be to retain second place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. Our rivals aren’t too far behind, so we’ll need to ensure both cars are well-placed,” summarized Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal.

Last year, Wales Rally GB left Cardiff to set up base on the north coast of Wales. However, the majority of the stages are very familiar to the competitors. Rain, fog and mud… When the technical team and the crews talk about Wales and the month of November, these words always come up.
“No other round is particularly similar to it,” reiterated Didier Clément, the DS3 WRC’s Chief Operations Engineer. “It’s the rally where you can get the most rain and the most mud. The roads are therefore very specific. And the grip can change all the time! Sometimes, grip levels can be fine. But when the road surface features muddy, greasy stones, the grip can be virtually non-existent.”

The muddy gravel is therefore a very important aspect of this final round. It can become stuck to the side and underneath of the car in a matter of a few hundred metres: “There is no magic solution. The mud gets stuck to the car and cannot be removed without outside intervention. You can take on up to 100 kilograms of extra weight!”

Another challenge posed by this round concerns the set-up. This is because the average speeds reached on the stages mean that you need to keep maximum efficiency whilst also looking for grip: “There isn’t much vertical clearance and there are huge needs in terms of grip, but we can’t afford to sacrifice accuracy. It’s a difficult balance to get right, but we’ll be able to use our experience from previous years.”

MADS ØSTBERG AIMING FOR THE PODIUM
Mads Østberg has some very pleasant memories of his previous outings in Wales. The Norwegian has taken part in Wales Rally GB in a World Rally Car on six previous occasions. He was runner-up here in 2011: “It feels like I now have quite a lot of experience at this event. I can remember many good times on these roads. It’s a rally that I really enjoy and that I look forward to every year.”

Very competitive when the road surface is slippery, Mads and Jonas have already racked up podium finishes in Sweden, Portugal and Italy this season. They are expecting to fight for another top-three finish: “It’s a difficult rally. Bad weather and fog can add other risks. Starting with recce, we increase the details in the pace notes so we can maintain high speeds even when visibility is poor. The aim is to finish on the podium again. We have always been on the pace on gravel. So it’s up to us to round off the season with a good result. And I know that the DS3 WRC is fast!”

KRIS MEEKE “ALMOST” AT HOME
Northern Irishman Kris Meeke isn’t quite the local boy for the Welsh round. The British driver can nonetheless expect huge support from the local fans at this final round of the season: “It’s the closest I get to a home rally in the WRC. I even took part in my first ever rally, the Bulldog, in these forests. So I know the region very well even though I have only competed in Wales Rally GB once in the last eight years.”

Like the entire team, Kris can’t wait to be in Deeside: “The season has gone by very quickly… I love the atmosphere here, the tradition of the event, even the smell of the mud in the forests. These are some of the most beautiful stages in the world, and some of the most difficult as well. You need a car with a perfect set-up. You really have to get the balance right, because you need grip but you also need precision.”
“It would be great to finish the season on a positive note,” continued Kris. “I know I’ll get plenty of support from the many fans who would love to see me win. I’m going to do my best to acquire as much experience as possible, but I think that a podium finish is a realistic goal.”

23 STAGES SCHEDULED
Like last year, the service park will be based in Deeside, just a few miles from Chester which hosted the event on many occasions between 1979 and 1996.

The format has changed slightly this year, making it a more compact event. The ceremonial start will be held at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay on Thursday evening. The action will get underway on Friday with a familiar loop taking in Gartheiniog (14.58km/7.44am and 1.03pm), Dyfi (21.90km/8.14am and 1.33pm), Hafren Sweet Lamb (23.55km/9.24am and 2.43pm) and Maesnant (12.86km/9.58am and 3.17pm). A midday remote service in Newtown will break the day up into two halves.

On Saturday, the stages will be held on roads close to the service park. Two spectacular stages are scheduled in the famous Clocaenog forest, Clocaenog East (8.25km/7.52am and 3.00pm) and Clocaenog Main (13.74km/8.08am and 3.16pm), alongside Aberhirnant (13.87km/9.18am and 4.26pm) and Dyfnant (19.98km/10.10am and 5.18pm). Before heading back for the midday service, a short stage designed for the fans, Chirk Castle Rallyfest (2.06km/12.00pm), will be included in the itinerary. The day’s final two stages will be held after dusk.

On Sunday, the route has changed this year. Two new stages make their first appearance: Brenig (10.81km/8.33am and 12.00pm) and Alwen (10.04km/9.00am and 10.51am). There is no service on Sunday, but sandwiched between first and second runs on these two tests there will be two runs on another Rallyfest stage at Kinmel Park (2.21km/9.55am and 10.04am).

After the Power Stage, held on the second pass on Brenig, the crews will head directly for Llandudno to celebrate the end of this 2014 season on the podium in Mostyn Street from 1.19pm.

14-11-06 Three young talents, only runner-up
JWRC POLAND 2014- For the final round of the season, three drivers wi ll fight it out for the honour of finishing as runner-up in the FIA Junior WRC: Alastair Fisher, Quentin Giordano and Martin Koc(i.
- Having already secured the title at Rallye de France, Stéphane Lefebvre and Thomas Dubois will compete at Wales Rally GB in a DS3 R5.
Winner of three of the first four events of the season, Stéphane Lefebvre and Thomas Dubois wrapped up the title at Rallye de France-Alsace. Since then, the French crew has been preparing for next year’s programme in the WRC2 category. As in Spain, they will start Wales Rally GB in a DS3 R5.
For this final round of the season, seven DS3 R3s are competing in the FIA Junior WRC. The main issue will be the fight for second place in the championship between Alastair Fischer, Quentin Giordano and Martin Koc(i.
Northern Irishman Alastair Fisher is very well-placed to impress in Wales. His recent win in France and two previous outings in Wales, with a podium finish in the WRC Academy (2011) and fifth place in the S-WRC (2012), all bode well for success this time around.

After finishing tenth in Portugal, the Frenchman Quentin Giordano has been on the podium in every round since then. Thanks to his performances in Poland, Finland, Germany and France, he is now only three points behind Fisher!
The final contender for the runner-up spot, Martin Koc(i is the only other driver – along with Stéphane Lefebvre – to have claimed a stage win at every round on the calendar. Despite drawing a blank in Germany, the Slovakian is still in the hunt for second place. He needs to make up ten points on Alastair Fisher (Fisher has the advantage if they finish level on points) and six on Quentin Giordano.
Although he can still finish in the top five in the championship standings, Simone Tempestini will above all be aiming to have fun at the final round of the season. The youngest driver in the series (20 years old) set fastest times in Poland, Finland and France.
After missing the rounds in Germany and France, Molly Taylor returns to action in Wales. The Australian is the Junior with the most experience of the Welsh forest roads. She made it to the end of the rally in both of the last two years here in a DS3 R3. She can therefore aim for a podium spot, and repeat her performance at Rally Finland!

The Pole Aron Domzala will have the chance to go up against some very tough opponents. Although this is his first season in the WRC, his performances in Poland and France point to his growing potential.
For this final round, the FIA Junior WRC welcomes an extra competitor. The Finn Henri Haapamäki is set to start his third WRC rally after twice competing in Rally Finland. Earlier this season, he claimed a category win at his home event in a Citroën C2-R2.

WRC3 DRIVERS’ TITLE FOR STEPHANE LEFEBVRE
Automatically entered in the FIA WRC-3 Championship, all of the FIA Junior WRC competitors can score points in the category throughout the season. Ahead of the final round of the calendar, Stéphane Lefebvre is assured of the title*. And as in the Junior championship, the runner-up spot will be contested by Christian Riedemann (46 points), Quentin Giordano (46 points), Martin Koc(i (45 points), Alastair Fisher (40 points) and Simone Tempestini (26 points).
The points awarded in the WRC3 category at Rallye de France-Alsace were withdrawn from all of the competitors that had entered in a DS3 R3. An error on the homologation sheet (an incorrectly-placed decimal point in the camshaft data) was behind the decision of the Stewards. Citroën Racing has since corrected this administrative mistake.

THE SEVEN CREWS ENTERED
52 – Simone Tempestini (ITA) / Dorin Pulpea (ROU)
Driver date of birth: 12 August1994
Team: Napoca Rally Team
Previous results: Portugal, 6th – Poland, retirement – Finland, 5th – Germany, 10th – France, retirement
53 – Aron Domzala (POL) / Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL)
Driver date of birth: 1 August 1989
Team: Creative Rally Solution
Previous results: Portugal, retirement – Poland, 7th – Finland, 6th – France, 6th
55 – Quentin Giordano (FRA) / Guillaume Duval (FRA)
Driver date of birth: 10 June1986
Team: PH Sport
Previous results: Portugal, 10th – Poland, 3rd – Finland, 2nd – Germany, 3rd – France, 3rd
56 – Martin Koci (SVK) / Lukas Kostka (CZE)
Driver date of birth: 5 April 1993
Team: Gekon Racing
Previous results: Portugal, 3rd – Poland, 4th – Finland, 1st – Germany, retirement – France, 7th
58 – Molly Taylor (AUS) / Coral Taylor (AUS)
Driver date of birth: 6 May 1988
Team: D Max Rally Team
Previous results: Portugal, 8th – Poland, 8th – Finland, 3rd
62 – Alastair Fisher (GBR) / Gordon Noble (GBR)
Driver date of birth: 30 July 1988
Team: DGM
Previous results: Portugal, retirement – Poland, 2nd – Finland, 4th – Germany, 4th – France, 1st
73 – Henri Haapamäki (FIN) / Marko Salminen (FIN)
Driver date of birth: 6 January 1989
Team: Hannu’s Rally Team

2014 FIA JUNIOR WRC DRIVERS’ STANDINGS
1 Stéphane Lefebvre 93 points
2 Alastair Fisher 67 points
3 Quentin Giordano 64 points
4 Martin Koc(i 58 points
5 Christian Riedemann 46 points
6 Simone Tempestini 28 points
7 Molly Taylor 23 points
8 Aron Domzala 22 points
9 Eric Camilli 18 points
10 Federico Della Casa 18 points
11 Kornel Lukacs 16 points
12 Yohan Rossel 10 points
13 Jan Cerny 6 points
14 Panikos Polykarpou 2 points
15 Frédéric Hauswald 0 points
NATIONS TROPHY
1 France 185 points
2 Great Britain 67 points
3 Slovakia 58 points
4 Germany 46 points
5 Romania 28 points
6 Australia 23 points
7 Poland 22 points
8 Switzerland 18 points
9 Hungary 16 points
10 Czech Republic 6 points
11 Cyprus 2 points
14-11-05 Mikko Hirvonen takes his final bow
After competing at the highest level in world rallying for the last thirteen years, Mikko Hirvonen has decided to end his World Rally Championship career. The Finnish driver will contest his final race at the closing round of the 2014 season, Wales Rally GB.

With 162 starts in the WRC, 15 wins, 68 podium finishes and a four-time runner-up in the World Rally Championship, Mikko Hirvonen has enjoyed a very full and successful career. Since making his WRC debut in 2002, he has experienced some unforgettable moments in world rallying:

“I have so many incredible memories from the last thirteen seasons! I have had the chance to achieve my childhood dreams! I have travelled all around the world, met some fantastic people and have loved every rally and every fight that I have had with some exceptional drivers. I won some and I lost some but, for sure, I will look back on these moments to the end of my days with a great big smile on my face.”

For Mikko, these thirteen special years have been principally dedicated to rally driving. The Scandinavian driver now feels the need to devote more time to his family:

“Throughout the many years of my competitive career, I have focussed on myself a lot. Rallying has taken up a large part of my life and the pace of the calendar has always been fairly unrelenting. I have enjoyed absolutely every minute of it and although I still love driving now, I would also like to concentrate more on other important things which are part of my life, like my children and my family. There are many areas that I have not yet explored and I’d like to give myself the chance to try new experiences.”

The new challenges that may interest the Finnish driver do not necessarily mean he will be making an immediate return to racing:

“Like anyone who loves motorsport, I’m not only a fan of rallying! I have always liked to keep an eye on other forms of racing. But if I get the opportunity to take on a new challenge in the near future, it will above all be for enjoyment. For the time being, I just want to slow down a bit and take the time to find out about the possibilities that might be out there for me.”

“I would like to thank all the people without whom the greatest adventure of my life would never have even started. My family, my friends, my co-driver Jarmo, my sponsors, the teams with which I have competed over the seasons, thanks to their work and unwavering commitment and passion. And of course, my fans, who have been there in the good times and the bad times and who have given us their unconditional support and encouragement. A huge thank you to all of you.”

IF MIKKO HAD TO CHOOSE...
...just one rally...
It’s really difficult! There have been so many great rallies, so many great fights! I can honestly say that I loved them all. I really can’t choose just one, but I can say that some were particularly significant. Our first win in the World Rally Championship at Rally Australia in 2006 was a very special moment. Our win at Wales Rally GB in 2007 was also very special. I remember the podium that I shared with Marcus (Gronholm) and Seb (Loeb). Chronologically, the last of my top three but the first in my heart was the win at Rally Finland, on home soil and with my family and friends. That’s a unique memory.

...just one fight...
I would say the many fights I had with a single driver: Sébastien (Loeb)! They were the greatest battles and the ones I loved the most, whether they were won or lost. It was fantastic! Seb was a rival and team-mate for whom I had and still have a lot of respect, and I think the feeling was mutual.

...just one racing car...
I would say the Ford Focus. It’s the car in which I have contested the most rallies and in which I had my greatest successes.

...just one year...
Again, I don’t think I can choose just one. Some were fantastic, others were difficult, but that’s part and parcel of racing. I loved every one of them and I have no regrets about these thirteen years of passion, pleasure and happiness.

...just one word to talk about Jarmo...
“Privilege”, because it has been a privilege to work with Jarmo. None of this would have happened without him. We met for the first time at Helsinki airport in 2001, before flying to Italy where we were meant to be competing in our first rally together. It was the beginning of a great friendship. In these thirteen years, full of laughter, adventures, wins, losses and passion, we have experienced everything together. And I know that it’s not over yet! We’ll share many more experiences, because there are still a few great pages to be written in our notebook!

MIKKO’S STATISTICS IN THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Starts: 162
Wins: 15
Runner-up: 28
Podium finishes: 68
Number of stage wins: 259
Points scored: 1,192

Longest run of consecutive wins: 4 in 2009
(Acropolis Rally – Rally Poland – Rally Finland – Rally Australia)
Longest run of consecutive podium finishes: 8 (2009 Rally Sardegna to 2010 Rally Sweden)
Longest run of consecutive points finishes: 22 (2007 Rally Japan to 2009 Rally de Portugal)
Most wins at a single rally: Rally Australia (2006 – 2009 – 2011)

All statistics for:
Mikko: http://1vuk.mjt.lu/link/1vuk/tpt5p83/2/8aZaGmeQSXbOxUYBMZ6ZjQ/aHR0cHM6Ly9pbmZvZ3IuYW0vb
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Jarmo: http://1vuk.mjt.lu/link/1vuk/tpt5p83/3/95wewZDSY3wABiW6Te6xSw/aHR0cHM6Ly9pbmZvZ3IuYW0vamFyb
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And then I'm happy to share with you the link of our video "13 years" if you didn't saw it so far:
http://1vuk.mjt.lu/link/1vuk/tpt5p83/4/nUDJLxuqqBzegJsYm45yeA/aHR0cDovL3lvdXR1LmJlL1ZQdjZBYmphQWVj

HIGHLIGHTS
1998
First Rally - Laihia Rally (Finland) – Opel Kadett

2002
First WRC rally in a privately-run Renault Clio Super 1600
Finnish Rally Champion (Group A)

2003
First full works season – Ford
First points scored in the WRC with 6th position at the Cyprus Rally

2004
Subaru works driver

2005
First podium finish – Rally Catalunya – privately-run Focus WRC 03

2006
Rejoined Ford as works driver.
First win: Rally Australia
7 podium finishes
3rd in the Drivers’ World Championship
Manufacturers’ Title for Ford

2007
3 wins (Rally Norway – Rally Japan – Wales Rally GB)
Finished in the points on 15 out of the season’s 16 rallies
3rd in the Drivers’ World Championship
Manufacturers’ Title for Ford

2008
3 wins
11 podium finishes (out of 15 rounds)
Runner-up in the World Rally Championship for the first time

2009
11 podium finishes (out of 12 rounds)
4 consecutive wins
Runner-up in the World Rally Championship for the second time

2010
2 wins
8 podium finishes (out of 13 rounds)
Runner-up in the World Rally Championship for the third time

2012
Joined the Citroën Racing works team
10 podium finishes (out of 13 rounds)
Runner-up in the World Rally Championship for the fourth time

2013
5 podium finishes (out of 13 rounds)

2014
2 podium finishes (out of 13 rounds)

14-10-26 Ogier världsmästare andra gången i rad
En stor dag för Sébastein Ogier och en stor dag för Volkswagen. Med segern i Rally Spain har de regerande världsmästarna krönts till de nya världsmästarna. Efter det franska parets sjunde seger för året, den 23:e i karriären, kan ingen ta in deras försprång i VM-tabellen. Inte ens team-kollegorna Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), som med sin andraplats gav Volkswagen dess tionde dubbelseger i WRC.

Inför WRC-finalen i Rally Great Britain har Ogier/Ingrassia utökat sin ledning över Latvala/Anttila till 31 poäng. Bara 28 av dem kan hämtas in om tre veckor. "Mini-finalen" avgjordes också redan i Spanien. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene slutade som sjua i rallyt och därmed kan ingen ta ifrån Mikkelsen tredjeplatsen totalt i VM för förare.

Ogier/Ingrassia rallyvärldens kungar
Världsmästare i VM för förare och co-drivers för andra gången i rad. Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia är bara det fjärde paret sedan 1977 som lyckats försvara sin titel. Med sju segrar och två andraplatser kunde de säkra titeln med ett rally kvar att köra. Även 2013 vann Ogier och Ingrassia VM-titeln med Volkswagen. De är nu det åttonde paret som kan läggas till listan över dubbla värlsmästare. Före dem har Walter Rörhl, Juha Kankkunen, Miki Biasion, Carlos Sainz, Tommy Mäkinen, Marcus Grönholm och Sébastien Loeb, lyckats vinna mer än en världsmästartitel.

Kamp in i det sista
Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassias teamkollegor gjorde det inte lätt för dem att försvara titeln före säsongsavslutningen. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila höll trycket uppe ända till mållinjen. Förutsättningarna inför Rally Spain var klara; om Ogier kom före Latvala var kampen om titeln avgjord. Om det blev tvärtom skulle det avslutande rallyt Rally Great Britain bli den stora finalen.

Den spännande duellen pågick ända in till den sista dagen. Latvala/Anttila förlorade 36,6 sekunder på gruset på fredagen men under de två följande dagarna på asfalt krympte avståndet till 11,3 sekunder

Grus och asfalt i en unik utmaning
Rally Spain är en verklig utmaning för förare, kartläsare och team. 138,5 kilometer körs på grus och 234,4 kilometer körs på asfalt. Förutom att ha en bra känsla för grus krävs total perfektion på asfalt - och det finns ingen tid för förarna att anpassa sig. Typiskt för Spanien var också dammolnen på fredagens grussträckor som i det vindstilla vädret skymde sikten.

Fredagens specialsträcka "Escaladei" som kördes två gången blev avgörande i Rally Spain. I det ovanligt varma vädret slets asfaltdäcken till gränsen på den 50 kilometer långa specialsträckan.

Elva segrar på en WRC-säsong
Tolfte rallyt och elfte segern, med framgången i Spanien säkrade Volkswagen en annan topplacering i rankingen i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Elva segrar under en säsong är samma som Citroëns tidigare två bästa resultat (2005 - elva segrar på 16 rallyn, 2008 elva segrar på 15 rallyn). Med ett rally kvar den här säsongen har Volkswagen redan nått den högsta segerprocenten i WRC-historien. Med minst elva segrar på 13 möjliga är vinstandelen 84,61 procent.

Mekanikernas rally
Mekanikerna slog också rekord i Rally Spain. På fredagen byggde de om de tre Polo R WRC-bilarna från grus till asfalt på mindre än 75 minuter. Rally Spain är det enda i WRC-kalendern som körs på både grus och asfalt och serviceuppehållet på fredagskvällen är det längsta för säsongen.

Volkswagen bättrade på statistiken ännu mer i Rally Spain, de vann 14 av 17 specialsträckor. Volkswagen har nu vunnit totalt 327 av 463 möjliga specialsträckor och har varit bland de tre bästa vid 751 av 1313 möjliga tillfällen sedan märket började tävla med Polo R WRC i Monte Carlo 2013. För Volkswagen var det den 21:a rallysegern på 25 framträdanden i WRC och den 39:e och 40:e pallplatsen.

Power stage
Bonuspoäng i Power Stage är särskilt lockande för Volkswagens förare. Bonuspoäng som läggs till totalställningen i sammandraget för förare och kartläsare, har 43 gånger på 24 Power Stages gått till förare av Polo R WRC. I Rally Spain fick Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila tre poäng och Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene en poäng

Citat efter dag tre i Rally Spain
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
- Det var en fantastisk känsla att bli världsmästare för andra gången. Det var en verklig kamp om titeln. Framförallt har min team-kollega Jari-Matti Latvala gjort en otroligt stark prestation de senaste månaderna. Nu känner Julien och jag oss lyckliga och lättade. Stort tack till vårt fantastiska team i Volkswagen. Inte bara för att de gett oss en fantastisk bil under hela säsongen, utan också för den unika solidariteten som vi har. Det spelar ingen roll om det går bra eller dåligt - teamet står upp för förarna och kartläsarna och det är extremt motiverande. Jag är lycklig och stolt att få vara del av det här teamet. Idag ska vi ha ett stort världsmästerskapsparty, det är helt klart!

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Grattis till Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia. De gjorde en stark prestation här i Spanien och förtjänar att bli världsmästare. Min kartläsare Miikka och jag försökte hålla kampen om titeln öppen så länge som möjligt. Tyvärr förlorade vi för mycket tid på gruset på fredagen för att kunna för att kunna ta igen det på asfalten. Jag var mycket nöjd med vår körning på asfalten men vi har en del jobb att göra på lösgruset. Vi tar itu med det vid nästa testtillfällen, men först ska hela Volkswagen-teamet fira i kväll.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Först vill jag gratulera mina teamkamrater Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia till titeln. De höll ut trots att Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila inte gjorde det lätt för dem. Vad gäller mitt eget rally hade jag tänkt att sluta bättre än som sjua. Men jag är nöjd med resultatet. En punktering på lördagen kostade mig mer än två minuter. Om det inte hade hänt kunde jag ha nått pallplats. Det var otur. Allt som återstod sedan var att jaga Thierry Neuville om sjätteplatsen. Vi missade den när vi var sena vid starten för den sista specialsträckan och fick tio sekunders tillägg. Men vi fick i alla fall en bonuspoäng i Power Stage - till Ola som fortfarande kämpar om tredjeplatsen i sammandraget för co-drivers.

Jost Capito, chef för Volkswagen Motorsport
-En värdig vinnare efter en fantastisk kamp under hela säsongen. Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia är värdiga gamla och nya världsmästare. Det stod emot trycket från Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila, utnyttjade skickligt sitt övertag och kom segrande ut från den här striden. De förtjänar all respekt. Alla tre förarna gjorde en fantastisk prestation, tyvärr hade Andreas Mikkelsen och Ola Fløene litet otur idag och förlorade mer än två minuter utan att det var deras fel. Med elva segrar under en säsong har Volkswagen satt ett nytt rekord. Det är tack vare hela teamet, på plats och i Hannover och Wolfsburg. Det är en stor dag för Sébastien, Julien och Volkswagen.

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Spain – Slutresultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3t 46m 44.6s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 11.3s
3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 1m 42.2s
4. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 2m 13.3s
5. Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai + 2m 22.2s
6. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 4m 01.0s
7. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen + 4m 02.9s
8. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 8m 06.8s
9. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai + 9m 12.4s
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Q/I), Ford + 12m 39.8s

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Spain – resultat Power Stage
1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen 10m 00.1s
2. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 1.7s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen + 1.9s

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställninge
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 242
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 211
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 150
4. Mikko Hirvonen 108
5. Mads Østberg 92
6. Thierry Neuville 91
7. Kris Meeke 84
8. Elfyn Evans 71
9. Martin Prokop 42
10. Dani Sordo 40
...............................................................
11. Henning Solberg 26
19. Pontus Tidemand 6

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 416
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 187
3. M-Sport 180
4. Hyundai Motorsport 175
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 133
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 45
7. Hyundai Motorsport N 26
8. RK M-Sport WRT 25
14-10-26 Determination from Kubica in Spain
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica overcame yesterday’s disappointment to gain further experience of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC and FIA World Rally Championship today.

Despite finishing outside of the points, the Pole’s determination resulted in some valuable experience of the RallyRACC – Rally de España stages.

Following what had arguably been his best ever performance on gravel, Kubica looked on course to secure what could have been his best result of the year. Unfortunately, as event turned to asphalt, the Pole suffered some mechanical issues over the morning loop and damaged the front-right wheel of his Fiesta during the afternoon which put paid to any hope of a strong result.

Despite his disappointment having missed out on a competitive run through yesterday’s speed tests, Robert was back on the stages today – eager to learn and extract as much knowledge from the event as possible.

Working to perfect their pacenotes, he and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak displayed real fortitude and will thus be better placed to progress on the dual surface stages of the Costa Daurada in years to come.

Robert Kubica (17th) said:
"Firstly, I must congratulate Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia for securing their second FIA World Rally Championship this weekend.

“As for myself and Maciek [Szczepaniak, co-driver], we have finished Rally de España with mixed feelings. During these three days there were some positives but unfortunately some negatives as well.

“I think we maintained a good rhythm today. I think the last stage [SS17] was one of the best for me on Tarmac, but still there was a considerable gap to the leaders which is strange.

“I think we have confirmed my theory that our pace on gravel is actually better. The Tarmac season has finished now and there is only Rally GB left to run – which will be completely different!"

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It was an unfortunate and disappointing day for Robert [Kubica] yesterday, but I was very impressed by his drive and determination to continue. He has a never-give-up attitude to everything he does which is very inspiring. He came back under Rally 2 regulations today and has gained some more valuable experience for the future.”
14-10-26 Hirvonen secures Spain podium
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen delivered a superb drive at the 50th edition of RallyRACC - Rally de España this weekend – piloting their Ford Fiesta RS WRC to the third step of the podium.

The Finn secured his maiden FIA World Rally Championship podium at the event in 2005, and repeated that same feat today.

Having established a strong base on which to build through Friday’s gravel stages, Hirvonen embarked on the event’s asphalt tests with his eyes firmly fixed on the podium.

Making the most of the team’s extensive pre-event test, he was able to draw confidence from Michelin’s upgraded Pilot Sport tyre. Finding a set-up which allowed the car and tyres to work in harmony, he set a string of competitive and consistent stage times which propelled him into the coveted third place.

Having established a 30 second advantage over fourth-placed man Mads Østberg, he embarked on the final day of competition with the situation fully under control. Driving to the splits of his rival, the Finn reinforced his lead to bring home a thoroughly deserved podium.

Having secured a strong haul of points, Hirvonen has strengthened his fourth place in the drivers’ championship as well as the team’s position in the manufacturers’ standings. The result also saw Lehtinen climb into third position in the co-drivers’ standings with just one event left to run.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, it was a difficult weekend for Elfyn Evans. Having to accept Rally 2 regulations following a mistake on the first day of competition, the Welshman was quick to put the disappointment behind him but found he was chasing the optimum set-up for the event’s asphalt tests.

Having made some changes to their Fiesta, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt felt more comfortable through today’s final stages and were able to extract more performance from the car and tyres.

Building their confidence as the event progressed, the pairing have established a good platform on which to build when they return to the Costa Daurada for the second time in a world rally car next year.

Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“I’m really happy. It has been too long since we’ve been on the podium and everything just worked perfectly this weekend. From the beginning we had a good pace on gravel and then really good speed on Tarmac as well.

“We had a good set-up and I like Michelin’s new tyres. They are a lot more progressive which I think suits me better and they work really well with the Fiesta. Everything just gave me confidence this weekend and we were able to set a really strong and consistent pace as a result.

“I’m really happy – and for Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] and the whole team as well. We’re finally back on the podium and it’s great to finish the weekend like this."

Elfyn Evans (14th) said:
“It’s been a difficult rally for us. Friday was very difficult and the two days on Tarmac were okay, but maybe not what we were expecting based on the previous events.

“I made too many silly mistakes on Friday. If we had managed to stay on the road, then I think I would have been happy with the pace but in reality we weren’t in any sort of a battle after that. Then on Tarmac we had a chance to play around with the set-up to find out what worked well and what didn’t work quite so well. Of course we’ve learnt a lot and as a result we’ll be sure to come back stronger next year.

“Now our attention turns to Wales and our home event. The preparation starts now and I’m determined to end the season with a positive result.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Mikko [Hirvonen] has been absolutely fantastic this weekend – he has a huge smile on his face and rightly so. He drove extremely well, on both gravel and asphalt. He and the team worked hard on our pre-event test and found a set-up that really suited both him and Michelin’s new tyres. There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes – by Mikko and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver], by the team and by Michelin – and this result is credit to all of those people.

“It’s fair to say that Elfyn [Evans] was a little disappointed with the way the weekend unfolded for him. Unlike Mikko, he struggled to find a set-up that best suited his driving style and had been on the back foot because of that. It’s something that comes with experience, but he felt a lot more comfortable today and was able to secure an additional manufacturers’ point for the team which could make all the difference at the final round in Wales.

“With just 12 points separating second to fourth in the battle for second place in the manufacturers’ title, I think that it is going to be a very exciting end to the season. If we can secure fourth place in the drivers’ standings along with second in the manufacturers’, it would be an absolutely fantastic achievement for the team.”
14-10-26 Mads Østberg gains two places
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson finished just off the podium at Rally de España, but nonetheless moved up two places in the Drivers’ World Championship standings. Thanks to the points scored by the Nordic crew, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team head into the final round of the season in second place in the Manufacturers’ standings. The WRC now moves on to Wales for the final event of the season. Wales Rally GB will be held on 13-16 November.

Fourth overall at the start of the final leg of Rally de España, Mads Østberg controlled his pace perfectly to the end of the race. The Norwegian kept a close eye on the splits of Dani Sordo to match the pace of his main rival.

He ended the only mixed-surface event on the WRC calendar in fourth place overall, scoring twelve important points in the process. His performance meant he moved up from seventh to fifth in the Drivers’ standings.

First on the road again today, Kris Meeke took advantage of the stages to add to his experience on tarmac without the pressure of trying to secure a result. The Briton recorded three second-fastest times today. Only the punctures he picked up at the start of the rally prevented him from scoring heavily again. He nonetheless added two points to his tally with second place in the Power Stage.

In the third DS3 WRC entered, Khalid Al Qassimi made it to the finish in fifteenth position. The Abu Dhabi Racing driver Mohamed Al Mutawa won the WRC3 category in a DS3 R3.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “It has been a very good weekend. This fourth place is an important result for the team and for me. We were competitive on gravel and we held our position on tarmac. I’m really pleased to finish fourth overall. I’m really looking forward to the start of Wales Rally GB. We’ll be able to push to try and finish in a good position!”

Kris Meeke: “I’m very proud of my performance during this rally. It’s just a shame that we weren’t able to be in the fight to score big points. The double puncture at the start of the rally, with only one spare tyre on board, has proven very costly. But we had the chance to rejoin the race. We had to refocus and the times were very encouraging. It was important to show that we were on the pace with a few second places on the stages. That will also be useful for the future.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “There were highs and lows. I didn’t drive as fast as I could have done. On tarmac, we were on the pace when the roads were slow and technical. In the quicker sections, I didn’t feel confident enough. I know where I was losing time, but I wasn’t prepared to take any more risks.”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “After a bit of a tough start to the rally, it was essential on today’s final leg to take home some important points for the Manufacturers’ standings. Mads achieved his target in defending his fourth position right to the end. He managed to drive at a sustained pace on tarmac. Kris also proved that he could be quick in setting a few second-fastest times. Rally de España therefore ends on a positive note for us. And that’s important for the rest of the season. We’ll head into the final round of the season with confidence and ready to defend our second place in the championship!”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS14 – La Mussara 1 (20.48km) – Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time as he chased down Sébastien Ogier, in an attempt to keep his slim chances of winning the title alive. First on the road, Kris Meeke set the second-fastest time. Mads Østberg held position. Sébastien Chardonnet, who had rejoined under Rally 2 rules this morning, took the WRC2 class stage win.

SS15 – Riudecanyes 1 (15.55km) – Jari-Matti Latvala was once again the fastest, ahead of Sébastien Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke. Mads Østberg set the eighth fastest time. Sébastien Chardonnet won a second stage in the WRC2 in his DS3 R5.

SS16 – La Mussara 2 (20.48km) – Jari-Matti Latvala kept up his winning run, again finishing ahead of Kris Meeke. Andreas Mikkelsen grabbed the third-fastest time to move into sixth place ahead of Thierry Neuville. Mads Østberg increased his speed in the opening splits before managing his pace towards the end of the test.

SS17 – Riudecanyes 2 Power Stage (15.55km) – Jari-Matti Latvala won the Power Stage, finishing ahead of Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen. Sébastien Ogier won the rally, giving him an unassailable lead in the Drivers’ World Championship standings. Penalised for having arrived late at the control point for the final stage, Andreas Mikkelsen handed sixth position back to Thierry Neuville.

FINAL PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:46:44.6
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +11.3
3. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:42.2
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:13.3
5. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:22.2
6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:01.0
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +4:02.9
8. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:06.8
9. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9:12.4
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +12:39.8…
15. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +14:47.7…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 8 – Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Andreas Mikkelsen, 2 – Kris Meeke, Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2: Andreas Mikkelsen
SS3: Thierry Neuville
SS4 to SS17 (finish): Sébastien Ogier

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 242 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 211 points
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 150 points
4. Mikko Hirvonen 108 points
5. Mads Østberg 92 points
6. Thierry Neuville 91 points
7. Kris Meeke 84 points
8. Elfyn Evans 71 points…

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 416 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 187 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 180 points
4. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 175 points
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 133 points
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 45 points
7. Hyundai Motorsport N 26 points
8. RK M-Sport World Rally Team 25 points
14-10-26 Midday quotes Rally de Espana, section eight
Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“It’s all good out there, no panic. The morning went as we were hoping and expecting so that was pretty good. It’s been a long season and we’ve not been on the podium as much as we’re used to. It would be fantastic for the whole team if we were able to do it this weekend because everyone has worked so hard all year.”

Elfyn Evans (14th) said:
“It’s been a bit better this morning. We made some changes over night and the feeling is better for sure. Now we just need to regain the confidence. We’re fairly happy, so we’ll keep the car as it is and just concentrate on the driving and improving ahead of next year.”

Robert Kubica (18th) said:
“It’s been an okay morning. The first stage [SS14] was new for us and very fast in sections. The pacenotes were not so great as there was a lot of traffic during the recce – it was not an easy recce for us on that stage. The second one [SS15] we knew from last year and it was okay with no big dramas. This afternoon we just need to continue checking the notes for the future and try to learn as much as we can.”

14-10-25 Opportunity missed for Kubica
Following what had arguably been his best ever performance on gravel, RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica had the opportunity to secure a career-best result as RallyRACC – Rally de España turned to asphalt today.

Unfortunately, the rear driveshaft of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC was damaged on the liaison to the first stage of the morning (SS8). Having made contact with their engineer, Robert and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak affected a temporary solution which meant they were able to complete the loop. But with only two-wheel-drive, they suffered some substantial time loss which put paid to any hope of a strong result.

It was a bitter disappointment for the team as the Polish pairing had the opportunity to battle for a podium position. Yet thanks to their quick fix, they were able to complete the loop and limit the potential time loss which kept them well within the overall top-ten.

With the issue resolved in service, Robert embarked on the day’s final stages eager to learn more about the event and further improve his skills. Unfortunately his day came to an untimely end on the first stage of the afternoon (SS11).

Tackling the 50 kilometres of ‘Escaladei’ for the second time, the Formula One race winner was caught out under braking and damaged the front-right wheel of his Fiesta. The M-Sport mechanics will work to repair the damage this evening and Robert will hope to restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

Robert Kubica (18th) said:
"We lost today's first loop because of a broken driveshaft and that is why the second pass was effectively the first one for us. At the end of SS11 there were a lot of cuts and gravel on the road and at one place it took me by surprise under braking.

“I cut a junction and we hit something with the right-front wheel. A suspension bracket bolt broke which meant the driveshaft became loose and it was not possible to continue as it was. We worked on the car at the side of the road and managed to fix it somehow then, when all of the cars had passed, we were able to drive down to the finish where a recovery truck was waiting.

“It was a real shame. After a very good day on gravel yesterday it could have been a similar story on Tarmac, but that is rallying."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s a shame that Robert [Kubica] suffered some mechanical issues this morning but he showed real drive and determination to complete the loop. Sadly, he was caught out under braking on SS11 this afternoon and damaged the front-right wheel. We’ll assess the damage when the car returns to service, but I hope to see him back out on the stages tomorrow.”
14-10-25 Mads Østberg just short of a podium spot
After one day on gravel and another on tarmac, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson lie fourth overall at Rally de España in their DS3 WRC. Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle continued their progress

After a 75-minute service period last night, all three of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s DS3 WRCs set off on the Rally de España roads this morning in tarmac configuration.

Mads Østberg started in thirteenth position. Involved in a four-way fight with Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Hirvonen, he found his rhythm on the new surface to comfortably establish himself in fourth overall. He will head into the final leg, also on tarmac, around thirty seconds adrift of the final podium spot and with a 22.1-second lead over Dani Sordo in fifth.

Having rejoined under Rally 2 rules this morning, Kris Meeke took advantage of the tarmac stages to continue to rack up the miles in the DS3 WRC. He even came close to setting the fastest time on SS12.

Still working on getting the balance to his driving right and on finding the right set-up, Khalid Al Qassimi ended today’s leg in fifteenth position.

The end of day service wasn’t quite on the same scale as yesterday evening. Forty-five minutes was sufficient to service the cars in preparation for the final four tarmac stages of the season.

Parc ferme will open at 6.30am. The crews will complete two loops of two stages: La Mussara (20.48km) and Riudecanyes (15.55km), the latter also serving as the televised Power Stage on its second pass at 12.08pm. The rally is scheduled to finish in Salou at 1.16pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “Today’s leg on tarmac boosted my confidence. I’m pleased with my performances. I worked a lot on using the tyres well, especially on the long stage and given the particularly hot conditions for this time of year. I feel that everything worked pretty well. We have to make sure of the result tomorrow.”

Kris Meeke: “It’s always difficult to get back into the swing of things after rejoining under Rally 2 rules. But it’s also an opportunity to learn about the stages. The result isn’t really all that important now. So I’m only concentrating on the performances. I’m trying to make the most of every kilometre and every corner!”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “To begin with, I tried to find the right feeling with the new Michelin tyres. I started to drive more quickly in the second loop. Unfortunately, the surface had become very dirty. So I decided not to take any more risks.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS8 – Tivissa (3.96km) – After spending the first day on gravel, the crews began day two on tarmac. First on the road, Kris Meeke got his first glimpse of this short, very uneven stage. Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time, whilst Andreas Mikkelsen grabbed third place overall from Mads Østberg.

SS9 – Escaladei 1 (50.00km) – The longest stage of the rally saw Kris Meeke pick up another puncture. Ahead, Jari-Matti Latvala tried to close the gap to the overall leader, Sébastien Ogier. Mikko Hirvonen also moved head of Mads Østberg.

SS10 – Colldejou 1 (26.48km) – Jari-Matti Latvala continued to reduce the gap separating him from Sébastien Ogier, at the front of the field. Positions remained unchanged behind, as Kris Meeke finished fourth on the stage and Mads Østberg was sixth.

SS11 – Escaladei 2 (50.00km) – The roads on Escaladei proved to be very muddy on the second pass. Sébastien Ogier claimed the stage win, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke. Mads Østberg took advantage of a puncture for Mikkelsen to recover fourth overall.

SS12 – Colldejou 2 (26.48km) – Kris Meeke came very close to recording another stage win but missed out by just 0.2s to Jari-Matti Latvala. The gap between the top two, Latvala and Ogier, dipped below the thirty second mark again. Mads Østberg held onto fourth place.

SS13 – Salou (2.24km) – The day’s short final stage, held just a few hundred metres from the service park, had no impact on the standings. Sébastien Ogier ended the day ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:29:04.0
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +27.3
3. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:18.6
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:48.3
5. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:10.4
6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:33.1
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +3:48.2
8. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +7:31.0
9. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:28.5
10. Yuriy Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +9:50.6…
15. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +12:23.0…

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, 4 – Andreas Mikkelsen, 2 – Kris Meeke, Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2: Andreas Mikkelsen
SS3: Thierry Neuville
SS4 to SS13: Sébastien Ogier
14-10-25 Hirvonen eyes Spain podium
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen secured his maiden FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) podium at RallyRACC – Rally de España in 2005. This year, at the event’s 50th anniversary, the Finn is on course to repeat that feat – sitting pretty in third place overall.

With the Ford Fiesta RS WRCs converted from gravel to asphalt specification during last night’s 75 minute service, Hirvonen was keen to start the day on a high and did just that with an impressive run on what is generally considered to be his least preferred surface.

As the only dual surface event in the WRC, the key to success is to affect a clean transition from one surface to the next; and Hirvonen had that fully under control.

Benefitting from the team’s extensive pre-event asphalt test, the Finn drew confidence from Michelin’s upgraded Pilot Sport tyre. Having found the optimum set-up, his Ford Fiesta RS WRC worked in harmony with Michelin’s hard compound tyres – allowing him to set back-to-back third fastest times through ‘Tivissa’ (SS8) and the first pass of ‘Escaladei’ (SS10) which propelled him into a podium position.

Embarking on the afternoon loop, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen continued to impress – another string of competitive times safeguarding their third place. As the event enters its final phase, the Finn has established a 30 second cushion over fourth-placed man Mads Østberg and has his eyes firmly fixed on adding another podium to his tally.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans was quick to put yesterday’s disappointment behind him. Getting back into the rhythm of asphalt rallying through the morning stages, the Welshman was able to identify areas for improvement and maintained that there was a lot more to come.

Working to find the best set-up over the afternoon loop, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt continued to identify areas for progression and will be well versed on the Spanish Tarmac when they return to the stages for the second time in a world rally car next year.

Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“We’re in a good position and on Tarmac as well so that is really good. I’m getting a good feeling with these tyres and the car – they’re just working really well for us. I’ve been really happy all day and we’ve not had any problems at all.

“We’ve managed to get a good gap between ourselves and Mads [Østberg] so I won’t have to go absolutely flat-out all the time tomorrow. I can control the situation and monitor his splits, but we still need to have a good rhythm. I’m pretty confident that we will be able to do it.”

Elfyn Evans (16th) said:
“On the whole I think it’s been a fairly difficult day for us. As we’re not in a specific fight we’ve been playing around with the set-up and trying to learn for the future. We’ve been trying to find something that suits my driving style a bit better but we didn’t go in the right direction this afternoon which made the going a bit tough. We’ll do some more changes over night to see if we can improve tomorrow.

“Mikko [Hirvonen] has done a fantastic job today and is really making the set-up and tyres work for him. We’re on a similar set-up but we have marginally different driving styles so it’s all about finding what works best for me.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Mikko [Hirvonen] has had an incredible day. He had a really positive pre-event test and I think that gave him a lot of confidence going into today’s asphalt stages. He knew that he could make the new Michelin tyres work for him – there’s more movement in this compound which really suits his driving style – and it was great to see him so happy at the end of the day.

“Elfyn [Evans] struggled a little today. Unlike Mikko [Hirvonen], he hasn’t been able to find a set-up that suits his style of driving, but that is the sort of thing that comes with experience. Of course he’s a little disappointed, but he’s building all of the knowledge and experience that he needs for the future. He’s made some more changes this evening, so hopefully he’ll have a better feeling tomorrow.”
14-10-25 Midday quotes Rally de Espana, section five
Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“This morning has been really good. We’ve made some small changes to the car since France and everything is working well. Also I was never so confident with the old tyre on Tarmac – I found them a little too precise and it was difficult to judge where the grip would be and how hard you could push. This one works much better for me.

“Of course I’m sure everyone else will learn and lift their pace, but our car is working really well with these tyres. Andreas [Mikkelsen] will push and will be learning all the time, but let’s see what we can do.

“I’m not going to let him get away without a fight. I had a really good rhythm in the long stage [SS9] and other than the brakes over-heating slightly in the last one [SS10], it was a great morning so let’s see if we can keep it up.”

Elfyn Evans (18th) said:
“It’s not been a bad morning and we had a fairly good run through most of the long stage [SS9], but I feel that we can get a lot more out of this loop. There’s certainly more to come, so I’ll check through the pacenotes over lunch and see

Robert Kubica (9th) said:
“The rear driveshaft broke before the start of the first stage this morning [SS8]. We only had two-wheel-drive, but we managed to make it through all of the stages and it shouldn’t be a big drama to get the car fixed in service.

“I couldn’t learn anything this morning as we only had two-wheel-drive but let’s see. This afternoon we will use the stages to perfect the pacenotes and learn more about this rally.”

14-10-24 Mads Østberg makes it trough the dust
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson lie third overall at Rally de España at the end of day one. After completing seven stages in gravel configuration, the DS3 WRCs will be converted this evening in preparation to be driven on tarmac from tomorrow. Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle picked up two punctures on one test, and were therefore unable to complete all of today’s stages. Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson ended the leg in thirteenth position.

Before the start of this, the only mixed-surface event on the calendar, Mads Østberg had warned that the first day on gravel would set the tone for his rally.

The Norwegian managed to combine speed and consistency, despite the hanging dust which held him up more than any other driver.

Second fastest behind Kris Meeke on SS2, Mads lost several seconds on the following stage when he caught up with his team-mate after the second of his two punctures.

Having grabbed a top-three spot before the midday service by setting a good time on the 35 kilometre-long Terra Alta 1, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver edged closer to the leader before the day’s final stage.

Once again slowed by the dust kicked up by Thierry Neuville on SS7, Mads saw the seconds slip away as he was forced to focus only on avoiding making any mistakes given the very poor level of visibility.

Mads Østberg therefore ended the day in third place, less than a second behind the second-placed driver. For Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, the leg was over on SS3. After starting the day with a stage win on Gandesa, the British driver was running in second overall when he suffered two punctures. Unable to continue with only one spare tyre on board, he had no choice but to retire for the day. The DS3 WRC will be able to rejoin on Saturday in its tarmac version, with a 20-minute penalty.

The longest service period of the year will take place this evening in Salou. In 1 hour 15 minutes, all the cars will switch from gravel to tarmac configuration. Tomorrow, the route is completely changed, featuring six stages, including two runs on the fifty kilometre-long Escaladei. The cars are due to leave parc ferme at 8.00am. They are expected back in Salou at 5.00pm for a city-centre super special stage before concluding the day with a flexi-service at 5.32pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “Overall, we can feel happy with our performance today. We just lost a lot of time in the dust. But it was important to prove that we were capable of being competitive. Our goal was to finish the first leg on gravel in the top 3 and we’ve done that. We have made a lot of progress recently on tarmac. I hope we can prove that tomorrow.”

Kris Meeke: “We went fastest on the first stage of the day. On the next stage, after three or four kilometres, I went off the line, ran wide and put a wheel off the road on a fifth-gear corner. I didn’t think that I had lost any time, but I felt that the tyre was beginning to deflate. We therefore decided to stop to change the tyre. When we set off again, we were still in the dust kicked up by the other cars. The team asked us to park at the side of the road to let Mads past. Towards the end of the stage, I realised that I’d also picked up a puncture at the front. As we only had one spare tyre, we couldn’t continue.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “I didn’t push too hard. My aim here was above all to have fun in the DS3 WRC. We tried to find the right balance, but I know that I can go a little bit quicker. We did some good work on the set-up, but tomorrow will be a very different day. If I have a good feeling on asphalt, I will try to drive a bit quicker. The long stage looks like it will be particularly tricky.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Barcelona (3.20km) – Held on Thursday evening in the streets of the capital of Catalonia, this tarmac stage brought the rally action closer to the fans. Andreas Mikkelsen won the stage. Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg followed one another in sixth and seventh positions. Sébastien Chardonnet set the 13th fastest time overall, better than any of the other WRC2 competitors.

SS2 – Gandesa 1 (7.00km) – With a light breeze, the Citroën drivers took advantage of the good conditions to record their first one-two finish of the season. Kris Meeke beat Mads Østberg to the win, and moved closer to the overall lead.

SS3 – Pesells 1 (26.59km) – Kris Meeke arrived at the end of the stage having suffered two punctures, thus forcing him to retire for the day. Hampered by the dust, Mads Østberg lost a few seconds and fell back to eighth overall. Eleventh on the road, Hayden Paddon set the fastest time. Thierry Neuville moved into the overall lead. In his DS3 R5, Stéphane Lefebvre was forced to retire.

SS4 – Terra Alta 1 (35.68km) – First on the road, Sébastien Ogier avoided the handing dust kicked up as more cars completed the stage. He set the fastest time on the longest stage of the day to grab the overall lead. Mads Østberg climbed back into the top 3 with the third-fastest time.

SS5 – Gandesa 2 (7.00km) – Mads Østberg grabbed another third fastest time to reduce the gap to Thierry Neuville in second. Sébastien Ogier extended his lead at the front.

SS6 – Pesells 2 (26.59km) – Mads Østberg maintained his good form to edge closer to the leader at the end of Pessels, a stage won by Thierry Neuville.

SS7 – Terra Alta 2 (35.68km) – A puncture forced Thierry Neuville to stop on the stage to change the tyre. He set off again in front of Mads Østberg, who was forced to drive through a thick cloud of dust. The Norwegian lost quite a bit of time and with it, second position, whilst Sébastien Ogier grabbed the stage win. Jari-Matti Latvala moved up into second place… In the WRC2, Sébastien Chardonnet stopped a few kilometres from the end of the stage.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:29:04.0
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +36.6
3. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +37.2
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +37.3
5. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +41.4
6. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +57.0
7. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:24.9
8. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:18.2
9. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:29.5
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +4:50.4…
13. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +6:13.9…

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 3 – Kris Meeke, Andreas Mikkelsen, Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2: Andreas Mikkelsen
SS3: Thierry Neuville
SS4 to SS7: Sébastien Ogier
14-10-24 Kubica gains on gravel
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica highlighted his improvement on gravel today as RallyRACC - Rally de España got underway with a string of predominantly loose-surface speed tests. Continuing to showcase his progression, Robert holds sixth place on the eve of the event’s Tarmac stages.

The day’s action consisted of two loops of three identical stages and the Pole was quick to build his pace. Following what has been a long stint on asphalt for the FIA World Rally Championship – with two extensive pre-event Tarmac tests as well as the sealed-surface stages of Rallye de France – he quickly adapted to the art of gravel rallying and worked to improve his pace throughout the day.

Hanging dust posed an issue for many crews, but despite his disadvantaged road position Robert was rarely more than a handful of seconds adrift of the fastest stage times – producing what has arguably been his best loose-surface performance of the year so far.

In spite of a small spin through the second pass of ‘Terra Alta’ (SS7), the Formula One race winner has established a solid platform on which to build and will be looking to display further progression tomorrow.

Robert Kubica (6th) said:

“I think that the driving has been good today, but we ‘finished’ the tyres on the Tarmac section [of SS7] and I had a spin around five kilometres from the end. There was a narrow section and we got some oversteer. Unfortunately I had my right hand on the handbrake as there was a left-hand hairpin immediately afterwards and I didn’t have any chance to recover the car. Apart from that, I think the pace has been very good.

“This will be my first time having to change so quickly from gravel to Tarmac so I don’t expect it to be so easy. We have a short warm-up but then we are straight into a demanding 50 kilometre stage so we will have to be quite clever with the tyres, with the car, with everything. I think it will be an interesting day.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Robert [Kubica] has driven well today. He’s shown how much he has progressed on gravel and I think that this has arguably been his best loose-surface performance of the year. It was a shame about the spin on the last stage [SS7], as without that I have no doubt that he would have been right in the battle for the final podium positions.

“It will be interesting to see what he can do tomorrow. These roads are as close as the FIA World Rally Championship gets to circuit racing – they’re wide, smooth and fast – and should hopefully suit him.”
14-10-24 Hirvonen in the hunt
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen is on course to secure a strong haul of points at the 50th edition of RallyRACC – Rally de España. The Finn currently holds fifth place overall and is in the hunt for a coveted podium position.

Following yesterday’s spectacular Super Special in the shadow of Barcelona’s famous Montjuïc fountains, the event resumed with a day of six predominantly gravel speed tests on which Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen showcased the best of their professional partnership.

As the late summer sun beat down on the loose-surface stages, dust made visibility an issue. Trusting his pacenotes, the Finn piloted his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a strong fourth place after the morning loop – just 0.3 seconds adrift of the third-placed crew.

Despite losing out to a resurgent Andreas Mikkelsen throughout the afternoon loop, the Finn remains on course to defend his fourth place in the drivers’ standings. Just 4.8 seconds adrift of second place, Hirvonen will be looking to make further gains on his championship rivals as the action resumes on asphalt tomorrow.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans displayed flashes of pace but was hampered by his later road position. The hanging dust made it difficult to read the stages, but the youngster held his own over the morning loop and was ready to mount a comeback with a cleaner run over the second pass.

Unfortunately, his Rally de España misfortune made an unwelcome comeback on the second pass of ‘Pesells’ (SS6). Running wide just five kilometres shy of the flying finish, the Welshman damaged the radiator of his Fiesta and was unable to complete the loop.

Thanks to the expertise of M-Sport’s technicians, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow. With their Fiesta transformed into its asphalt guise, the pairing will be keen to showcase further progression on the event’s renowned circuit-like roads.

Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“I think today has been pretty good. We’re not so far behind second place and there are many drivers that are really close so I think we can have a really good fight tomorrow.

“One of the hardest things in this rally is switching from one surface to the other overnight. I’m going to have to be awake in the morning to be able to change the rhythm and be competitive on Tarmac. That switch has to happen straight away.

“Of course the Volkswagen’s are really strong on Tarmac, but anything can happen so let’s see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans (19th) said:
“This definitely doesn’t seem to be one of the luckiest events for me and we’ve not had the best of days today. We had reasonable pace, but three big mistakes. The last one was enough to finish the day for us but fortunately the car doesn’t look too badly damaged.

“There’s no reason why we won’t be able to put this behind us and start a fresh tomorrow. We’re coming off the back of two very strong performances on asphalt, so we just need to reset and see what we can do.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think Mikko [Hirvonen] has had a really good day. He’s in what looks set to be a very close battle for the final podium positions and it’s great to hear him so upbeat at the stage ends. His confidence is high, and he’s looking forward to tomorrow’s Tarmac stages.

“Elfyn [Evans] was looking forward to showing what he could do on gravel. Unfortunately, there were a few small mistakes getting back into the gravel pacenotes. His mental strength is strong, so when he returns to the stages tomorrow I have no doubt that he’ll be able to put the disappointment behind him.”


14-10-24 Midday quotes Rally de Espana, Section three
Mikko Hirvonen (4th) said:
“The visibility is changing so much. In some places you can’t see anything at all and you have to slow down, and in others it’s not really a problem. It all depends on the surface, but when it’s bad, it’s pretty bad! It can hang on one corner, then there’s nothing. You start to trust that there’s no dust, and then it’s back again so it’s really tricky out there.

“Sometimes you just need to trust your pacenotes and go for it, even if you can’t see. We’ve tried to do that in places and I’m really happy with our position at the moment. Let’s hope we can do more of the same this afternoon.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“We were a little bit untidy in the first stage [SS2], but the second one [SS3] was going well until we got caught in some very bad dust. Maybe that was from Kris [Meeke] having a puncture two cars ahead, but there’s not a lot you can do about that – it’s just unlucky. Then we couldn’t get the car stopped into a very fast corner. We spun and went backwards into the trees so we were lucky to get away with that without any damage.

“It’s been a bit up and down with the rhythm, but on the whole it’s not too bad. We just need to concentrate on having a cleaner run this afternoon and see how we go.”

Robert Kubica (6th) said:
“The conditions have been very difficult and it was not an easy first stage [SS2] having to get back into the rhythm of gravel rallying. The last gravel event we did was Rally Australia and since then we had France test, France rally and Spain test on Tarmac, so I was a little surprised at times. We had one moment in which I lost the line in a corner and on this loose surface it was very slippery.

“Then the second stage [SS3] in particular was very difficult because of the dust. There were some very fast sections – at 140, 150 kilometres per hour – and you couldn’t see anything; you just heard ‘flat-right’, ‘flat-left’ but you can’t see anything so it was very difficult.

“But for us I think it was a good loop – no big dramas and some good driving.”
14-10-22 Klar for VM fire år etter debuten
Ole Christian Veiby har opplevd en rakettkarriere som bilsportutøver. Drøyt fire år etter at han deltok i sin første konkurranse, debutere han nå i rally-VM. – Det er en liten guttedrøm som går i oppfyllelse, sier han før Rally Spania.

Det er gått fort i dobbelt forstand etter at 18-åringen fra Kongsvinger bestemte seg for å satse på motorsport. For drøyt fire år siden gikk han på ungdomsskolen og debuterte i konkurransesammenheng. Nærmest umiddelbart beviste han sitt talent, og ble norgesmester i crosskart allerede i debutsesongen som 14-åring.
– Året jeg fylte 14 år bestemte jeg meg for å la fotballskoene hvile, og heller å prøve noe mer actionfylt. Det var litt frem og tilbake om hva jeg skulle begynne med. Jeg var litt inne på gokart, men valget falt tilslutt på crosskart. Og det gikk overraskende bra allerede med en gang. I debutsesongen i 2011 ble jeg norgesmester, forteller han.

Det var aldri snakk om noen satsing det første året. Kjøringen var bare på hobbynivå, men det skulle raskt endre seg. Med ferskt NM-gull rundt halsen, begynte han så smått å tenke mer seriøst på hva han ville med sporten. Konklusjonen var at han skulle kjøre enda en sesong i crosskart, før han skulle gå over til ungdomsrally når han fylte 16 år.

Ole har valgt å kombinere bilsport med skolegang på Norges Toppidrettsgymnas for å kunne få trent så mye som mulig.
– Når jeg først mener alvor med dette, så må jeg også legge ned det som kreves for å lykkes. Jeg lever som en toppidrettsutøver, og er blitt mye mer bevisst på akkurat det i løpet av de siste par årene. Jeg er disiplinert i treningsarbeidet og er veldig dedikert til det jeg holder på med. Folk flest skjønner nok kanskje ikke hvor mye arbeid som ligger bak. Du kommer et stykke på vei med talent, men talent alene bringer deg aldri helt til topps. I fjor hadde jeg rundt 300 timer med fysisk trening, i tillegg kommer gjennomkjøring og løp. Jeg hadde 190 reisedøgn, og skal også kombinere dette med skolegang. Så programmet er hektisk og jeg forsaker mye for kunne satse for fullt. Men jeg klager ikke, altså, sier han med et bredt smil.

Det er bare drøyt to år siden Ole Christian gikk ut av ungdomsskolen. Allerede da hadde han staket ut kursen mot rallytoppen. I debuten i firehjulsstrekker i rally-NM tidligere i høst, kjørte han inn til tredjeplass og sikret seg A-seeding på første forsøk. Nå venter langt større og tøffere utfordringer.

Derfor er det ikke så rart at det kribler litt ekstra i kroppen før VM-runden i Spania.
– Jeg har vært på mange VM-runder, og fulgt de store gutta på nært hold. Nå skal jeg plutselig selv stå på startstreken, og det kommer til å bli en lærerik og stor opplevelse. At debuten kommer i Spania betyr at jeg får en ekstra stor utfordring. Det er et vanskelig løp som består av både asfalt og grus. Jeg gleder meg enormt til å komme i gang, sier Ole, som vil kjøre en Citröen DS3 R3T, driftet av det finske teamet Print Sport. Han har med seg Anders Jæger i kartleserstolen.

Kongsvinger-gutten er en del av Even Management, som eies av blant annet faren hans, Erik Veiby. Der er rallytalent teamkamerat med Norges beste rallyfører Andreas Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen vil høyst sannsynlig sikre seg VM-bronse i Rally Spania.
– Andreas er en veldig viktig samtalepartner og en stor inspirasjonskilde for meg. Han har gitt meg noen gode råd før VM-debuten, sier Ole, som også retter en stor takk til Roy Snellingen, som er den som følger han opp mest i det daglige arbeidet.
– Roy er en fantastisk fin fyr å ha som sparringspartner og coach. Han har selv vært i verdenstoppen i motocross, og kan utrolig mye om trening og motorsport, sier han.

Før helga reiste han til Spania for testing foran løpet. Det hele braker løs med en kveldsetappe i Barcelona torsdag, før ytterligere 16 fartsetapper skal kjøres fredag, lørdag og søndag.
– Dette er enda et skritt på veien mot mitt store mål og visjon om en gang å bli internasjonal mester i enten rally eller rallycross, sier han.
14-10-21 Kubica ready for dual surface duel
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica will tackle the mixed surface stages of RallyRACC Rally de España next week as he takes to the Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

The Spanish fixture hosts the only dual surface event of the year and challenges crews to convert their driving style from gravel to asphalt with ease and precision. Robert’s technicians are also tasked with converting his Fiesta from gravel to Tarmac specification in just 75 minutes – providing the Pole with a car that performs to the highest level on both surfaces.

The event starts with an opening super special stage alongside Barcelona’s famous Montjuïc fountains on Thursday evening. A full day of six predominantly gravel speed tests follow before the crews head into the hills north of Tarragona for two days of asphalt rallying on the smooth, circuit-like roads of the Costa Daurada – the highlight of which being a 50 kilometre stage run twice on Saturday to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary.

Robert has only contested the event once before, but his performance was an impressive one. Winning last year’s WRC2 category with more than a five minute advantage over his nearest rival, the Pole set the fastest time through 10 of the 15 special stages and won all but one of the asphalt tests.

The Spanish Tarmac can become treacherously slippery if wet and the unpredictable autumnal weather of the Mediterranean can often play havoc with tyre strategies. Fortunately, there are few drivers with a better understanding of the changeable characteristics of an asphalt stage and Robert will be keen for further progression at the WRC’s highest league next week.

Robert Kubica said:
“Spain is a very untypical rally as we have to contend with two different surfaces. This year we are starting on gravel and it will be quite a long day. Then, we need to change our driving style very quickly and adapt to the Tarmac for the following two days. The same goes for the car specification.

“The Tarmac roads here in Spain are very nice and I am looking forward to competing on them. From what I remember, the gravel roads are very challenging. In some places they are very fast but narrow with a lot of stones next to the road.


“Most of the stages will be the same as last year. Some are mixed – partly new, partly used last year – but I think that the general characteristics of the roads will be the same as in 2013.

“This year's rally will be a bit more difficult however as we start on gravel and the previous rally [in France] as well as our pre-event test were on Tarmac. Also the Shakedown stage isn't representative of the whole event. Much of it is on Tarmac so the first gravel kilometres will definitely not be easy and we must adapt quickly to driving on the loose surface.”
14-10-21 Rally Spain, kampen om VM-titeln hårdnar
Kommer allt att vara klappat och klart? Eller blir det en superfinal? Kampen om VM-titeln för förare och co-driver hårdnar inför näst sista omgången av FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Spain som körs från den 23:e till och med den 26:e oktober. Fokus för uppmärksamheten vid den 12:e av 13 deltävlingar ligger på VM-ledande Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) och Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) på andra plats.

För de enda återstående konkurrenterna om VM-kronan är det enkelt. Den som vinner över den andre har nått sitt mål för rallyt. Skulle försvarande mästarna Ogier och Ingrassia få en poäng mer än deras enda utmanare Latvala och Anttila är VM-titeln för förare och co-driver deras.

Skulle däremot Latvala/Anttila komma före sina team-kamrater är det upplagt för den stora finalen tre veckor senare i Rally Great Britain.

Och sedan finns det ytterligare en aspekt i kampen om VM-titeln. Latvala/Anttila har i smyg blivit stora fans till Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N). Om paret som just nu ligger trea i mästerskapet slutar före Ogier/Ingrassia men efter den finska duon - som de gjorde i Sverige och nu senast i Frankrike - skulle det öka Latvalas chanser att bli världsmästare.

Men Mikkelsen/Fløene är inte där för att göra sina nordiska kollegor någon tjänst. Efter fem pallplatser i rad är norrmännen sugna på ta sin första seger.
- Jag har inte upplevt en sådan segervilja hos våra förare och kartläsare sedan vi gick in i World Rally Championship med Polo R WRC, säger chefen för Volkswagen Motorsport, Jost Capito.
- De kan alla skriva historia om det går bra för dem. Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia skulle kunna ta sin andra VM-titel i rad - helst genom en seger. Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila däremot vill hålla spänningen vid liv - också helst genom att vinna rallyt. Med fem pallplatser har Andreas Mikkelsen och Ola Fløene redan överträffat sitt mål att ta hem tre pallplatser till Wolfsburg den här säsongen. Men även de siktar på att avsluta sin fantastiska säsong på bästa sätt - helst genom att vinna. Teamet kan inte vara mer motiverat inför Rally Spain. Vi ser fram emot ett verkligt avgörande.

Bara en sak till, försvarande mästaren har titeln inom räckhåll
Uppskjutet men inte övergivet - det är Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassias motto inför resan till Spanien. Efter att ha misslyckats i sitt hemmarally i Frankrike siktar de nu på att framgångsrikt försvara VM-titeln för förare och kartläsare i Spanien. En enda poäng skulle kunna visa sig vara nog. Ogier/Ingrassia måste ta en poäng mer än lagkamraterna Latvala/Anttila för att försäkra sig om att titeln stannar i franska händer.

Det kommer dock inte att bli lätt. Både Ogier/Ingrassia och Latvala/Anttila har visat sin klass på grus och asfalt den senaste tiden. Rally Spain är det enda rallyt i WRC-kalendern med specialsträckor som till ungefär lika delar består av båda underlagen. VM-tabellens båda ledande par kommer att möta i princip identiska förhållanden. Ogier/Ingrassia går ut på grus som första bil dag ett med Latvala/Anttila direkt bakom. Samma duell utspelades inför spanska fans för tolv månader sedan då Latvala ledde efter de två första dagarna, bara för att se ledningen försvinna sista dagen. Som första bil var hans roll då att sopa bort lösgruset åt konkurrenterna bakom. Den spektakulära avslutningen 2013 gav Volkswagen sin första av nio dubbelsegrar för Polo R WRC.

Latvala håller spänningen vid liv
Vinna eller försvinna. Efter att Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila skrivit historia i Rally France genom att bli första finska duo att vinna ett asfaltrally på nästan 15 år, och på kuppen minskade avståndet till rivalerna om titeln, Ogier/Ingrassia, har finländarna nu en lika stor utmaning i Spanien. Latvala måste komma före Ogier - ju längre fram desto större blir hans chanser att ta VM-titeln. Egentligen krävs det en seger för utmanaren. Han ligger nu 27 poäng bakom den försvarande mästaren och förare/kartläsare kan få maximalt 28 poäng i varje enskilt rally. Om allt går Latvalas väg och allt går emot Ogier kan Rally Great Britain bli en drömfinal.

En seger till och Volkswagen sätter nytt rekord
Volkswagen har nu den längsta segersviten i rallyhistorien (World Rally Championship 2013 and 2014). Och flest segrar i rad under en säsong (2014). Och största segermarginalen av något märke i konstruktörsmästerskapet (2013). Volkswagen har tangerat eller slagit nya rekord alltsedan Polo R WRC gjorde sitt första framträdande i 2013 års Rally Monte Carlo. Teamet har nu en chans att lägga ännu en fotnot till sin framgångssaga. Skulle Volkswagen vinna en av de två återstående tävlingarna i Spanien eller Storbritannien skulle de tangera Citroëns rekord för flest segrar under en säsong. Citroën tog elva segrar år 2005 när WRC kördes i 16 länder, och igen år 2008 när WRC-kalendern innehöll 15 rallyn.

Full gas mot målet
Andreas Mikkelsen har redan överträffat sitt mål för 2014. Nu kommer den roliga delen. Med fem pallplatser, och två andraplatser på snö och is (Sverige) och på asfalt (Frankrike) har han gjort långt mer än någon vågat hoppas på inför säsongen. De två sista tävlingarna i Spanien och Storbritannien ger honom nu en fantastisk möjlighet att sikta på en första seger i World Rally Championship. Den norska duon har redan säkrat tredjeplatsen i VM-tabellen, bakom sina lagkamrater i Polo R WRC

Citat inför Rally Spain
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
- Vi hade otur i vårt hemmarally i Frankrike. Vi har mycket att ta igen så jag är till och med ännu mer motiverad att göra bra ifrån mig i Rally Spain. Julien och jag hade möjligheten att försvara vår titel i Frankrike men det gick inte vägen. Nu är jag absolut övertygad om att vi kommer att försvara vår titel i Spanien. Vi vann i Spanien förra året och jag mår jättebra. Jag har tränat mycket och är i toppform. Vi testade nya däck i Frankrike och de gjorde oss snabbare på en del specialsträckor. I Spanien är dock förhållandena helt annorlunda. Testet i Spanien kommer att ge oss ökat självförtroende.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Jag ser fram emot Rally Spain eftersom jag gillar den tävlingen. Vi har fortfarande chans att vinna VM-titeln. Jag har aldrig varit i en sådan här situation med två rallyn kvar att köra. Den första dagen är på grus, de andra två på asfalt. Jag tror att det blir en spännande duell mellan Sébastien Ogier och mig. Så länge jag har en chans att vinna kommer jag att kämpa. Underlaget är ganska hårt på grussträckorna men det täcks av ett tunt lager av lösgrus. Det gör att mycket sopas bort av första bilen. Det kan ge mig en liten fördel. Men å andra sidan kommer dammet i luften att försämra sikten. Vad som än händer passar karaktären på sträckorna mig. Jag gillar rallyt, vi har en bra inställning på bilen som jag känner mig bekväm med, både för grus och asfalt.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Jag kommer till Spanien ganska avslappnad eftersom min andraplats i Frankrike var tillräcklig för att säkra tredjeplatsen i VM-tabellen. Resultatet i Frankrike var viktigt för mig eftersom det minskade en del av trycket. Det kommer absolut att hjälpa mig i jakten på min första seger i World Rally Championship. Jag måste antagligen ta fler risker för att nå det målet. Jag har slutat som tvåa två gånger den här säsongen och jag närmar mig min första seger. Om det inte händer i Spanien så förhoppningsvis i Wales.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), ställningen totalt
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 217
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 190
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 143
4. Mikko Hirvonen 93
5. Thierry Neuville 83
6. Kris Meeke 82
7. Mads Østberg 80
8. Elfyn Evans 71
9. Martin Prokop 38
10. Dani Sordo 30

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 373
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 175
3. M-Sport 164
4. Hyundai Motorsport 157
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 127
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 41
7. RK M-Sport WRT 25
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 24
14-10-05 Latvala håller kampen om VM-titeln vid liv
Finskt party i Alsace - Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila vann Rally France och skrev samtidigt historia. Volkswagens duo är det första finska paret på nära 15 år att vinna ett asfaltrally i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Med deras fjärde seger för säsongen, den tolfte i karriären och den femte i Polo R WRC håller Latvala/Anttila kampen om VM-titeln vid liv. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) på andra plats gav Volkswagen sin sjunde dubbelseger för säsongen.

Fansen måste ge sig till tåls ännu ett tag innan det står klart vilket Volkswagen-par som till slut säkrar VM-titeln för förare och co-drivers. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) slutade på 13:e plats i sin hemmatävling. Men de vann Power Stage och fick då med sig tre viktiga bonuspoäng.

Latvala/Anttilas seger var Volkswagens 20:e i World Rally Championship med Polo R WRC - på 24 starter. Volkswagen har nu 38 pallplatser sedan debuten i Monte Carlo i januari 2013.
-Genom dubbelsegern fortsatte vi exakt där vi var efter det fantastiska resultatet i Australien, säger Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, i Volkswagens styrelse för teknisk utveckling.
-Alla våra förare körde på högsta nivå. Jari-Matti Latvala är inte bara en av världens absolut bästa på snö och grus utan också otroligt snabb på asfalt. Han är nu medlem i den exklusiva klubben av rallyförare som vunnit på alla underlag. Och vår stigande stjärna Andreas Mikkelsen är nu ett regelbundet inslag på prispallen och det är bara en fråga om tid innan han tar sin första seger.
-Sébastien Ogier visade sin klass genom att vinna Power Stage. Världsmästerskapet är fortsatt spännande och våra fans är otåliga att få veta vem av Volkswagens förare som till slut blir krönt till världsmästare.

Uppdraget slutfört
14 år, elva månader och 23 dagar, så länge sedan är det sedan Tommi Mäkinen var den siste finländaren att vinna ett asfaltrally i World Rally Championship. Det är exakt 5 471 dagar mellan Mitsubishi-förarens seger vid 1999 års Rally San Remo och Jari-Matti Latvalas vinst i Rally France 2014.

Den efterlängtade första segern på det här underlaget i Latvala/Anttilas karriär bekräftades klockan 12:47:33 på söndageftermiddagen. Och den kom till på ett övertygande sätt. Latvala/Anttila tog ledningen i Rally France på första sträckan och lämnade över den bara för en kort specialsträcka till team-kollegorna Mikkelsen/Fløene.

De vann nio av 18 specialsträckor, slutade bland topp tre på sex av de återstående nio sträckorna.Deras enda landsmän som vunnit på asfalt tidigare är Tommi Mäkinen och Markku Alén.

Rally France en utmaning på asfalt
Med sina snabba men smala asfaltvägar genom täta skoga och små byar är Rally France en verklig utmaning för teamen. De höga snittfarterna gjorde det till det snabbaste asfaltrallyt i WRC-historien. Med en genomsnittsfart av 115,07 km/tim är Rally France det tredje snabbaste rallyt 2014, efter Rally Finland (122,09 km/tim) och Rally Poland (118,5 km/tim). Volkswagen vann 17 av de 18 specialsträckorna med Polo R WRC. Volkswagen-förare tog totalt 42 topp-tre-placeringar under rallyt.

Mikkelsen/Fløene på pallen igen
Sverige, Polen, Tyskland, Australien och nu Frankrike - Andreas Mikkelsen firade sin femte pallplats för säsongen i Alsace och lade till ytterligare en höjdpunkt till vad som blivit ett drömår i värlsmästerskapet. Det blev också den fjärde pallplatsen i kartläsaren Ola Fløenes karriär och en värdefull sådan. Andraplatsen i Frankrike gör att Fløene, som tog plats vid sidan av Mikkelsen först i det femte rallyt för säsongen, klättrar till tredje plats totalt i världsmästerskapet för co-drivers.

Därmed ökar chansen att sluta som trea i VM för både Mikkelsen och Fløene. Mikkelsen är nu 50 poäng före Mikko Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford). Kan han behålla ett försprång på minst 28 poäng efter Rally Spain (23 - 26 oktober) är hans tredjeplats utom räckhåll för konkurrenten.

Först en miss, sedan en fullträff
En liten sensor grusade alla förhoppningar om en hemmaseger för Sébastien Ogier och möjligheten att säkra VM-titeln redan när två rallyn återstår. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia förlorade över åtta minuter redan vid starten på grund av en felaktig sensor och ett misstag med ett tidkort. När andra kanske valt att kasta in handduken kämpade VM-ledaren och regerande världsmästaren från 30:e plats och vann avslutande Power Stage och fick därmed viktiga bonuspoäng. Deras team-kollegor Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila kom trea i Power Stage och fick med sig en bonuspoäng. På 23 Power Stages sedan januari 2013 har Volkswagen-paren tagit extrapoäng vid 41 tillfällen.

Fortfarande öppet i tabelltoppen
Med en ledning på 27 poäng innebär Rally Spain, det 12:e av säsongens 13 rallyn, att Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia får sin andra chans att framgångsrikt försvara den VM-titeln de vann 2013. Tar de en poäng mer än Latvala/Anttila i Spanien är kronan deras.

Citat efter Rally France
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
- Vi fick ut så mycket som vi kunde den här helgen med segern i Power Stage. Totalt gick Rally France inte bra för oss men Julien och jag leder fortfarande värdsmästerskapet med 27 poäng. Grattis till Jari-Matti för en imponerande uppvisning. Jag vill tacka de franska fansen för deras fantastiska stöd. Det betyder väldigt mycket för mig och för Julien. Tyvärr har vi fått dåliga nyheter från Japan idag. Min vän Jules Bianchi har haft en allvarlig olycka i Suzukas Formel 1-tävling. Jag hoppas han återhämtar sig snabbt.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
- En fantastisk och viktig seger för oss. Jag har jobbat i åratal för att vinna mitt första asfaltrally. Tyvärr missade jag chansen i Tyskland men jag visade nu att jag lärt mig av misstagen och förbättrat mig. Med den här segern vill jag tacka Volkswagen och hela teamet för deras magnifika stöd. Alla rallyförare drömmer om att vinna på asfalt, grus och snö och jag är överlycklig över att ha nått den här milstolpen. Världsmästerskapet är fortfarande öppet och alla WRC-fans kan se fram emot ett spännande Rally Spain.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Ett helt fantastiskt Rally France för oss! Vi har förbättrat oss enormt på asfalt sedan Rally Germany. Vi känner oss mer hemma på det här underlaget än någonsin i vår Polo. Vi förberedde oss perfekt under testerna och fick till en verkligt bra inställning. Fredagen var superb, liksom lördagen - men vi kunde inte hålla samma tempo som team-kollegan Jari-Matti Latvala. Därför fokuserade vi på att säkra andraplatsen. Det känns absolut fantastiskt att ha lyckats med det på asfalt. Inte dåligt för en norrman, eller hur?

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
-Idag är en mycket speciell dag för Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila. Och för världsmästerskapet. Det är nästan 15 år sedan en finländare vann på asfalt. Med det här historiska resultatet har de hållit kampen om titeln levande. Det känns mycket bra att veta att det bara kan vara en Volkswagen-förare som till slut kröns till världsmästare. Men vi har ännu fler skäl att vara stolta idag, Andreas Mikkelsen och Ola Fløene gjorde en absolut fenomenal prestation genom att bli tvåa idag. Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia hade verklig otur på fredagen men vann Power Stage och gjorde det bästa av situationen. De kan fortfarande försvara VM-titeln utan att behöva förlita sig på andras resultat. Totalt är vi stolta över hela teamets insats och över vår sjunde dubbelseger för säsongen.

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally France – slutresultat
1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen 2t 38m 19.1s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen + 44.8s
3. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 1m 05.3s
4. Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai + 1m 48.7s
5. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 2m 00.7s
6. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 3m 00.8s
7. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 3m 02.5s
8. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 4m 08.4s
9. Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (F/F), Hyundai + 4m 12.9s
10. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 6m 07.5s
...
13. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 8m 36.1s

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally France – Power Stage resultats
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 9m 20.8s
2. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 9.5s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 12.9s

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), ställningen
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 217
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 190
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 143
4. Mikko Hirvonen 93
5. Thierry Neuville 83
6. Kris Meeke 82
7. Mads Østberg 80
8. Elfyn Evans 71
9. Martin Prokop 38
10. Dani Sordo 30
11. Henning Solberg 26

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 373
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 175
3. M-Sport 164
4. Hyundai Motorsport 157
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 127
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 41
7. RK M-Sport WRT 25
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 24
14-10-05 Tidemand fyra efter tuff helg i Frankrike
Pontus Tidemand var en av de segertippade i WRC 2-klassen i årets Rallye de France-Alsace och efter en kanonstart fanns det inga tvivel om att han tänkte vara med i toppstriden. Tyvärr ändrades läget abrupt efter en avåkning, men trots det visade Pontus sin styrka när han startade om, vann sträckor och kammade hem fjärdeplatsen.

Pontus inledde sitt franska VM-rally på bästa sätt. Den första sträckvinsten kom redan på den andra sträckan på fredagsmorgonen och efter samma sträcka gick han även upp i ledning. Konkurrensen var stenhård redan från start, men Pontus höll sig stabilt i topp tre under de kommande sträckorna.

Men på rallyts femte och längsta sträcka tog det roliga slut. Pontus och kartläsaren Patrik Barth, som gjorde sin VM-debut i helgen, var snabbast på alla splittider och såg ut att gå mot ledning - då kom smällen.
- Vi kom runt en snabb vänstersväng och mitt i körlinjen låg foten till en vägavspärrningsskylt, berättar Pontus. Vi hade inte en chans att väja utan körde på den, vilket lyfte fronten på bilen. Det skickade oss rätt av vägen och vi blev liggande i ett djupt dike. En riktig besvikelse, särskilt eftersom det gick så bra och kändes allt bättre för varje kilometer.

Olyckan tvingade dem att bryta för dagen, men lyckligtvis slogs "bara" ett styrstag sönder och de kunde starta om på lördagen. Med ett tidstillägg på fem minuter för varje missad sträcka placerades Pontus och Patrik dryga 15 minuter bakom ledaren och var därmed borta ur kampen om seger. De gjorde ändå en fokuserad comeback och tog sig upp till fjärdeplatsen innan eventets slut. De kan även glädjas över flertalet topptider, däribland tre sträckvinster, tre andratider och resterande tider inom topp fyra.
- Det här var långt ifrån vad vi hade hoppats på, men man kan inte göra annat än att ladda om och göra det bästa av tävlingen utifrån förutsättningarna, säger Pontus. Tidsglappet blev för stort för att kunna blanda oss i fighten om pallplatserna, men det är viktigt för framtiden att få med sig erfarenheten. Patrik har gjort ett superjobb som kartläsare och både rätta känslan i bilen och farten har varit där, så vi är trots allt nöjda med att vi kunde avsluta rallyt och få ett resultat.

Resultat WRC 2 – Rallye de France-Alsace
1. Quentin Gilbert (FRA) 2:48:56.8
2. Bernardo Sousa (PRT) +8.1
3. Sébastien Chardonnet (FRA) +2:07.3
4. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) +15:35.3
5. Jaroslav Koltun (POL) +29:27.3
14-10-05 Kubica´s impressive drive cut short
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica was on course to secure a career-best fourth place at Rallye de France – Alsace before a roll on the final stage relegated him from the results.

Robert adopted a near-perfect strategy for the event – gradually building his pace and taking every challenge within his stride. As he gained confidence with Michelin’s new compound tyres and the way in which his Ford Fiesta RS WRC responded to the Alsatian asphalt, his progression was clear to see.

Embarking on the event’s final four speed tests with a clearer understanding of the stages, tyres and car, he and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak were determined to achieve their fourth place target. Setting the stages alight with a fastest time through the first pass of ‘Forêt de La Petite Pierre’ (SS15), the place was theirs on the opening stage of the morning (SS15).

Unfortunately, Robert’s hard work was undone on the final speed test (SS18) when he misjudged the grip levels available – rolling his Fiesta and bringing an untimely end to his event.

Regardless of the result, the Formula One race winner can take pride in the progression he has shown this weekend. Driving well, he set a string of competitive times that prove he has the pace to challenge at the head of field on asphalt.

Robert Kubica (DNF) said:
"I made a mistake on the last stage [SS18]. I misjudged the grip on a wet part of the stage. On the previous pass I thought I was a bit too cautious there. Unfortunately on the second pass there was a lot of dirt on the Tarmac and I didn't make it. I am very sorry because of the chance I have lost this weekend. Gaining experience in a new sport sometimes gets frustrating."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Robert [Kubica] was on course to secure his best ever result in the FIA World Rally Championship before rolling on the final stage. Thankfully both he and Maciek [Szczepaniak, co-driver] where unhurt in the incident.”


14-10-05 Positive finish for M-Sport in France PO
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans finished Rallye de France Alsace in positive fashion today, coming away with fifth and sixth places respectively.


As the crews travelled north for two loops of two identical stages, both Hirvonen and Evans were locked in their own intense battles – the Finn 12.9 seconds adrift of fourth position and the Welshman 12.2 seconds adrift of seventh.

In the battle for fourth, Hirvonen refused to give up the fight. Becoming more accustomed to the characteristics of Michelin’s new tyre compounds, he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen produced a string of consistent and competitive stage times behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Although they may not have been able to catch asphalt specialist Dani Sordo, their determination and experience paid dividends – securing fifth place overall and some valuable championship points to strengthen their fourth place in the FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ standings.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans continued to prove his potential and is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with on asphalt. His impressive performance over the morning loop saw him take 12 seconds out of rival Mads Østberg to reduce the deficit to just two tenths of a second ahead of the final speed tests.

The Welshman was running at a comfortable pace, but when Østberg upped his speed through the second pass of ‘Forêt de La Petite Pierre’ (SS17), Evans’ racing instinct kicked in and he wasn’t going to let the Norwegian get away without a fight.

As the battle transformed into a final-stage duel for sixth place when Robert Kubica went off the road, Evans applied the pressure. Mission accomplished, he claimed the position on the opening split and topped off another highly impressive drive with an additional two points for the second fastest time through the Power Stage (SS18).

Having incurred a one minute and 40 second penalty following an electrical issue on the first day of competition, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt refused to let the disappointment dampen their spirits. Posting the second fastest time on each of today’s four stages the Brits are looking forward to showing further progression in the championship’s remaining two events.

Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“I’m quite happy with the way this weekend has gone. It would have been nice to have finished a little bit higher, but I think that the pace was really good in places. We just need a bit more consistency and to do some work with the set-up of the car so that it is better suited to the new tyres. Hopefully we can do that and take another couple of steps forward in Spain.”

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“We’ve had a really good day today and been strong on all of the stages. It was a shame that we had the problem on Friday, but we’ve had a 100 per cent record with the car so far this year and we weren’t going to let it get us down.

“The results haven’t been our main focus this year, but I didn’t want to let Mads [Østberg] get away without a fight and it feels good to have come away with the sixth place.

“Overall I think we’ve produced a very good performance this weekend and hopefully we can build on that in Spain where it would also be nice to show some more pace on gravel as I don’t think we’ve shown our true potential on that surface just yet.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Mikko [Hirvonen] has performed well on asphalt this weekend and he comes away with a strong fifth place which strengthens his fourth place in the drivers’ championship. He has shown some very good pace at times and once he has the consistency and the confidence in the new tyres then I’m sure he’ll be able to take another step forward.

“Elfyn [Evans] has been absolutely sensational all weekend, but especially today. He set the second fastest time on all four of today’s stages and proved that he certainly had the pace to be challenging for the podium. It was a shame that we had the electrical problem on Friday, but I was very impressed by the way he handled the situation. His mental strength is second to none. He coped well with the pressure today and came away with sixth place which keeps us in the fight for second place in the manufacturers’ standings.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT WRC DRIVERS
Dennis Kuipers (11th) said:

“This weekend has been very good for us and we have improved every day. The longer we are in the car and the more kilometres we’re doing the better it gets. That’s a good step, and it’s a pity that the rally is over now because we have really enjoyed it!”

Yuriy Protasov (16th) said:
“We had a problem with the rear driveshaft for the final two stages today so unfortunately we weren’t able to continue building our speed this afternoon. But I think that we have had a good weekend. After every stage the feeling is getting better. Our pace was much better here than it had been in Germany, so let’s see in Spain if we can keep improving like this.”

WRC 2
It was another fantastic performance for the Ford Fiesta in the WRC2 category as Quentin Gilbert secured victory for the Ford Fiesta R5 on his home event. The Ford Fiesta RRC of Bernardo Sousa finished a close second with Pontus Tidemand recovering to fourth place after his Fiesta R5 collided with a plastic bollard in the middle of the road on SS5.

A Fiesta won all but two of the event’s 18 stages and this weekend’s result continues the Blue Oval's unbroken string of WRC 2 victories so far this year.

Quentin Gilbert (1st in WRC2) said:
“It feels fantastic to have won here in front of my sponsors, my family and my home crowd. I think that we drove well all weekend. We knew when to push and we knew when to be a bit more cautious and I am very happy with the result. I don’t think it will quite sink in for a while!”
Pontus Tidemand (4th in WRC2) said:

“It was a bit unfortunate what happened on Friday, but I think that we can be pleased with the job we have done this weekend. Like in Germany, the speed was there. We set some stage wins and the feeling in the car was really good all weekend. Patrik [Barth] and I worked really well together and gained a lot of experience. I can’t wait to get my next opportunity to drive in the World Rally Championship.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Quentin [Gilbert] drove brilliantly all weekend and thoroughly deserves to take his first WRC 2 win in front of his home crowd. I have no doubt that this weekend’s result will boost his confidence, and rightly so.

“Thanks to his impressive performance, the Ford Fiesta continues its unbroken record of victories in this year’s WRC 2 championship and once again dominated the event by winning all but two of the 18 stages.
14-10-05 Meeke grabs podium spot in France for Citroen
Monte-Carlo, Argentina and Finland, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle claimed another podium at Rallye de France-Alsace in their DS3 WRC. It was also the seventh podium finish of the season for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, thus consolidating its second place in the Manufacturers’ championship standings. Stéphane Lefebvre finished fourth in the FIA Junior WRC round to wrap up this year’s title*. He will drive a DS3 R5 in 2015 in the WRC2 category!
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team began the final leg of the Rallye de France-Alsace with all eyes looking up to the heavens and glued to the weather forecast on the Météo France screens. The rain forecast for midday persuaded both crews it was best to opt for a mix of three soft and three hard compound tyres. Their rivals did not all interpret the data in the same way, opting to go with anything from five hard tyres only to four hard and two soft tyres.

Despite the large damp patches apparent at sunrise, at the start of SS15, the vast majority of the roads remained dry. Kris Meeke managed his pace to remain in third position and claim an important podium finish for the World Championship standings.

Meanwhile, Mads Østberg spent the morning fighting for seventh place. The Norwegian grabbed his first ever stage win on tarmac on SS17 (Forêt de La Petite Pierre 2). And he only missed out on a top-three spot in the Power Stage by a tenth of a second, scoring six points at the end.

Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye recorded a series of second- and third-fastest times in their category to finish third in the WRC2 in their DS3 R5.

Alastair Fisher grabbed his first win of the season in the FIA Junior WRC in the DS3 R3, ahead of Eric Camilli and Quentin Giordano. Thanks to his fourth place finish, Lefebvre secured the FIA Junior WRC title*. He will therefore be driving a DS3 R5 next season in the WRC2!

The World Rally Championship crews and teams return to action on 23-26 October in Spain at the only mixed surface event on the 2014 calendar.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “We were on the pace right from the very start of the rally. We then focussed mainly on protecting our position. I feel we have been very consistent throughout the weekend and that’s what has helped us to pick up another podium finish. I think we can still improve and get some better results soon.”

Mads Østberg: “I’m very pleased to have made it to the end of this year’s Rallye de France. We had a few problems which prevented us from showing our full potential. But that’s part and parcel of rallying. When everything was working perfectly, we managed to set some good times. There are many positives to take away from this rally, starting with the points we won!”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “The aim was to build on the knowledge and experience of the entire team at this event in order to fight for a place on the podium. Thanks to an exemplary performance, Kris Meeke has made sure we achieved that goal. This third place was important. Kris showed that he was quick and that he knew how to deliver a result. Mads’ rally was disrupted by a few technical issues. When he was feeling confident, he produced some fine performances. It has therefore been a pretty good weekend. With both our drivers finishing in the points, we have consolidated our second place in the Manufacturers’ standings.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS15 – Forêt de La Petite Pierre 1 (12.33km) – Running with soft tyres, Robert Kubica set the fastest time on the day’s opening stage. He finished ahead of Elfyn Evans and Andreas Mikkelsen. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished in the top 8.

SS16 – Forêt de Saverne 1 (19.36km) – First on the road, Sébastien Ogier went quickest on the first run on Forêt de Saverne. Mads Østberg produced a fine performance in fourth, whilst Kris Meeke protected his third position.

SS17 – Forêt de La Petite Pierre 2 (12.33km) – A first stage win at an exclusively tarmac event for Mads Østberg. The Norwegian finished this twelve-kilometre test ahead of Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans. Thierry Neuville moved past Bryan Bouffier into ninth place. Kris Meeke finished some six seconds behind his team-mate.

SS18 – Forêt de Saverne 2 – Power Stage (19.36km) – Sébastien Ogier claimed the stage win to take all three bonus points, ahead of Elfyn Evans and Jari-Matti Latvala. Latvala thus won his first ever rally on tarmac, finishing ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke. Fourth on the final test, Mads Østberg recovered seventh position after Robert Kubica crashed on the final stage.

FINAL PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:38:19.1
2. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +44.8
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:05.3
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:48.7
5. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:00.7
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:00.8
7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:02.5
8. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:08.4
9. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:12.9
10. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:07.5…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 9 – Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Andreas Mikkelsen, 3 (including 1 tied) – Mads Østberg, Robert Kubica and Dani Sordo, 1 (including 1 tied).

LEADERS
SS1, SS3 to SS18 (finish): Jari-Matti Latvala
SS2: Andreas Mikkelsen

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 217 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 190 points
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 143 points
4. Mikko Hirvonen 93 points
5. Thierry Neuville 83 points
6. Kris Meeke 82 points
7. Mads Østberg 80 points
8. Elfyn Evans 71 points…

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 373 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 175 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 164 points
4. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 157 points
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 127 points
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 41 points
7. RK M-Sport World Rally Team 25 points
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 22 points
* Subject to publication of the official results by the FIA
14-10-04 Meeke and Østberg aim for big points in Alsace
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle strengthened their grip on third position on day two of the Rallye de France-Alsace, as they edged closer to a fourth podium finish of the season.
Meanwhile, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson lie seventh overall in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s second DS3 WRC. In the FIA Junior WRC, Stéphane Lefebvre only has to hold position tomorrow to secure his first international title in the DS3 R3.

The night was short for the Rallye de France-Alsace crews and teams. Between entering parc ferme at the end of the first leg and returning to the service park for the start of day two, the DS3 WRC of Mads Østberg was parked for just 7 hours and 46 minutes.

The crews were nonetheless wide awake and raring to go for this morning’s stages. Third overall at the start of the day, Kris Meeke consolidated his position throughout the leg. Quick on the second loop, setting the second fastest time on Soultzeren – Le Grand Hohnack 2, he stretched his lead over his nearest challenger to over 47 seconds.

Fighting for fourth place with tarmac specialists Dani Sordo and Robert Kubica, Mads Østberg was slowed by an oil leak on the rear differential of his car. Forced to carry out repairs before the start of SS13, he was given a 70-second penalty for checking in late for the stage, demoting him to seventh overall.

After collecting two stage wins in WRC2 in their DS3 R5, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye also moved closer to another podium finish in their category.

Leader of the FIA Junior WRC round since SS7, Alastair Fisher held onto first position throughout this long second leg, made up of 125 kilometres of timed stages. This evening, he leads a quartet of Frenchmen: Eric Camilli, Stéphane Lefebvre, Quentin Giordano and Yohan Rossel. If the order remains unchanged, fourth place would be enough for Stéphane Lefebvre to secure the title and with it, a WRC2 programme next year in a DS3 R5!

There are only four stages left to complete tomorrow, with no service period. However, many crews highlighted the difficulties of these closing stages during recce. And the final day of the Rallye de France-Alsace traditionally provides plenty of surprises… The day starts at 6.05am, with the Power Stage at 12.05pm and the finish expected at the Zénith de Strasbourg from around 2.30pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “No drama on today’s leg. We managed to improve as the day went on and get closer to the times of the leaders. The gaps aren‘t set in stone ahead of us. We know that a lot can still happen on Sunday’s stages. The new roads look pretty daunting and the weather could make a big difference. Given the lead we have over our nearest challengers, we may even have the opportunity to try something in terms of tyre choice.”

Mads Østberg: “I really enjoyed driving the DS3 WRC on the first loop. We had a good rhythm and we were beating some of the leading guys on tarmac. On SS11, I started to feel a bit of instability on the rear axle. There was a leak on the differential. We decided it was better to carry out repairs between stages to be sure of making it to the end of the day. The penalty we were given for checking in late dropped us down to seventh. It’s disappointing, but we can still score some important points tomorrow.”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “We knew the challenges that this very long day would present. On such demanding stages, Kris and Mads made the perfect start on this morning’s loop. They grew in confidence despite the damp patches. This afternoon, Kris met his objectives by setting some very good times. He’s well placed ahead of the final leg. Mads had a technical problem. He managed to perform repairs and limit the time lost. He is also well placed to score points for the championship from seventh position.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS8 – Vallée de Munster 1 (18.90km) – Jari-Matti Latvala picked up where he had left off last night with a win on the opening stage of the day, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen. Kris Meeke grabbed the fifth-fastest time, whilst Mads Østberg was seventh.

SS9 – Soultzeren – Le Grand Hohnack 1 (19.93km) – On dry roads, Latvala stretched his overall lead with the win, finishing ahead of Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke finished fifth fastest and Mads Østberg lost a position to Robert Kubica.

SS10 – Pays Welche – Riquewihr 1 (21.49km) – The overall standings remained unchanged before the remote service in Colmar. Jari-Matti Latvala continued to rack up the stage wins to remain first, in front of Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke. Thierry Neuville moved back into the top 10.

SS11 – Vallée de Munster 2 (18.90km) – Yet another stage win for Jari-Matti Latvala. Elfyn Evans grabbed eighth position from Bryan Bouffier. Sébastien Chardonnet claimed his first stage win of the weekend in WRC2 with the DS3 R5.

SS12 – Soultzeren – Le Grand Hohnack 2 (19.93km) – Sébastien Ogier brought Jari-Matti Latvala’s impressive run to an end, as he went fastest ahead of Kris Meeke. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team moved back to within thirty seconds of Andreas Mikkelsen. A second stage win for Chardonnet in WRC2.

SS13 – Pays Welche – Riquewihr 2 (21.49km) – Mads Østberg had to repair an oil leak on his DS3 WRC’s rear differential, meaning he checked in late for the stage, and was handed a 70-second penalty as a result. Sébastien Ogier claimed the stage win, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke.

SS14 – Mulhouse (4.86km) – Jari-Matti Latvala ended the day with another stage win. Fourth fastest, Kris Meeke consolidated his third position after two days’ racing. Mads Østberg proved that his repairs had worked as he grabbed eighth position on the day’s final test.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:06:40.4
2. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +28.0
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +53.7
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:41.7
5. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:42.6
6. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:54.6
7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:04.6
8. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:16.8
9. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:47.0
10. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:03.0…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 9 – Andreas Mikkelsen, 3 (including 1 tied) – Sébastien Ogier, 2 – Dani Sordo, 1 (including 1 tied).

LEADERS
SS1, SS3 to SS14: Jari-Matti Latvala
SS2: Andreas Mikkelsen
14-10-04 M-Sport pick up the pace
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans picked up the pace as Rallye de France – Alsace ventured south for seven stages in the South Vosges. The pairing currently hold sixth and eighth positions respectively going into tomorrow’s final day.
Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen started the day ready for an intense battle for fourth place. The Finns struggled to find the optimum set-up to compliment Michelin’s new compound tyres on the faster stages, but having made some changes in service, the pairing reignited their charge over the afternoon loop.

Having the better of his closest rivals by some margin, Hirvonen was at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC through the second pass of ‘Vallée de Munster’ (SS11). Combining a stiffer set-up with a smoother, more precise driving style, the M-Sport man reaped the rewards and is just over 10 seconds shy of the coveted fourth place going into tomorrow’s final day.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt refused to let yesterday’s disappointment dampen their spirits. The pairing were fighting for their first FIA World Rally Championship podium before an electrical issue put paid to their efforts, but they refused to let that alter their speed or determination to progress.

Continuing to post a string of competitive stage times – including a number of fastest split times – Evans proved that he has the pace to challenge towards the head of the field. Using today’s competitive stages wisely, the Welshman concentrated on discovering the best set-up for Michelin’s new compound tyres whilst making his way through the rankings.

The youngster is now within touching distance of seventh place and will have his sights firmly fixed on fighting for the position through the event’s final 63.38 kilometres tomorrow.

Mikko Hirvonen (6th) said:
“It’s been good today – especially in the afternoon when we had a much better pace and a lot more confidence with the tyres. When you’ve been through the stages once, you have a better understanding of how the new compound will work. We had some added confidence from that and I think it showed.

“We’re still in a position to fight for the fourth place so I am very happy with that and I will certainly try my best tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:
“The morning was fairly strong for us, especially when we got used to the set-up changes we made last night. It took a stage to build up the confidence, but on the whole I think it was pretty good.

“We struggled a little this afternoon. The feeling in the car wasn’t too bad but the times perhaps weren’t as strong as they had been in the morning so we’ll analyse that this evening to see where we were losing and where we can make improvements.

“But as I say I think it has been another very positive day for us. Apart from a half spin – which was a bit of a clumsy mistake to be honest – we’ve kept it clean and the pace hasn’t been too far off what we’re looking for.

“Mads [Østberg] lost some time today so we’re only 12 seconds behind him now. We’ll see how we go tomorrow, but if the fight is there, I’ll certainly take it to him!”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen a strong performance from both Mikko [Hirvonen] and Elfyn [Evans] today. Elfyn has delivered some very encouraging stage times and he has achieved his objective for the day by getting as high as eighth overall. Now it’s important for him to finish the rally and gain the experience. Mikko is locked in what looks set to be a very intense battle for fourth place with all to play for tomorrow. With what could be some very tricky conditions on the horizon, I think we can expect an exciting final day.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Dennis Kuipers (13th) said:
“It’s been another good day. I like these stages better than yesterday, we had a good rhythm and our pace was getting better with each new stage which was also good. I was quite happy with our performance today. It was a pity that we had a yellow flag on SS13 and had to slow down, but these things happen and I think that the rest of the day went very well for us.”

Yuriy Protasov (14th) said:
“It’s been another good day for us and I feel as though we are getting better and better the more stages we do. We were given a nominal time having completed SS13 under yellow flags, but other than that I am happy with the day and with my driving. I think tomorrow will be another very difficult day, but I am happy to be here and to be getting more experience driving a world rally car.”

Quentin Gilbert (1st in WRC2) said:
“We are in first position again tonight which is really nice. It was a good day for us overall, but it was a difficult start as we lost 10 seconds to Bernardo [Sousa] as we had a small problem. We think it might be something related to the power steering or the differential. We don’t know for the moment but I’m sure the technicians will solve it in service this evening.

“Still we had good speed and we tried to push hard all day. We drove carefully in some stages as I prefer to save the mechanics as it is very important to finish the rally, but I really want to win here so that was also on my mind.

“Tomorrow I will push hard over the morning loop and then see where we are. Second place would of course be a good result, but to win here in front of my sponsors, my family and my home fans would be fantastic.”

Pontus Tidemand (4th in WRC2) said:
“It’s been a good day. We have won some more stages and had good speed all day I think. We took it a little cautiously over the last stage as we didn’t want to do anything silly on the final stage – there are some big gaps in front and behind so it was important not to do anything stupid there when we’re not in a fight.

“It feels good to have come back after yesterday to get the experience and keep improving the speed. It’s also good for myself and Patrik [Barth, co-driver] to have a full day in the car together. It’s working really well and I’m looking forward to getting back out again tomorrow.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Quentin [Gilbert] had some issues this morning so it is great to see that he is still in the lead of the WRC 2 category. He didn’t let the problem affect his performance. He kept his concentration and pushed hard and I think we will see another exciting final day as he and Bernardo [Sousa, privateer Ford Fiesta RRC driver] battle for the victory.

“It was also very encouraging to see how strongly Pontus [Tidemand] bounced back from yesterday’s disappointment. He didn’t let it affect him at all and continued to show good speed with some fastest stage times along the way.”

KUBICA SHOWS HIS CLASS
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica came into his own as Rallye de France - Alsace embarked on the second day of competition. Showing his class behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Pole set a string of consistent and competitive stage times that saw him climb from seventh to fifth in the overall standings.

Getting to grips with Michelin’s new compound tyres and the handling of his Fiesta on the Alsatian asphalt, Robert was able to up his pace significantly. Driving well on a risk-free strategy, the Pole produced what has arguably been one of his best performances of the year.

Renowned as a Tarmac specialist, the Formula One race winner combined his extensive knowledge with a highly intelligent approach. Fully aware of the challenges and pitfalls connected with this tricky event, he and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak adopted a near-perfect strategy by gradually building their pace as the weekend went on.

Their strategy paid dividends and Robert and Maciek are just 0.9 seconds adrift of a career-best four position going into tomorrow’s final day.

Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“I think we’ve had a good day and we’ve been driving well. Ever since the second loop yesterday I think that we have shown some good pace. There are of course still things to improve, but I think that is the same for most people on this event and that we can be satisfied with the job we have done today.

“I drove my own rally and will do the same tomorrow. For me, I think the most important thing is to have fun, enjoy the driving and gain the experience.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I believe that this has been Robert’s [Kubica] best performance in a world rally car to date and it is great to see his performance growing with each new stage. He’s done a great job to reduce the gap to Dani [Sordo] and is now just 0.9 seconds adrift of fourth place which bodes well for an exciting battle between the two of them tomorrow.”


14-10-04 Midday quotes Rallye de France, day two
Mikko Hirvonen (7th) said:
“I was surprised that I lost so much on the last stage [of the afternoon, SS10]. I did overshoot a junction, but still we shouldn’t have lost that much when we were relatively close on the other two [SS8 and SS9]. That stage [SS10] felt a lot more slippery than the others and I know that my car is stiffer than Elfyn’s [Evans] and Robert’s [Kubica] so maybe that’s where I was struggling.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:
“The general feeling in the car is positive. Even though the speed isn’t that different and we’re there or there abouts when compared to where we were yesterday, the feeling is much better.

“The stage times have been a little up and down this morning. Sometimes they’ve been good, and sometimes we’ve been a little overly cautious which has cost us a few seconds here and there.

“Overall I think we can be happy with our morning’s work. We’ll make a few little tweaks for the afternoon – mainly stage specific – and hopefully enjoy the rest of the day.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT WRC DRIVERS
Dennis Kuipers (12th) said:
“These stages are really fast but it’s been okay for us. I think these stages suit me better. They’re really nice and flowing and I can feel everything getting better the more kilometres we do.”

Yuriy Protasov (14th) said:
“It’s been a much better morning for us and you can notice a big difference being second on the road. These conditions are not easy as the grip levels in the first two stages [SS8 and SS9] were changing all the time which made it quite hard to judge. We’ve been taking no risks and I have been happy with my driving.”

MIDDAY QUOTE RALLYE DE FRANCE, DAY TWO
Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“It has been a good morning although we had a small mistake in the second stage [of the morning, SS9]. There was a corner with a cut and a hairpin straight after it. I took the cut and it was really muddy because it was humid. Then it pushed me out of the line and as I tried to recover the car I hit some concrete and damaged the [wheel] rim. The tyre was slightly off the rim, but it was keeping pressure so we didn’t lose too much time.
“I think the first stage [SS8] and the last stage [SS10] were very good for us and I hope that we can continue like that this afternoon. Of course the second loop will be a bit more difficult, especially with the cuts as it’s so unpredictable to know if the plastic bollards will be there or not. Even if the safety crews say that they are there, sometimes they are gone when we arrive. Also the ones that were missing this morning might be back this afternoon. It can be quite dangerous as there are so many blind corners in this event, but it’s the same for everyone and we’ll just see what we can do.”
14-10-04 Mekke and Østberg in confident mood in fracne
Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson ended day one of Rallye de France-Alsace in third and fifth positions overall in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s two DS3 WRCs. At its home round, the French team enjoyed huge support from local fans, who lined the roads of Alsace and Lorraine in their thousands. Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De La Haye currently lie third in the WRC2 category in their DS3 R5.

Back on tarmac after a good performance on gravel in Australia, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team was in impressive form again right from the word go.

After a strong showing in the shakedown, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle grabbed third place overall after the daunting “Vosges – Pays d’Ormont” stage (SS2). The British driver remain focussed on his initial goal to take full advantage of the qualities of his DS3 WRC. He ended the day in third overall, within fifteen seconds of second place.

In the other DS3 WRC, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson were in good spirits throughout the morning. Clearly in confident mood with the new tyres supplied by Michelin, the Nordic crew quickly moved into fifth position, battling to catch tarmac specialist, Dani Sordo.

In the WRC2 category, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De La Haye ended day one in third place in their Citroën DS3 R5, despite picking up a puncture on SS5.

At the end of the first leg, the Briton Alastair Fisher led this fifth round of the FIA Junior WRC, ahead of the Frenchman Quentin Giordano and the Slovakian Martin Koci. Stéphane Lefebvre, the current championship leader, had to settle for fifth place.

Saturday’s leg features seven stages and 125 kilometres of timed sections. An early start awaits the crews. Cars are due to leave parc ferme at 6.30am, returning to Strasbourg at around 8.20pm after two loops of three stages in the Haut-Rhin department, a remote service in Colmar and a super-special stage in Mulhouse.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “I’m very pleased with what we were able to show today. As has been the case in the last few rallies, we are in the leading group. It’s important to be in a good position to get as many points as possible at the end. Our goal is still to secure second place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.”

Mads Østberg: “The day went pretty well, really. I really like the Rallye de France stages. It’s still my favourite tarmac rally. Every kilometre we cover on this surface helps me to improve. We are going to do some more work on the DS3 WRC tonight. I can’t wait to start the second leg!”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “Our crews have enjoyed the performance of the new Michelin tyres. This is an important point, because this is our first experience of the tyres in a competitive setting. It has been good so far. We are very much in line with the objectives we set for this event. Kris is within striking distance of the top two. He produced some fine performances and he is getting better with each rally. Mads is not far behind Dani Sordo. Although he found the handling of the car more difficult in the second loop, he managed to stay focussed throughout today’s leg. He needs to consolidate his position more tomorrow. It’ll be another tough day, with some new sections. But our drivers can feel confident about tackling them.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Col de la Charbonnière 1 (11.11km) – Conditions were perfect at the start of the opening stage. Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time, ahead of Sébastien Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke, all separated by less than a second. Mads Østberg set the seventh fastest time.

SS2 – Vosges – Pays d’Ormont 1 (34.34km) – A technical problem resulted in Sébastien Ogier losing over four minutes. Andreas Mikkelsen beat Kris Meeke to the stage win to become the new overall leader, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke. Mads Østberg set the sixth-fastest time to move up a place in the overall standings.

SS3 – Pays de Salm 1 (9.59km) – Jari-Matti Latvala reclaimed the lead by beating Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke on this stage. As the crews headed for the midday service, Meeke was third overall and Østberg held sixth position.

SS4 – Col de la Charbonnière 2 (11.11km) – Mikkelsen won the stage to narrow the gap to Latvala but still trailed him in the overall standings. Kris Meeke was just behind the front two, waiting to pounce, whilst Mads Østberg moved up to fifth place.

SS5 – Vosges – Pays d’Ormont 2 (34.34km) – On the second run on the day’s decisive stage, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg consolidated their positions in the overall standings, still led by Jari-Matti Latvala.

SS6 – Pays de Salm 2 (9.59km) – Ahead of the final stage of the day held in Strasbourg, Kris Meeke stayed on the pace in third overall. Just behind him, Mads Østberg matched Dani Sordo in their fight for fourth position.

SS7 – Strasbourg (4.86km) – Joint fastest time for Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen on the streets of Strasbourg. Kris Meeke ended the day with the fourth fastest performance, whilst Mads Østberg finished ninth. The overall standings remained unchanged.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:01:42.9
2. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +8.2
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +23.1
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +51.2
5. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:01.9
6. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:02.9
7. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:04.7
8. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:45.7
9. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:24.1
10. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:28.1…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 4 – Andreas Mikkelsen, 3 (including 1 tied) – Dani Sordo, 1 (including 1 tied).

LEADERS
SS1, SS3 to SS7: Jari-Matti Latvala
SS2: Andreas Mikkelsen
14-10-03 Evans´impressive pace goes unrewarded
Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans looked on course to deliver his best ever performance behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC today. The Welshman was running in a strong fourth place during the opening phases of Rallye de France – Alsace and was in contention to challenge for the podium before an electrical issue put paid to his efforts.

Battling on, Evans climbed back into a points paying position with Mikko Hirvonen flying the M-Sport flag in the intense battle for fourth place. The Finn is currently sixth overall, just one second adrift of his closest rival.

After the first three stages, Evans was proving that his impressive performance at last month’s Rallye Deutschland would not be a one off. He may not have had the perfect set-up for the morning loop, but the times came naturally to the young Welshman. Unfortunately however, his hard work and progression was to go unrewarded.

Having noticed a warning light at the end of SS3, Evans knew that getting his Fiesta RS WRC back to service would require all of his determination and good fortune. Despite the team’s best efforts, the electronics failed within sight of the regroup and he and co-driver Daniel Barritt had no option but to push their Fiesta the remaining distance.

It was a huge effort from the pairing which kept them in the rally, but having checked in to the time control 10 minutes late, they incurred a one minute and forty second penalty.

Regardless of his misfortune, Evans can take encouragement from the impressive pace he has shown today. Taking another step forward in his development, he climbed to 10th position overall and will now concentrate on clawing back as many points as possible for M-Sport’s championship campaign.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Hirvonen struggled to get to grips with Michelin’s new compounds over the morning loop, but having made some set-up changes in service he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were able to up their pace considerably.

Setting a string of competitive stage times, the Finns climbed to sixth place overall and are within touching distance of a strong finish having had the better of their nearest rivals throughout the afternoon.

Mikko Hirvonen (6th) said:
“This afternoon was a lot better than this morning. We made some changes to the car and the more mileage we did with the tyres, the better it got and the better we understood how to use them in these conditions.

“It was a lot better and I was happy. Now I’m more on the pace that I was looking for. I’m catching the boys in front and can hopefully challenge for fourth place and some good points over the next couple of days."

Elfyn Evans (10th) said:
“It was obviously really disappointing what happened this morning as we were going really well, but these things happen and you just have to pick yourself up and get on with what you came here to do.

“We gained a lot of knowledge today about the tyres and how the car works on the characteristics of this event. I think that our pace has been good, so now we just need to concentrate on that – keep progressing, keep learning and keep improving the pace as the weekend goes on.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen some great pace from Elfyn [Evans] today with some fastest sector times which is really encouraging. It was a shame that we had an issue with the alternator, but he hasn’t let it affect him and he’s continued to display good speed.

“Mikko [Hirvonen] found the best set-up for the new tyres this afternoon and he is now in the battle for fourth. Knowing Mikko, he won’t give up on that position without a fight!”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Dennis Kuipers (12th) said:
“It’s been a good afternoon for us with no problems and no dramas. The pace up front is really quick so to push hard is not so easy. But we’re getting more confidence with each new kilometre and the rhythm is getting better all the time. Let’s see what happens tomorrow when I hope we can continue like that.”

Yuriy Protasov (14th) said:
“We made some changes to the pacenotes in service and everything was a lot better this afternoon. Ott [Tanak] and Kuldar [Sikk] did a really good job as our safety crew and they helped us a lot with the pacenotes.

“This car is amazing to drive, but it is so different to what I am used to so it is going to take a little getting used to. I’m getting a better feeling all the time. I’m happy to be here and I was happy with our improvement this afternoon.”

Quentin Gilbert (1st in WRC2) said:
“We have had a really good day and it is fantastic to be leading my home event. Of course there is a long way to go, but we have had a really clean run so far and if we can continue like this then I think we will be on course for a really good result.”

Pontus Tidemand (Rally 2) said:
“Everything was going to plan this morning and I was pleased with our performance, but unfortunately it didn’t quite go to plan this afternoon. There are some bollards on the stages to stop the drivers from cutting and on SS5 one of these was on the middle of the road. We hit it, the car lifted, and we went off.

“There was nothing we could do, but this is rallying and sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. I was pleased with our pace so tomorrow we just need to come back and continue as we were this morning. This is rally, and sometimes it happens.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Considering Quentin’s [Gilbert] participation at this event came very last minute, I think he’s done a fantastic job. He’s stayed out of trouble, showed good speed, and has a solid lead going into tomorrow’s second day.

“Pontus [Tidemand] too was showing some really good pace. I think he was very unlucky. He hit one of the bollards that had been pulled onto the road but I have no doubt that he’ll be straight back on the pace when he re-joins tomorrow.”

SOLID START FOR KUBICA IN FRANCE
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica got his Rallye de France off to a solid start today. The popular Pole delivered a consistent performance that sees him well placed inside the top-ten in seventh position overall.

Robert may be a Tarmac specialist, but there are many new things for him to discover this weekend. Not only is this his first experience of the French asphalt with a world rally car but many of the stages are unfamiliar to the Formula One race winner who also has to get to grips with Michelin’s new tyre compounds – updated versions of the Pilot Sport.

Having delivered a smooth drive over the morning loop, he and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak altered the set-up of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC to get the most out of the tyres through the afternoon speed tests. Improving their pace significantly, the pairing posted the third fastest time through the second pass of ‘Pays de Salm’ (SS6).

As he continues to gain knowledge of the car, tyres and stages Robert will be looking to make further gains as the event continues and is well placed to secure his best performance of the year.

Robert Kubica (7th) said:
“It’s been an okay afternoon for us. We had another clean run apart from a spin on the second stage [of the afternoon, SS5]. I lost a bit of concentration into a hairpin and we had to reverse and lost about 10 seconds. After that I told myself that I had to reset, and I was really happy with my driving and the time on the next one [SS6].”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Robert [Kubica] has had a really good day. The spin he had on SS5 was quite a big one, so I think he was relieved to have got away with that, and then to go on and set a fantastic time on the following stage [SS6]. He’s right in that battle for fourth and in a great position to fight for what could be his best result of the year.”


14-10-03 Mads Østberg – Rally Frankrike dag 1
Mads Østberg og Jonas Andersson er på god vei til en bra plassering i Frankrike. Etter første dag og 7 kjørte prøver ligger duoen på en femte plass totalt, med bare 10 sekunder opp til asfalt-spesialisten Dani Sordo som har fjerdeplassen.
- Det har vært en bra dag på jobben, og jeg er godt fornøyd med å være på femte plass totalt, det er jo ikke så langt opp til asfalt-spesialisten Dani Sordo! Blir mer og mer komfortabel med å kjøre på asfalt, og hver meter er nyttig erfaring. Formiddagen var helt klart bedre enn ettermiddagen, men vi tapte ikke så mye tid og etter en service i kveld er bilen klar for dag 2.

Mads Østberg og Jonas Andersson startet dag 1 av Rally Frankrike forsiktig, men allerede på SS3 kjørte de inn til tredje raskeste tid. På ettermiddagens gjennomkjøring av de samme prøvene, stemte det ikke like bra, men gutta klarte allikevel å minimere tidstapet, og klarte å holde plasseringen. – Det var ett eller annet med bilen i ettermiddag, men uten service var det ikke mulig å finne ut av det. Stoler på at teamet fikser det på service nå i kveld, sier Mads.

Jari-Matti Latvala leder Rally Frankrike etter første dag, mens Andreas Mikkelsen er på andre plass. Mads’ teamkollega, Kris Meeke, ligger på tredje, mens Dani Sordo har fjerdeplassen, like foran Mads som er på femte. Sebastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville og Elfyn Evans har alle hatt problemer, og ligger ett stykke ned på resultatlista.

Rally Frankrike fortsetter med 7 nye fartsprøver lørdag.
Resultat totalt dag 1 – Rally Frankrike
1. Latvala, VW
2. Mikkelsen, VW +8,2
3. Meeke, Citroën +23,1
4. Sordo, Hyundai +51,2
5. Mads, Citroën +1.01,9
6. Hirvonen, Ford +1.02,9
7. Kubica, Ford +1.04,7

Tidsplan lørdag 4 oktober
08:30 SS8 Vallée de Munster 1 (18,90km)
09:12 SS9 Soultzeren – Le Grand Hohnack 1 (19,93km)
09:46 SS10 Pays Welche – Riquewihr 1 (21,49km)
Remote Service Colmar
12:28 SS11 Vallée de Munster 2 (18,90km)
13:10 SS12 Soultzeren – Le Grand Hohnack 2 (19,93km)
13:44 SS13 Pays Welche – Riquewihr 2 (21,49km)
18:00 SS14 Mulhouse (4,86km)

Tidsplan søndag 5 oktober
07:30 SS15 Foret de La Petite Pierre 1 (12,33km)
08:18 SS16 Foret de Saverne 1 (19,36km)
10:34 SS17 Foret de La Petite Pierre 2 (12,33km)
12:00 SS18 Foret de Saverne 2 (PowerStage) (19,36km)Mads Østberg – Rally Frankrike dag 1
14-10-03 Midday wuote Rallye de France, day one
Elfyn Evans (4th +penalty) said:
“It was all going really well this morning. I didn’t have a great feeling with the set-up, but it was good to see that the times were coming so naturally, even without a perfect feeling in the car. Then at the end of the stage we had a warning light appear on the dash and the car stopped on the liaison back to service. We had no choice but to push the car into regroup, which wasn’t easy!

“It’s obviously very disappointing but I think that we can be encouraged by the times we were able to set. There’s still a long way to go, so we just need to continue as we have and try to claw back as many points as possible.”

Mikko Hirvonen (8th) said:
“I was struggling with the tyres quite a lot and the set-up wasn’t quite right. The car is over-steering a lot so we need to make some changes to make it [the set-up] similar to what it was in Germany as I was much happier with the car there. Hopefully then we can have better pace.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT WRC DRIVERS
Dennis Kuipers (11th) said:
“It took a while to get used to the new tyres this morning as we didn’t have the opportunity to do a lot of testing with them, but the rhythm is coming and I was pleased with the driving on the last stage [of the morning, SS3]”

Yuriy Protasov (12th WRC) said:
“This morning has been an okay morning for us. We want to build on our speed throughout the weekend, but we have made no mistakes and taken no risks, which is the most important thing for the moment.”

MIDDAY QUOTE RALLYE DE FRANCE, DAY ONE
Robert Kubica (7th) said:
“It’s been an okay morning – we’ve been driving smoothly with no mistakes. The first two stages were quite slippery so it was hard to believe how much grip there was in the last one [SS3]. The tyres were up to temperature and everything worked well.”

14-09-30 Pontus Tidemand redo för den franska utmaningen i Rally-VM
För ett år sedan blev han korad juniorvärldsmästare i Rallye de France-Alsace. Nu är Pontus Tidemand tillbaka i Frankrikes VM-rally i sin tredje tävling med M-Sports Ford Fiesta R5 och med fantastiska resultat i bagaget är han redo att attackera de franska asfaltvägarna.

Utöver deltagandet i värstingklassen WRC i Rally Sweden, har Pontus medverkat i två VM-deltävlingar det här året. Då i WRC 2 där han slutat på pallen i båda tävlingarna - en tredjeplats i Portugal i april och i augusti tog han hem segern i Tyskland.
- Trots att jag bara har kört två deltävlingar i klassen så är jag otroligt nöjd med utvecklingen jag har haft, berättar Pontus. Portugal var min första tävling med R5:an och jag trivdes i den direkt och det kändes bättre och bättre för varje sträcka. Det gick också bra att ställa om sig från grus till asfalt och vinsten i Tyskland är det största resultatet så här långt i min karriär.

Rallye de France-Alsace är längdmässigt årets kortaste tävling i serien med strax över 300 km uppdelat på 18 specialsträckor. Det är också en av de populäraste tävlingarna för åskådare och storpublik väntas till stadssträckan i värdstaden Strasbourg på fredag kväll. Det som karaktäriserar eventet är blandningen av smala, tekniska och snabba vägsträckor och den strategiska utmaningen med däckval då vädret över Vosges-bergen är oberäkneligt med regn och fallande temperaturer. Tävlingen innehåller också sträckor genom vingårdar, av bredare slag än de i Tysklands VM-rally, och branta stigningar i bergen.

Med sig har Pontus co-drivern Patrik Barth, som VM-debuterar som kartläsare den här helgen. De gjorde sin första tävling tillsammans i en WRC-Ford i Norge i somras och tog sitt teamwork ytterligare ett steg vidare när de gjorde rekognoseringen av sträckorna för Rally Finland.
- Patrik är ambitiös och duktig och det ska bli riktigt kul att få göra vår första VM-tävling ihop, säger Pontus. Vi har förberett oss grundligt och när vi var på test i måndags fungerade allt exemplariskt. Givetvis sätter vi höga mål och ska göra allt vi kan för att toppa resultatlistan på söndag, men vi vet också att det är en lång väg dit och vad som helst kan hända i rally.

Rallye de France-Alsace inleds med shakedown och ceremoniell start på torsdag och på fredag morgon väntar den första specialsträckan. Efter tre kompakta tävlingsdagar sker målgången strax efter lunchtid på söndag med prisutdelning på eftermiddagen.
14-09-30 French asphalt awaits Kubica
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica will return to his preferred surface this week as he tackles the asphalt roads of Rallye de France – Alsace with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The Pole will be on familiar territory having claimed victory on the Alsatian roads as part of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) premier support series last year. Well versed on the French asphalt, he knows how to tame the tricky stages having set the fastest WRC 2 time on all but four of last year’s 20 speed tests.

Stepping up to a top-specification world rally car this season, Robert is aware of the new challenges that lay in wait but remains upbeat about his prospects of further progression at the WRC’s highest league.

The French fixture forms one of the championship’s most popular rounds but the unpredictable conditions make for a daunting event. Thankfully there are few drivers with a better understanding of how the grip and characteristics of a Tarmac stage can change with the conditions and Robert will be sure to apply all of his knowledge.

The stages traverse the Vosges Mountains which brings an ever-present threat of rain. Tyre selection can often make all the difference and the crews rely heavily on their safety crews for all of the latest information from the rally route.

The drivers will also need to become quickly accustomed to Michelin’s new range of tyres which will be used for the first this week. The French company has upgraded its Pilot Sport rubber in both the soft and hard compound and Robert spent two days testing the new tyres last week.

Come rain or shine, the French speed tests are a sight to behold with top speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, undulating forest roads, steep mountain climbs and long corners that require the utmost precision.

Robert Kubica said:
“We had two days of testing last week. The main topics were the new tyres as Michelin have introduced completely new soft and hard compounds for this event. We tried a lot of different solutions to get the best feeling with the car and the best feedback as to how the new tyres work in various conditions.

“This will be my second time at Rallye de France and I am looking forward to it. Only three stages are exactly the same as last year – the rest is completely new or at least different from 2013 – so again we will be experiencing a lot of kilometres on new roads. Last year the rally was divided into two different characteristics – vineyard stages and more open roads with some forest sections. It seems that this year the vineyards are gone.

“It can be an interesting rally as a lot can depend on the weather. I am looking forward to seeing how the new tyres work in proper rally conditions. From the test we saw that the feeling and the way in which the tyres work is quite different, but I like it, so let’s see what happens.”

14-09-30 Ogier kan avgöra VM i Rally France
Duellen mellan Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) och Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) kommer att avgöra vilka som tar VM-titeln i rally för förare och co-driver. Om Ogier/Ingrassia vinner på sin hemmaplan skulle de teoretiskt kunna ta titeln när tre tävlingar återstår. Rally France startar den 2:a september med målgång den 5:e september.

Men Latvala/Anttila kommer att ge allt för att vinna och därmed hålla hoppet vid liv. Det är nu mer än 15 år sedan en finländare vann ett asfaltrally i World Rally Championship. Och tävlingen i Alsace väntar fortfarande på en finsk vinnare. Bakom Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila som slåss om VM-titeln ligger Andreas Mikkelsen med kartläsaren Ola Fløene på tredje plats i VM-tabellen.
-Våra fans kan se fram emot ännu en rafflande duell mellan världsmästaren och utmanaren - Ogier mot Latvala, säger Volkswagen Motorsports direktör Jost Capito.
-Båda har visat att de är i en klass för sig på asfaltrallyn även om de inte hade turen med sig när de ledde Rally Germany. Båda har kapacitet att vinna över den andre. Efter att Volkswagen vunnit VM-titeln för konstruktörer kan vi nu fokusera helt på den här verkligen enastående kampen som pågått hela säsongen. Rally France kommer att bli ännu en höjdpunkt på WRC-säsongen. Det är ingen tvekan om att våra förare är motiverade för att vinna.

Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia kan försvara sin VM-titel redan i Rally France. För att lyckas med det måste de få sex poäng mer än deras konkurrenter Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila. Till exempel skulle en seger och minst en andraplats i Power Stage räcka oavsett hur det går för de andra. Vid alla andra kombinationer av resultat behöver Ogier/Ingrassia hjälp från konkurrenterna. Vad gäller Latvala/Anttila måste de komma före sina teamkollegor för att hålla kampen om titeln vid liv.

Mikkelsen kan bli trea
Andreas Mikkelsen är inte med i tätstriden om VM-titeln men kan se tillbaka på en fantastisk säsong i World Rally Championship. Fyra pallplatser, tvåa i Rally Sweden och Rally Poland och trea i Tyskland och Australien. Dessutom fyra gånger bland de fem bästa. Mikkelsen kom fyra i Portugal, Argentina, Italien och Finland. Det här jämna resultatet ger 25-åringen en god chans att sluta som trea i VM-tabellen. Han ligger nu 41 poäng före fyran Mikko Hirvonen, M-Sport Ford, och 45 poäng före femman Thierry Neuville, Hyundai och 50 poäng före Mads Østberg, Citroën, på sjätte plats.

Skulle Mikkelsen sluta minst 41 poäng före sin närmaste konkurrent i Frankrike är tredjeplatsen hans. Trots att hans kartläsare Ola Fløene klev in mitt i säsongen har han en god chans att bli trea i mästerskapet för co-drivers. Norrmannen ligger nu fyra, bara två poäng efter Jarmo Lehtinen, co-driver till Mikko Hirvonen.

Vid sidan av Rally Germany är Rally France det andra rena asfaltrallyt i WRC-kalendern. Trots likheterna mellan de enda två rallyna som uteslutande körs på asfalt - båda har specialsträckor genom vinodlingar - har Rally France sin egen karaktär. Snabba sträckor genom skog dominerar i Alsace, nära Strasbourg. Några fuktiga passager och vägar över bergen påminner om Rally Monte Carlo. Årets rally har 18 specialsträckor. Bara tre av dem "Vosges–Pays d’Ormont", "Soultzeren–Le Grand Hohnack" och gatsträckan "Strasbourg", är identiska med 2013 års specialsträckor.

En av höjdpunkterna för fansen är Strasbourgs sträcka på stadsgator, en sträcka som körs efter solnedgången på fredag efterkväll.

Hemmaplan för Ogier
Rally France är hemmaplan för Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia. De har redan vunnit rallyt två gånger, 2011 i Citroën och 2013 i Volkswagen. Triumfen förra året var särskilt tillfredsställande. Med förstaplatsen i Power Stage, som var inledningen till rallyt, säkrade Ogier/Ingrassia sin första VM-titel. Tre dagar senare gick de i mål som segrare i själva rallyt efter en stark upphämtning.

Citat inför Rally France
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Hemmarallyt är alltid speciellt för mig. Intresset för mig som person är alltid större här, både från fans och från media. Mitt mål är att bli världsmästare i mitt hemland igen. För att lyckas med det måste jag dock ta sex poäng mer än min teamkamrat Jari-Matti Latvala. En seger kunde räcka. Jag tror att Jari-Matti blir min svåraste konkurrent igen. Rally France påminner litet om Rally Germany. Det vill säga, några specialsträckor går genom vingårdar. Men det är också stora skillnader. Till exempel går flera specialsträckor genom skog. Asfalten kan vara mycket blöt och halkig där. Det är inte lika många vägbyten som i Rally Germany och specialsträckorna är i allmänhet mer rytmiska och trevliga att köra. Vi måste lyckas bättre här än i förra asfaltrallyt i Tyskland och få båda bilarna i mål.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Jag har en räkning att göra upp med asfaltrallyn eftersom rallyt i Tyskland var en besvikelse. Det gick sensationellt bra och jag ledde och sedan var allt över på en sekund efter min krasch. Efter att ha varit så nära i Tyskland är jag nu inställd på att ta min första seger på asfalt. Rally France är precis som Rally Germany ett asfaltrally men man kan egentligen inte jämföra de två. I Tyskland var sträckorna smala och kurviga. Det här rallyt liknar mer Rally Monte Carlo. Jag kan fortfarande bli världsmästare i år, men jag tror egentligen inte att det är en realistisk möjlighet. För att det ska hända måste en massa saker gå fel för Sébastien medan allt måste vara perfekt för mig. En sak är säker i alla fall, så länge det finns en matematisk chans kommer jag att fortsätta att kämpa och ge mitt bästa. Man vet aldrig vad som kan hända.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Jag ser fram emot att köra på asfalt igen, särskilt som det gick så bra i Rally Germany nyligen. Jag hoppas jag kan förbättra mig den här gången. Det är några nya specialsträckor i Rally France i år. Det blir en utmaning och jag ser fram emot det. Mitt mål är att säkra tredjeplatsen totalt i förar-VM här i Frankrike. Det skulle ge mig fria tyglar i Spanien och Wales eftersom jag inte skulle behöva bry mig om ställningen i VM-tabellen. Min co-driver Ola Fløene ligger just nu fyra i VM för co-drivers. Det blir en intressant utmaning för oss att i de återstående rallyna se till att han också slutar som trea i VM.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställningen
Förare Poäng
01. Sébastien Ogier 214
02. Jari-Matti Latvala 164
03. Andreas Mikkelsen 125
04. Mikko Hirvonen 83
05. Thierry Neuville 79
06. Mads Østberg 74
07. Kris Meeke 67
08. Elfyn Evans 61
09. Martin Prokop 37
10. Henning Solberg 26

Konstruktörsmästerskapet Poäng
01. Volkswagen Motorsport 348
02. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 154
03. M-Sport 146
04. Hyundai Motorsport 141
05. Volkswagen Motorsport II 109
06. Jipocar Czech National Team 40
07. RK M-Sport WRT 25
08. Hyundai Motorsport N 22
14-09-26 M-Sport after silver in alsace
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans head to Rallye de France - Alsace with a clear objective – to hunt down their rivals in the battle for second place in the FIA World Rally Championship Manufacturer standings.

The British team embarks on the final pure asphalt event of the year just eight points adrift of the runner-up spot; and with both Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers capable of a solid result on Tarmac, the team will be keen to close that gap further.

Rallye de France may host the shortest route of the year, but the compact fixture is one of the championship’s most popular events – the historic city of Strasbourg attracting huge crowds that flock to see some of the year’s most closely-fought rallying.

The event is a true rally of strategy as unpredictable weather over the Vosges Mountains puts the teams’ strategists to the test. The teams also rely heavily on their safety crews who deliver the most up-to-date information from the stages before the crews attack the Tarmac at full speed.

Experience can make all the difference and those looking to fight for the top positions require a thorough understanding of the French asphalt – the nature of the road and the way in which the grip levels are affected in varying conditions.

One crew who certainly have the experience are Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. The pairing have contested Rallye de France on nine previous occasions – albeit five times on the picturesque island of Corsica which delivered the Finns’ first stage win in 2003.

Since relocating to Alsace, Hirvonen has contested each mainland edition with considerable success – securing back-to-back podiums in 2011 and 2012. This year, he will be looking to apply all of his knowledge and experience in pursuit of a similar result.

Rallye de France holds a lot of special memories for Evans. In 2011 the Welshman made his French debut in style – piloting a Ford Fiesta R2 to the model’s then best WRC result of 16th overall. But the best was yet to come, and in 2012 he became a World Rally Champion by winning the French round of the FIA WRC Academy along with the coveted title.

There was similar success for the Welshman on his maiden four-wheel-drive outing at the event last year. He piloted his Ford Fiesta R5 to second place in the WRC 2 category and was one of only two drivers capable of posting a fastest stage time.

Now, following an impressive world rally car debut on pure asphalt at Rallye Deutschland, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will be looking to challenge some of their more experienced rivals once again.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“As Tarmac events go, Rallye de France is one that I enjoy. There are always a lot of spectators out on the stages and a lot of support for all of the drivers.

“The biggest challenge is probably the weather. There is often a risk of rain over the mountains and the right tyre choice can make all the difference. It can be a rally of strategy and you need to ensure that you are on the right tyre for each leg of the event.

“Road position can also be important. If it rains then a lot of mud can get dragged onto the road; especially over the second pass. More than anything though, you need to be very precise and tidy with your driving and keep focused through all of the potential conditions.

“We’ve had two podium finishes here in the past and it would be great to be in the fight for a similar result next week. It won’t be easy and there will be a lot of drivers with a point to prove, but let’s see what happens. I’m definitely up for the challenge!”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This is an event that holds a lot of special memories for me and we’ve had a lot of good results here in the past. In 2012 it was where I won the FIA WRC Academy and last year we were second in the WRC 2 category. I’ve been really looking forward to these more familiar events and I can’t wait to attack these stages with a world rally car for the first time.

“Like Germany, it’s a challenging event but one that I really enjoy. The weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable and you need to have complete trust in your safety crew to get all of the latest information from the stages. A lot of mud can also get dragged onto the roads, but the organisers have done a lot to prevent this in recent years by marking the route with posts and bollards which stop the drivers taking cuts in certain places.

“The stages themselves are faster and more open than the ones in Germany, but the weather and the conditions can be quite similar. We had a good run last time out on asphalt, so I hope we can deliver a similar performance next week.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
M-Sport’s award-winning range of Ford Fiesta rally cars account for some impressive percentages of the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier categories. Forty-seven percent of the WRC field will pilot a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, and 67 percent of the WRC 2 challengers will be behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta.
14-09-25 Home advantage for the DS3 WRCs
Round eleven of the 2014 World Rally Championship sees the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team take on their home event.
The two DS3 WRCs of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson will line up at the start of Rallye de France-Alsace, the second event this year to be held exclusively on tarmac.
Included in the World Rally Championship calendar since its inception, the Rallye de France was held in Corsica for many years. Citroën drivers have recorded some of the Brand’s greatest sporting achievements on the ‘Isle of Beauty’. In 1999, Philippe Bugalski/Jean-Paul Chiaroni and Jesus Puras/Marc Marti beat the WRC’s big guns to score an incredible one-two finish in their two-wheel drive Xsara Kit Cars. Two years later, on only the fourth outing of the Xsara WRC in a World championship rally, Jesus Puras and Marc Marti secured another significant win on the roads of Corsica.

Citroën Racing returned to winning ways in 2005, beginning a series of four consecutive victories with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in the Xsara WRC and the C4 WRC. The 2005 event also went down in history as being the only WRC round at which the winning crew set the fastest time on all of the stages!

The team’s winning run continued unabated after the rally relocated to Alsace. In 2010, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena won the rally to secure the World title again after an event that will be remembered for a long time to come. The series continued in 2011 and 2012 with wins for Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and then again for Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena.

A UNIQUE EVENT FOR CITROËN RACING
Although the love story began in Corsica, it became even more passionate when the event moved to Alsace. Since 2010, a very special relationship has been forged between Citroën Racing and the Rallye de France-Alsace. The success achieved and titles celebrated between Haguenau and Strasbourg remain very present in the minds of everyone in the team.

“It an especially important point of the season for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, which goes beyond the purely sporting side of things,” emphasized Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Director. “Citroën is a partner for the entire event. The huge crowds and enthusiasm for the rally makes it one of the real highlights of our season, like Monte-Carlo or Finland.”

“It’s also potentially one of the strongest rallies for our team,” he continued. “Citroën’s experience here, with three consecutive wins, and the competitiveness of our DS3 WRCs provide us with the means of going after good results in Alsace.”

Despite being located just 200 kilometres from the Rallye Deutschland stages, the character of the French round is markedly different. “The event has its own identity,” confirmed Didier Clément, the DS3 WRC’s Chief Operations Engineer. “You could say it is somewhere between Germany and Spain, with some very quick stretches on sweeping, circuit-style roads as well as some much more technical sections. For example, the Pays d’Ormont stage features a wide variety of road types and different surfaces.”

“We need the car to be very balanced in terms of downforce,” continued the engineer. “Testing enabled us to work on this particular aspect with the new Michelin range of tyres, which have been completely redesigned to include a fairly deep, third longitudinal line. The Pilot Sport H4 and S4 will be safer and quicker with average levels of surface water on the road. They are nonetheless slightly less responsive in dry conditions. As the handling is different, we have to adjust the set-up. Our two drivers have adapted well to the new tyres. They had the same feeling and agreed on the same set-up in preparation for this rally.”

MADS OSTBERG’S FAVOURITE TARMAC RALLY
After collecting eight points in Germany, Mads Østberg came close to securing his first podium finish on tarmac. Having grown in confidence in Trier, he returns to Alsace and roads that are better suited to him: “I have competed in all four years of the Rallye de France since it moved here. The stages are flowing and very fast. It’s my favourite event on this surface.”

The weather may once again play an important role… And the Norwegian driver would more than happy if it rained: “We have driven in dry and wet conditions. I must admit I really liked it when it was very slippery, in the rain. It’s interesting to try and find some grip when the roads become muddy.”

If there is rain, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team may be able to take advantage of the tyre upgrade provided by Michelin: “I had the chance to try out the new tyres in testing. The development work has paid off; the tyres offer greater performance on wet and muddy roads. In dry conditions, there isn’t much difference. Our aim is to improve on the rhythm we had in Germany, to score big points.”

KRIS MEEKE’S STOCK IS RISING
Kris Meeke has so far met the high expectations placed in him in the second half of the season. Collecting stage wins and fighting for podium finishes, on both gravel and tarmac, the British driver has made the most of his experience to establish himself among the leading positions.

“The trend is positive,” commented Kris cheerfully. “I feel stronger and stronger in the DS3 WRC. I always try to do my very best. Obviously, I compare my times with those of the other drivers. But above all, I’m looking to do my own rally. I’m making progress at my own speed, keeping focussed on the objectives that we set with the team.”

Kris Meeke has only taken part in one previous Rallye de France – Alsace, back in 2011: “I like the kind of roads you get here. But I have acquired most of my experience during the many test sessions we have organised in the region. For the 2014 stages, we’re going to have to take new pace notes. But with Paul [Nagle], we’re beginning to get used to doing just that!”

“We have managed to be among the frontrunners in the last three or four rallies. We have to keep going and try and mix it more and more with the battle for the lead. I know we can finish on the podium. It’s down to us to perform right to the finish.”

A 303-KILOMETRE SPRINT AGAINST THE CLOCK
No other event on the 2014 calendar has course as short as the Rallye de France – Alsace. The crews will complete only 303 kilometres of timed stages before the winner is declared, which is slightly shorter than most Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The shakedown is held again on city centre roads, in the Hautepierre district of Strasbourg. An autograph-signing session and the ceremonial start are scheduled for Thursday afternoon before cars head back to the Zénith de Strasbourg.

On Friday morning, the crews will head south-east for a loop of three stages that will be repeated in the afternoon after the midday service. The first seven kilometres of the Col de la Charbonnière test (11.11km – 8.44am/2.30pm) will be held on previously unused roads. The crews will then move on to Vosges – Pays d’Ormont (34.34km – 9.35am/2.54pm), which is expected to be the decisive stage on day one. The section will conclude with Pays de Salm (9.59km – 10.24am/3.43pm) in much the same configuration as in 2010 and 2011. The day will finish with a run on the Strasbourg super special stage (4.67km – 8.00pm) before the cars head for the service park from 8.40pm.

On Saturday, the crews will leave parc ferme at 6.30am for two loops of three stages held on roads around Colmar with Vallée de Munster (18.90km – 8.30am/12.28pm), Soultzeren – Le Grand Hohnack (19.93km – 9.12am/1.10pm) and the new Pays Welche – Riquewihr (21.49km – 9.46am/1.44pm). A super special stage will be held in Mulhouse (4.86km – 6.00pm) to conclude the leg before the cars head back to Strasbourg from 8.20pm.

The final day will be held on roads around Saverne in the Bas-Rhin department. The schedule features two loops of two stages with Forêt de la Petite Pierre (12.33km – 7.30am/10.34am), run at sunrise on the first pass, and then Forêt de Saverne (19.36km – 8.18am/12.00pm), which will serve as the Power Stage. The rally is scheduled to finish in Strasbourg at 3.00pm.

14-09-14 Trippel i Australien ger Volkswagen VM-titeln
3, 2, 1, Världmästare! Volkswagen tog hem konstruktörstiteln i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) med en trippelseger i Rally Australia. Med tre rallyn kvar för säsongen kan ingen komma ikapp Volkswagen. Vinnarna i Australien Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) och team-kollegorna Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila försvarade framgångsrikt titeln på rekordtid. På 25 år har ingen vunnit VM-titeln så tidigt på säsongen.

Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) slutade som trea i sin Polo R WRC, ett perfekt team-resultat. De tre Volkswagen-paren toppar också ställningen i det sammanlagda resultatet i förar-VM och VM för co-drivers. Ogier/Ingrassia och Latvala/Anttila får kämpa mot varandra under de tre återstående tävlingarna om vem som slutligen blir världsmästare för säsongen.

Tre Polo R WRC i topp down under
Volkswagens trippelseger i Rally Australia var den första i teamets historia i World Rally Championship. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia tog sin 19:e seger i Polo R WRC på bara 23 starter. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila lade till en 35:e pallplats sedan Volkswagen debuterade i 2013 års Rally Monte Carlo. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene bättrade på statistiken med en 36:e pallplats.

Vägen till den historiska framgången var allt annat spikrak. Rally Australia satte både besättning och maskiner på hårda prov med å ena sidan tekniska, kurviga och kuperade sträckor genom skogarna i New South Wales, och å andra sidan raka högfartssträckor. Skiftande grusunderlag, från grovt och stenigt till mjukt och lerigt plus skillnaderna mellan solljus och skugga gjorde livet svårt för förare och kartläsare. Rallybilarna tävlade mot klockan längs 20 specialsträckor, i totalt drygt 30 mil. Den längsta och mest krävande specialsträckan var den 49 kilometer långa "Nambucca" som gick genom skogar med branta uppförslut, över jordbrukslandskap och smala träbroar.

Rekordsnabbt försvar av VM-titeln
Bara en gång i WRC-historien har en tillverkare tagit hem VM-titeln för konstruktörer snabbare än Volkswagen gjort 2014. Med nio segrar av tio möjliga - och sex av dem dubbelsegrar - har Volkswagen redan framgångsrikt försvarat sin titel. Ogier och Latvala ledde också Volkswagen-teamet till titeln 2013 med den största segermarginalen i WRC-historien, 145 poäng. Volkswagen går nu till de återstående tävlingarna i Frankrike, Spanien och Storbritannien med en ledning på 194 poäng.

Och så var de bara två
Redan före Rally Australia stod det klart att kampen om titeln i förar-VM skulle stå mellan de tre Volkswagen-förarna Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala och Andreas Mikkelsen. Efter resultatet i Australien återstår en duell. Trots att Andreas Mikkelsen ökade sitt försprång före fyran i mästerskapet har han inte längre något att säga till om i kampen om titeln.

Därmed kommer den duell som dominerat säsongen också att bli den som avgör vem som blir världsmästare, Sébastien Ogier eller Jari-Matti Latvala. Den här duellen har redan resulterat i tre av de tio tätaste vinsterna i rally-VM. Ogier vann över Latvala med bara 0,2 sekunder i Jordanien 2011 medan Latvala gick i mål bara 2,4 sekunder före Ogier i Nya Zealand 2010. Den minsta marginalen sedan de två förarna började köra Volkswagen var i årets Rally Finland där Latvala kom 3,6 sekunder före Ogier och vann sitt hemmarally. I Australien skiljde bara 6,8 sekunder mellan mästaren och hans utmanare.

Latvala snabbast i Power Stage
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila vann Power Stage som ger bonuspoäng till de tre snabbaste och fick med sig tre poäng till sammandraget för förare och kartläsare. På andra plats och med två bonuspoäng kom team-kollegorna Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia. Under de två senaste åren i World Rally Championship har Volkswagen-förare vunnit 16 av 22 Power Stages och tagit extrapoäng vid 39 tillfällen.

Citat efter dag tre i Rally Australia
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
- Helt fantastiskt, jag är mycket glad för vårt team. De förtjänar verkligen den här framgången. Det är svårt att sätta ord på mina känslor. Det faktum att vi vann VM-titeln med alla tre Volkswagen-bilarna på podiet är en otrolig framgång. Vi kan verkligen var stolta här idag. Julien och jag försökta kontrollera vårt lilla försprång över min team-kollega Jari-Matti Latvala ända till mållinjen och vi lyckades. Jag tror vi gav fansen en spännande duell. Det är häftigt att Andreas Mikkelsen och Ola Fløene kunde fullborda den här triumfen för laget. Nu räcker det med en seger för att säkra VM-titeln för förare. Det skulle vara härligt att lyckas med det i Frankrike.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-En fantastisk framgång, jag gläds med hela teamet. Konstruktörstiteln är en bekräftelse på att alla i Volkswagen har varit helt fokuserade att vinna och det visar också att Polo är den bästa rallybilen. Vi har också bjudit på racing av högsta klass - Miikka och jag försökte sätta press på Sébastien och Julien ända till slutet men de var oslagbara. Grattis till en välförtjänt seger. Jag är mycket nöjd med min egen insats. Tyvärr förlorade vi avgörande sekunder med fel däcksval ocxh det kostade oss antagligen segern. Hur som helst är det enormt att stå här på podiet med alla tre Polo-bilarna. Det kan inte finnas ett bättre sätt att vinna VM-titeln.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Vilket otroligt resultat för hela teamet. Världsmästare och med lagets första trippelseger. Jag tackar alla mekaniker, tekniker och andra som gjort det här möjligt, här i Australien och under hela säsongen. Vi hade en stor ledning över fyran när vi gick ut på de sex avslutande specialsträckorna men vi kunde inte göra något åt de två bilarna före oss. Vår prioritet blev därför att kontrollera vår fart så att vi inte gjorde några misstag och så att vi kunde få ett bra resultat. Mitt mål nu är att försvara mitt försprång framför fjärdeplatsen i världsmästerskapet. Vi har faktiskt lyckats utöka det. Jag är mycket glad åt min fjärde pallplats i år. Idag är en fantastisk dag.

Jost Capito, direktör för Volkswagen Motorsport
-Vilken avslutning på en imponerande säsong. Att vinna VM-titeln med en trippelseger - det kan inte bli bättre. Förra året överträffade vi alla förväntningar, inte minst våra egna. Då gav alla i teamet allt för att vinna VM-titeln. Det är alltid svårare att försvara VM-titeln än att vinna den första gången. Det teamet har lyckats med den här säsongen, och sättet som det förbättrat sig på, är respektingivande. En kedja är aldrig starkare än sin svagaste länk, sägs det. Hos oss är alla länkar lika starka. Jag vill tacka mina kollegor. Volkswagen är stolta över dem. Och den här titeln går till alla i Volkswagen över hela världen som gett oss ett fantastiskt stöd.

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Australia – slutresultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 2t 53m 18.0s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 6.8s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen + 1m 18.0s
4. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 1m 44.0s
5. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 1m 53.6s
6. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai + 2m 56.2s
7. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 4m 28.2s
8. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 5m 10.0s
9. Robert Kubica/Maciej Szczepaniak (PL/PL), Ford + 6m 39.8s
10. Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot (AUS/B), Hyundai + 9m 29.4s

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Australia – resultat Power Stage
1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen 5m 20.7s
2. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 1.2s
3. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 3.8s

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totala ställningen förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 214
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 164
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 125
4. Mikko Hirvonen 83
5. Thierry Neuville 79
6. Mads Østberg 74
7. Kris Meeke 67
8. Elfyn Evans 61
9. Martin Prokop 37
10. Henning Solberg 26
14-09-14 Meeke scores heavily with style to spare
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle showed real determination today to hunt down fourth place at Rally Australia for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Despite suffering a mechanical problem in the closing stages of the rally, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson made to the end in their DS3 WRC. The next event will be Citroën’s home round, the Rallye de France-Alsace, held on 2-5 October.

After being handed a penalty yesterday evening, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle left the service park in fifth position. On the first stage of the day, the DS3 WRC crew moved up a place ahead of Mikko Hirvonen. Throughout the leg, the British driver produced the kind of pace that would have secured him another podium spot. In particular, he claimed the stage win on Wedding Bells 1 (SS17).

After grabbing third place on the Power Stage to add a bonus point to his championship tally, Kris Meeke finished fourth overall at Rally Australia.

More competitive since Saturday, Mads Østberg’s name also featured near the top of the timesheets, setting the fourth fastest time on Bucca 1 (SS16) and finishing third fastest on Wedding Bells 1 (SS17). Unfortunately, he had to stop to repair a broken rear suspension arm on SS19. The Nordic crew managed to get going again after spending ten minutes or so working on the car, limping over the finishing line in a disappointing sixteenth position.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “It’s a bit of a strange feeling… To be honest, I think this is my strongest performance so far this season, even though we have finished fourth with the penalty. Seb and Jari are still out of reach for the moment. In Finland, in Germany and this week in Australia, we have been fighting at the front. This is my first full season in WRC, but I feel I’m getting stronger and stronger. We’ll have to keep it up at the Rallye de France.”

Mads Østberg: “It was a tough weekend for us although we did improve the more stages we completed. We were able to show our speed and managed to defend our position against Hayden Paddon. Unfortunately, we had a damaged rear suspension arm on the penultimate stage. We were able to repair it in order to finish the race, but we were really unlucky. We’ll have to switch our focus now to the Rallye de France, Citroën’s home event.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “We saw that Kris was capable of setting some very good times without really pushing today. He had the potential to end the rally within thirty seconds of the winner. Mads had more difficulties at the start of the rally. But he showed that he had the ability to improve and get closer to Kris’ times. He has the required talent, he just has to find a bit more confidence.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS15 – Shipmans 1 (24.72km) – Jari-Matti Latvala put rally leader Sébastien Ogier under pressure with the fastest time on the opening stage of the day. He cut the Frenchman’s lead to 9.8 seconds. Third fastest on this stage, Kris Meeke quickly retook fourth overall from Mikko Hirvonen. Mads Østberg had to respond to Hayden Paddon’s attempts to close the gap.

SS16 – Bucca 1 (10.86km) – Ogier wasted no time in reacting, beating Latvala by 1.4 seconds, whilst Kris Meeke finished third again. Mads Østberg went fourth fastest to send a strong message to his rival for sixth place.

SS17 – Wedding Bells 1 (9.23km) – A third stage win of the rally for Kris Meeke, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mads Østberg, who consolidated his sixth position.

SS18 – Shipmans 2 (24.72km) – A slight advantage to Sébastien Ogier in the battle for overall victory as he took the stage win after the service period. Kris Meeke grabbed the third fastest time, whilst Mads Østberg was seventh.

SS19 – Bucca 2 (10.86km) – Latvala and Ogier continued to exchange blows but the Frenchman held an eight-second lead before the final stage. Kris Meeke also consolidated his position with the fourth fastest time. Mads Østberg stopped on the stage with suspension damage. With the help of co-driver Jonas Andersson, he managed to repair the DS3 WRC and get going again.

SS20 – Wedding Bells 2 Power Stage (9.23km) – Despite winning the Power Stage, Jari-Matti Latvala was unable to catch the leader, finishing as runner-up in the final standings. Second on this final stage, Sébastien Ogier held on to win the rally. Kris Meeke picked up the final bonus point as he grabbed third place on the stage. However, Andreas Mikkelsen finished third overall, to take the final podium spot. Mads Østberg managed to make it to the finishing line.

FINAL PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS
Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:53:18.0
Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6.8
Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:18.0
Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1.44.0
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:53.6
Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:56.2
Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:28.2
Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:10.0
Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:39.8
Chris Atkinson / Stéphane Prévot (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9:29.4…
Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +19:34.8…

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 10 (including 1 tied) – Jari-Matti Latvala, 7 – Kris Meeke, 3 – Andreas Mikkelsen,1 (including 1 tied).

LEADERS
SS1, SS2, SS7, SS8, SS11 to SS20 (finish): Sébastien Ogier
SS3 to SS6: Kris Meeke
SS9 and SS10: Jari-Matti Latvala

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Sébastien Ogier 214 points
Jari-Matti Latvala 164 points
Andreas Mikkelsen 125 points
Mikko Hirvonen 83 points
Thierry Neuville 79 points
Mads Østberg 74 points
Kris Meeke 67 points
Elfyn Evans 61 points…

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Volkswagen Motorsport 348 points
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 150 points
M-Sport World Rally Team 142 points
Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 138 points
Volkswagen Motorsport II 124 points
Jipocar Czech National Team 40 points
RK M-Sport World Rally Team 23 points
Hyundai Motorsport N 20 points
14-09-14 Kubica enjoys Australian gravel
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica overcame yesterday’s misfortune to finish his first experience of Rally Australia in a strong ninth place overall. Driving well, the Pole is finding the art of gravel rallying more enjoyable with each new kilometre.
The rally started well for Robert who adopted a measured approach to extract maximum experience from the difficult speed tests. Despite losing time and damaging the rear suspension of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC when distracted by an official FIA warning light during yesterday’s second pass of Valla (SS12), he battled on courageously and made it back to service.

As the M-Sport technicians made a full repair, he was keen to get back out on the stages today. The final stint saw the crews tackle two loops of three technically challenging stages in the forests north of Coffs Harbour and Robert continued to impress with a highly consistent performance.

Keeping his Fiesta firmly planted to the gravel tracks, the Formula One race winner leaves his first venture down under with a solid points finish and a wealth of knowledge. Taking more and more enjoyment from loose-surface rallying, Robert has significantly improved his driving on gravel and will be looking for further gains as the championship returns to the surface later this year.

Robert Kubica (9th) said:
“We’ve had a good weekend with some very good driving on these difficult stages. I think the biggest challenge was that the character of the stages was changing all the time so that took a bit of getting used to but I think we did a good job.

“Ok, there was a mistake yesterday, but that was not a fault through driving. I was distracted by a warning light and it cost us quite a lot of time but we made it to the finish.

“The most important thing is that I have enjoyed this event and that I have enjoyed driving on gravel. I think that we’ve been driving well on this surface and I hope we can show some more progress on this surface later in the season.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Robert [Kubica] was a bit unfortunate yesterday but the most important thing is that he has made it to the end of this rally with some good experience of these difficult stages. He has driven well all weekend and I think that he is really starting to enjoy driving on gravel which is encouraging to see.”
14-09-14 Solid points ignite M-Sport´s championshiop campaign
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans delivered a solid performance at Rally Australia to strengthen the team’s position in the FIA World Rally Championship standings.

As the route ventured north for two loops of three technically challenging stages, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were locked in an intense battle for fourth position. Just 0.6 seconds separated the Finns from their rivals going into the opening test and Hirvonen wasn’t going to let the position go without a fight.

Despite a disadvantaged road position, he put up an admirable fight behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC but ultimately had to settle for fifth position – missing out by less than ten seconds.

He may have lost his fourth place to a resurgent Kris Meeke, but Hirvonen’s performance this weekend has seen the M-Sport man strengthen his position in the championship – jumping from sixth to fourth in the drivers’ standings.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt continued to display the focus and determination that will see them competing at the head of the field in years to come. Making his first appearance at the Australian fixture, Evans was keen to extract as much experience from the technical stages as possible, and did just that by finishing in a strong eighth place overall.

Although yesterday’s misfortune prevented the youngster from showcasing the pace he had hoped to achieve, Evans concluded a risk free event with a highly precise set of notes and an abundance of knowledge that will see him impress to a greater extent next year.

The Manufacturers’ title may have been settled this weekend, but the battle for second is still very much alive. Thanks to the solid points achieved by both Fiesta drivers, the M-Sport World Rally Team has climbed into third place – just eight points adrift of the runner-up spot with three rallies left to run.

Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“We wanted to be in the fight for the podium this weekend. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be, but it wasn’t a bad weekend for us at all and we had a good fight with Kris [Meeke] towards the end. We gave it everything we had but Kris [Meeke] was just that little bit faster on every stage today.

“As I say it wasn’t a bad weekend. I was really happy with my driving and we’re up to fourth in the championship now – I think we can be pleased with that.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:
“Our objective wasn’t to show speed here this weekend. It was all about learning the stages and the environment. Even though it was a little frustrating at times, I think we managed to do that.

“I think we showed some good pace as the third car on the road today and the driving felt a lot more natural and better than it had been previously. We’ve learnt the stages and got a good set of notes so I think we’re in a position to come back much stronger next year. These stages are amazing and I can’t wait to come back and drive them at full speed.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a productive weekend for the team. It was a shame that we weren’t in a position to challenge for the podium with Mikko [Hirvonen] but he drove well all weekend and has gained two places in the drivers’ championship as a result.

“This was the last new event of the year for Elfyn [Evans] so his objective was to learn the stages and the character of the event so that he can be in a better position to challenge next year. He’s done that and he showed some good pace as the third car on the road this afternoon.

“Congratulations to Volkswagen Motorsport for claiming the Manufacturers’ Championship this weekend, but the battle for second is still very much alive; and thanks to a solid drive from both Mikko and Elfyn we’re in a really strong position to challenge for the runner-up spot – just eight points adrift with some strong events to come.”

14-09-14 Midday quotes Rally Australia, Day three
Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“Kris [Meeke] was a bit faster this morning which was a bit annoying, but we’re on it too and we’re not going to let him get away that easily. We struggled a little with the tyres yesterday but that’s part of the game and I’ve been happy with our pace so let’s just see what happens this afternoon.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“Considering that we’re the third car on the road, I think we’ve had a fairly good morning. I was perhaps a little overly cautious on some of the fast sections through the long one [SS15] and was a little untidy towards the end of the next two [SS16 and SS17] but they’ve all been pretty clean and we’ll have a good set of notes going into next year.”

Robert Kubica (10th) said:
“We’ve driven neatly all morning with no risks and no mistakes. OK, the pace may not have been up there with the leaders, but I’m enjoying these stages more and more and have been happy with my driving which is the most important thing.”
14-09-13 Kris Meeke stays on the pace in Australia
After fighting for a podium spot throughout the second leg, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were handed a penalty this evening, which meant they dropped to fifth overall at Rally Australia. Meanwhile, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson managed to move up into sixth position in the other Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team car. There are six stages left to run before the rally finishes tomorrow in Coffs Harbour.

Fourth this morning, Kris Meeke entered into a fascinating head-to-head battle with Andreas Mikkelsen. The two drivers swapped third place on several occasions during the leg. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver was particularly quick on the very long, 48km Nambucca test (SS11), grabbing the second best time on the stage. He remained fourth after SS14, just 1.5 seconds off the final podium spot, and less than thirty seconds behind the leader. However, a penalty would appear to have dashed his hopes of a top-three finish. Adjudged to have excessively cut across a corner, the Stewards handed him a 61-second penalty, putting him down into fifth place.

Motivated by the idea of showing his potential today, Mads Østberg moved ahead of Hayden Paddon at the start of the afternoon and into sixth place overall. Despite having to contend with a less than ideal road position, the Norwegian was the quickest driver outside of the top four fighting at that stage to win the rally.

Sunday’s final leg features six stages. Parc ferme opens at 6.50am (UTC+10), with crews tackling around a hundred timed sections, including the 9.23km Wedding Bells 2, which will serve as the Power Stage and be televised live. The rally is scheduled to finish in Coffs Harbour from 5.00pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “I did my best to stay on the pace. The second fastest time on this afternoon’s long stage shows that we have the capacity to be among the frontrunners. But we still have work to do to stay at the front. There are still a hundred or so kilometres to run tomorrow. We are going to keep fighting for every tenth of a second!”

Mads Østberg: “We had to a lot of sweeping today and that was reflected in the timesheets. The aim was to make up ground on Paddon. It was important to get back up to speed, then convert that into times and move back up into sixth position. We’ll need to keep going tomorrow although it’ll be difficult to do better than sixth. We’ll have a better starting position, so we’ll have to try and make the most of it…”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Kris is continuing to do everything we have asked of him. He’s proving that he is one of the fastest drivers in this second half of the season by fighting at the front. He was less than thirty seconds behind the leader although the pace is incredibly high. As regards Mads, he produced a good performance, despite having a starting position that forced him to do a lot of sweeping.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS9 – Nambucca 1 (48.92km) – The first run on the rally’s longest stage gave Jari-Matti Latvala the chance to reclaim first place overall from Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke set the third fastest time to move back into third overall. Mads Østberg managed to make up ground on Hayden Paddon in sixth.

SS10 – Valls 1 (10.72km) – Jari-Matti Latvala took a second consecutive stage win to extend his overall lead. Behind the leader, Andreas Mikkelsen moved back ahead of Kris Meeke, whilst Mads Østberg set a time within a second of Paddon.

SS11 – Nambucca 2 (48.92km) – In the second loop, Sébastien Ogier turned things around from the morning pass to reclaim first place. Kris Meeke set the second-fastest time to stay in touch with the top three. Mads Østberg also took advantage of this long test to move into sixth overall.

SS12 – Valla 2 (10.72km) – Sébastien Ogier consolidated his first position with another stage win. Kris Meeke moved back ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen and into third place. Fifth-fastest on the stage, Mads Østberg moved further clear of Hayden Paddon and closer to Mikko Hirvonen.

SS13 and SS14 – SSS III and SSSIV (1.56km/1.56km) – Sébastien Ogier was the quickest on the two evening stages, tied for the first stage win with Andreas Mikkelsen on SS13. The Norwegian grabbed third place back from Kris Meeke, whilst Mads Østberg held onto sixth place.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:03:55.3
Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +11.8
Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +25.3
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:27.2
Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1.27.8
Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:08.2
Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:15.5
Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:52.4
Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:59.0
Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:59.2…

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 8 (including 1 tied) – Jari-Matti Latvala, 4 – Kris Meeke, 2 – Andreas Mikkelsen,1 (including 1 tied).

LEADERS
SS1, SS2, SS7, SS8, SS11 to SS14: Sébastien Ogier
SS3 to SS6: Kris Meeke
SS9 and SS10: Jari-Matti Latvala
14-09-13 Kubica on course for points
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica is on course for a points finish on his first encounter with the challenging tracks of the FIA World Rally Championship’s only Australasian fixture – the Coates Hire Rally Australia.

As the route ventured further south, the nature of the stages changed significantly. Leaving the narrow tracks of yesterday behind, the crews were faced with wider, more open roads and had to quickly adapt to the opposing character.

Once again, Robert rose to the challenge throughout the morning loop. Pleased with his driving, the Pole kept his Ford Fiesta RS WRC firmly planted to the gravel so as to extract the maximum experience from these difficult speed tests.

As the crews headed out for the afternoon, a strong threat of rain meant that tyre selection would be a difficult choice. The RK M-Sport World Rally Team opted for Michelin’s LTX Force soft compound tyres, but as the rain failed to materialise, Robert had to contend with high tyre wear and a substantial lack of traction.

Regardless of his disadvantage, the Formula One race winner posted a solid time through the 48.92 kilometres of Nambucca II (SS11), only to encounter drama on the following stages.

Distracted by an official FIA warning light in the cockpit of his Fiesta, he ran wide over a crest. Hitting a tree, the heavy impact damaged the left-rear corner and suspension of his Fiesta as well as costing the Pole more than a minute to his nearest rivals.

Despite his misfortunes, Robert’s determination continued to shine and he remains on course for a top-ten finish on his first encounter of Australia’s notoriously challenging stages.

Robert Kubica (10th) said:
“We didn’t take the right tyre choice for the afternoon. I had both sets in front of me before I left service but because our forecast said that there was a high probability of rain, I went with the soft option which wasn’t right for the conditions. It all comes down to experience and I had never been in that situation before.

“I knew that the second stage [SS12] would be difficult as we had no tread left on the tyres. I got distracted by the flashing yellow light which we have for safety then, after a fast straight, we were too late under braking with the worn tyres. The car went straight on and we hit a tree. Of course the body of the car didn’t look quite right, but the rollcage is fine and there are no technical problems so we will be okay for tomorrow and hopefully finish the rally with another good day.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m pleased to see that Robert [Kubica] was able to make it back to service with minimal time loss after the heavy impact this afternoon. The technicians have done a great job to repair the car and he’ll be back tomorrow when I hope he can bring home some points on his WRC debut here in Australia.”
14-09-13 Solid result in sight for M-Sport
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans faced a challenging second day of competition at Rally Australia, but both Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers remain on course for a solid result in fourth and ninth places respectively.

Hirvonen may have lucked out in the intense battle for the lead, but the determined Finn won’t be giving up on a solid finish this weekend. Pleased with his driving through the morning loop, the M-Sport man put in a highly consistent performance but was disadvantaged having taken a competitive risk for the afternoon.

With a high chance of heavy rain predicted in the vicinity of the stages, the number five Fiesta RS WRC was clad with five of Michelin’s LTX Force soft compound tyres. But as the downfall failed to materialise, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen had to contend with extreme tyre wear for the unexpected dry and dusty conditions.

Thankfully, there are few crews more reliable and acute to the characteristics of this challenging event and the pairing were able to minimise any potential time loss – maintaining a strong 40 second cushion between themselves and their nearest championship rival, Mads Østberg.

It was a dramatic morning for Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt. The pairing were continuing to monitor their progress – driving without risk and gaining experience – before a stray branch gave them some drama towards the end of Nambucca I (SS9).

The branch pierced the radiator core of his Fiesta RS WRC and the Welshman had to put his mechanical ability to the test as he affected a successful repair on the liaison to the following stage (SS10).

As the M-Sport technicians fitted a new radiator for the second loop, the youngster was eager to make amends. Unfortunately his fate went the same way as team mate Hirvonen and, having opted for five soft compounds, Evans struggled with a lack of grip on the dry stages.

Making it through to fight another day, M-Sport’s protégé remains on course to secure another points finish on his debut at the FIA World Rally Championship’s highest league.

Mikko Hirvonen (4th) said:
“It didn’t rain and, as we took the soft tyre, we were expecting it to. The tyres were completely gone and it was really tricky. We just had to do all we could not to lose too much time to the boys behind and in that respect I think we did really well. There’s still a big gap to Mads [Østberg], and one day to go with some more difficult stages, so let’s see what happens.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“We made the wrong choice with the tyres this afternoon. We were expecting rain, but unfortunately that didn’t happen and it was a case of trying to manage the situation. When you’re in a stage like that it is very difficult to know how hard to push. At the end of the stage the time wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster either so I think we have to be happy with that given the circumstances.

“We’ve had a second loop of checking the notes again and we’re pretty pleased with those now; so it’s been a productive day in that sense and should see us well placed for the future.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s a shame that Mikko [Hirvonen] lost ground this afternoon as we didn’t get the rain on the stages that had been predicted. Thankfully, he was able to limit the time loss and, with another difficult day to come, remains in a strong position to challenge for a top position.

“Elfyn [Evans] was unlucky when he damaged the radiator this morning, but thanks to his mechanical skills he was able to make it safely back to service and finish the day with some very encouraging times in the Super Special Stages.”
14-09-13 Midday quotes Rally Australia, day two
Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“We’re a little off the fight that I was hoping for, but in both of this morning’s stages [SS9 and SS10] I was pleased with what we did. It’s a long stage so you’re going to make a few small mistakes, but there was nothing big and I was really happy with the tyre choice and the car.

“Unfortunately, the guys up front are just a little bit faster at the moment. Let’s hope for a little bit of rain this afternoon and see if that gives us a chance to be back in the fight for the podium.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“We must have picked up some sort of branch in a cut somewhere [through SS9]. I’m not really sure where it happened, but it’s done a fair bit of damage to the radiator. There were two small holes and it was leaking quite a lot of water. Luckily we had some metal putty in the tool kit and we were able to slow the leak and make it through the last stage [of the morning, SS10] and back to service.

“Running as the third car on the road it’s still pretty loose out there. It was clean enough on the long one [SS9] but I didn’t quite get my rhythm through the narrow section towards the end. We’re losing a lot to the front runners, but compared to people like Robert [Kubica], who are also competing here for the first time, I think we’ve been a lot closer today.”

Robert Kubica (8th) said:
“It’s been an okay morning with no big dramas. We had a small issue with the gearbox on the road section to the first stage [SS9] as it was working intermittently; but once we were on the stages it worked perfectly so that was fine.

“We drove two smooth stages [SS9 and SS10], but the pacenotes were perhaps a little slow in places. Today’s stages have a completely different character to yesterday. They’re wider and faster so we have to adapt to the pace.”

14-09-12 Kris Meeke among the leaders in Australia
- After narrowly missing out on his first WRC win in Germany, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle found themselves once again at the front throughout the majority of day one at Rally Australia.
– With two stage wins, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crew returned to Coffs Harbour this evening in fourth position, just 4.1 seconds behind the leaders.
– Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended the day seventh overall in the other DS3 WRC.

After a magnificent performance in Finland and having led a world rally for the first time in Germany, Kris Meeke continued to improve. The Briton grabbed the Rally Australia overall lead at the end of SS3 (Newry 1) after claiming his second consecutive stage win.

Alongside co-driver Paul Nagle, he then held firm in the lead as his main rivals fought back during the second loop. After the first eight stages, they hold fourth position, 4.1 seconds adrift of the leaders.

Hit by a rear differential problem on SS3, Mads Østberg was unable to match his team-mate’s pace. After losing time following a minor spin on the first stage, the Norwegian fought back in the afternoon to climb back up to seventh place.

Saturday’s leg features six stages and 118 kilometres of timed sections. The cars are due to leave parc ferme at 6.45am (UTC+10), returning to the service park at 12.36pm and concluding the leg at 7.35pm after two runs on the super special stage.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “We really had to push all day. Starting from eighth position on the road meant that the grip was better in some sections during the first loop. But this afternoon, the conditions were more or less the same for everyone. In fact, it was pretty rough in places. We’ll need to keep the same level of consistency for the rest of the rally. The aim is not to win at all costs. We’re up against guys who are fighting for the world championship. I have to just keep running my own race. Being in the lead after SS6 was important as it means we’ll have a good starting position tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg: “It was a difficult day. I made a few mistakes and I had a minor technical issue this morning. We think we have found source of the problem. I hope tomorrow will be a better day. We’ll need to improve…”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Kris has had a very good day. He managed to make the most of his starting position this morning. In the second loop, although the conditions were pretty similar for everyone, he managed to maintain his pace. That augurs well for the rest of the rally. Mads had some difficulty in finding the right feeling and lost some time on SS3 due to technical issue. During the second loop, he wasn’t able to close the gap to the leaders as he felt that the grip conditions were less favourable than this morning.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Hydes Creek 1 (10.73km) – Sébastien Ogier grabbed the early overall lead despite being first on the road. Eighth in the running order, Kris Meeke set the third fastest time. Mads Østberg lost around fifteen seconds after a minor off.

SS2 – Bellingen 1 (10.72km) – Stage win for Kris Meeke who moved up into second overall behind Sébastien Ogier. Mads Østberg set the sixth-fastest time to move up to tenth overall.

SS3 – Newry 1 (24,91 km) – A second consecutive stage win for Kris Meeke, making him the new overall leader as the crews headed back to Coffs Harbour. Mads Østberg continued his fightback, climbing to eight position.

SS4 – Hydes Creek 2 (10.73km) – With the roads affected by the morning pass, Kris Meeke ended up losing time from his start position of eighth. He held off his rivals, however, to remain in the lead at the end of the stage. Having resolved the technical issue during the midday service, Mads Østberg remained eighth overall.

SS5 – Bellingen 2 (10.72km) – With no advantage afforded by earlier runners having to sweep the road, Kris Meeke fought to withstand the pressure he was put under by his rivals. Meanwhile, Mads Østberg upped his pace to move into seventh overall.

SS6 – Newry 2 (24.91km) – The second run on the longest stage of the day enabled Kris Meeke to consolidate his first position. He finished clear of Mikkelsen and Hirvonen, extending his overall lead, but now followed by a new second-placed driver: Latvala. Mads Østberg closed the gap to sixth place, held by Paddon.

SS7 and SS8 – SSS I and II (1.56km/1.56km) – The two successive runs on the Coffs Harbour super special stage enabled first Jari-Matti Latvala, then Sébastien Ogier to grab the overall lead from Kris Meeke. Both stage wins were secured by Ogier, whilst Meeke dropped back to fourth overall, just 4.1 seconds off the leader. Mads Østberg held onto seventh position.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 58:05.8
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +0.4
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +3.5
4. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +4.1
5. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +7.9
6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +46.4
7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +50.3
8. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +57.6
9. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:30.5
10. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:08.4…

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala, 2.

LEADERS
SS1, SS2, SS7 and SS8: Sébastien Ogier
SS3 to SS6: Kris Meeke
14-09-12 Kubica tames another new challenge
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica tamed the forests of New South Wales today and currently holds eighth position going into Rally Australia’s penultimate day.

As the crews embarked on the first full day of competition, eight stages lay in wait – two loops of three technically challenging tests to the south of Coffs Harbour and two runs through the 1.56 kilometre super special adjacent to the service park.

After a week of Tarmac rallying last time out in Germany, Robert had to reaffirm the art of gravel rallying – the character of the stages and the way in which his Ford Fiesta RS WRC handled through the loose-surface terrain.

Mission accomplished, the Pole put in a highly respectable performance on his return to gravel. Today’s speed tests were amongst the most challenging of the weekend – far removed from his more accustomed circuit-like asphalt – and the Formula One race winner rose to the challenge admirably.

Having suffering a spin through the first pass of Hydes Creek (SS1), the Pole regrouped and displayed a marked improvement in pace as he became more familiar with the forest roads.

Despite having to contend with the steering of his Fiesta being slightly out of line, Robert was able to improve his times significantly throughout the afternoon.

Happy with his driving on the loose-surface stages, the Pole climbed the leader board and will be keen to make further gains as the event continues.

Robert Kubica (8th) said:
“We had an issue with the steering this afternoon. For the tricky, narrower sections it is not so much of a problem, but for the fast corners where you have to be very precise it has been a bit distracting. My mind tells me that I’m applying enough steering, but in reality it’s not enough. It’s frustrating, but maybe I’m too sensitive to these things as I come from circuit racing.

“Other than that I think it has been a good day for us. We’ve had no moments and no mistakes and I’ve been happy with my driving on these difficult stages.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s good to see another solid performance from Robert [Kubica] on gravel. He’s had a clean run with no mistakes and has been driving well which gives him a good platform to build on tomorrow.”
14-09-12 Hirvonen battles at the top
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen is battling for the top positions at Rally Australia with just 7.9 seconds separating the leading five drivers going into tomorrow’s penultimate day

Tackling eight stages in the vicinity of Coffs Harbour, the crews first travelled south for two loops of three technically challenging stages through the region’s award-winning forests before heading back to base for two passes of the spectator-friendly super special.

Having always performed well behind the wheel of a Ford down under, it was business as usual for Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. The pairing found a good rhythm early on and continued in that same vein throughout the day – regularly posting top-three times.

Feeling at one with the tricky nature of the stages, the Finn is well and truly in the fight for the podium – the number five Ford Fiesta RS WRC just a handful of seconds adrift of the lead in fifth place overall.

There was a less steady transition back to gravel for Elfyn Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt. Having never contested Rally Australia, the Welshman was determined to gain the experience that will prove vital to his future success and wasn’t going to let a lack of confidence through the opening speed tests impede his future ambitions.

Having stalled his Fiesta RS WRC on the first pass of Bellingen (SS2), the youngster lost confidence as well as time. Regrouping for the afternoon, he increased his pace but remains resolute on improving both his position and his performance as the event continues.

Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“It’s really close between the top five at the moment, and that’s great! It’s been a good day for us and we’re right in the battle. Everything has been working well and I’m really happy with the car.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t do anything to keep Sebastian [Ogier] and Jari-Matti [Latvala] behind us, but they’re not so far ahead and hopefully we can have another good day and continue to fight for the podium positions tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“This afternoon started much better, but we got stuck in this morning’s rhythm again for the last long one [SS6]. We’re feeling okay at the start of every stage, but we’re just lacking the rhythm as it goes on.

“I think the character of tomorrow’s stages will suit us better. Today was very technical and narrow amongst the trees, but tomorrow is a lot wider and more open. It’s so hard to take confidence from stages like this when you’re experiencing them for the first time. I find myself braking far too early and then that knocks you out of sync for the rest of the stage.

“Yes, it’s a little frustrating at the moment, but we’re doing what we came here to do. We’re staying out of trouble, gaining the experience, and hopefully we can improve and regain some confidence tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s great to have been in the battle for the lead today. Mikko [Hirvonen] has put in a really strong performance and there remains all to play for as he chases down the top positions tomorrow.

“It’s fair to say that Elfyn [Evans] has found it fairly challenging, but he’s here to learn and he’s done a solid job on his first encounter with these difficult stages. Although he might have been frustrated at times, he’s gaining the experience that will be so valuable to him in the future.”

14-09-12 FIA World Rally Championship 2015 calendar announced
· Thirteen rallies on gravel, asphalt, ice and snow spanning four continents comprise 2015 FIA World Rally Championship calendar
· New dates for rounds in Portugal and Argentina
· Late January start in Monte-Carlo allows more preparation time
· Poland retained after successful return in 2014

Munich, Germany, 12 September 2014 – WRC Promoter has today announced a 13-round calendar for the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship.

All rallies in the 2014 schedule were confirmed for next year by the FIA World Motor Sport Council at its meeting in Beijing, with some significant date changes in the first part of the season.

January’s opening round at Rallye Monte-Carlo will start a week later than this year, providing a longer end-of-season break and increased preparation time for manufacturers, teams and drivers.

The year’s curtain-raiser will adopt Rally 2 regulations for the first time, allowing retired competitors the opportunity to restart the following leg subject to technical approval. Rally 2 is employed by all other rounds.

Portugal’s fixture will return to its traditional fanbase in the north after 10 years in the southern Algarve area and swaps places with Argentina.

The South American round will be in mid-April, when conditions are likely to be warmer and drier, with Portugal moving back to late May. The changes mean Italy’s round will be a week later in mid-June.

Poland, which successfully returned to the championship in 2014 after a five-year absence, retains its place for next season.

“We’re delighted to confirm the 2015 calendar and to retain all 13 rounds for next season. The breadth of events geographically ensures a truly global championship,” said WRC Promoter’s managing director, Oliver Ciesla.

“We’ve again blended a mix of classic events that date back to the championship’s origins with newer, but firmly established, rallies. All will offer a challenging variety of roads and conditions to ensure that WRC will provide the ultimate all-round test of driving ability,” Ciesla added.

The 2015 FIA World Rally Championship calendar is:
14-09-12 Midday quotes Rally Australia, Day one
Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“It’s been a good start and I’m happy with that. These stages are really tricky so I didn’t have a perfectly clean run, but so far it has been good. For sure we had a small advantage with the road position for the last two [SS2 and SS3] but it wasn’t as much as I had hoped.

“It’s really close so it looks like we will have a proper race on our hands. We’re only 3.3 seconds off the lead, but we don’t need to panic just yet. There’s a long way to go and plenty of time to do something about that.”

Elfyn Evans (11th) said:
“It’s been a pretty difficult morning. The first stage [SS1] wasn’t too bad but the feeling was that I could go a lot faster. Then on the second one [SS2] we were having a clean enough run until we stalled on a hairpin. The windscreen got covered in dust and it took a while to get the car started again which meant that we lost a chunk of time along with the confidence.

“After that we just couldn’t commit and relax behind the wheel and on the last stage [SS3] we lost a lot of time as a result. It’s important for us to finish this one so I didn’t want to force the issue. Now, I just need to regroup and get back out there to see what we can do this afternoon.”

Robert Kubica (9th) said:
“These stages are really difficult and although we have a fairly clean line, we have to really stick to it. It was quite slippery in places through the first stage [SS1] and we had a spin in a damp, muddy section into a hairpin. It was a good run through the second [SS2], and I was surprised how good the grip was at the start of the last one [SS3]. But then it got really slippery [in SS3] and there was a lot of sand. We lost time on every junction and accelerating out of the hairpins. The grip was changing a lot so you have to be careful and really read the road.”

14-09-09 Volkswagen jagar VM-titeln i Australien
Inför Rally Australia har Volkswagen sin andra chans att redan nu ta hem konstruktörsmästerskapet i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Samtidigt kämpar Volkswagens fabriksteam Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) och Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) om VM-titeln för förare och codrivers. Det är bara de som har tillräckligt många poäng för att kunna vinna. Rally Australia pågår från den 11:e till och med den 14:e september.

Det står redan klart att bara en förare av en Polo R WRC kan bli världsmästare i rally. Bara Volkswagen-förarna har tagit tillräckligt många poäng för att kunna vinna titeln. När de nu ger sig ut på ett av årets mest utmanande och unika rallyn ger Volkswagen inga team-order utan låter "bäste man vinna." Tjugo specialsträckor på totalt 31,5 mil väntar i Rally Australia.
- Rally Australia är en av årets höjdpunkter, säger Volkswagen Motorsports chef Jost Capito.
- Som ställningen är i VM-tabellen kan det bli särskilt spännande i år. I duellen mellan Ogier och Latvala har båda förarna fått OK till att kämpa om segern. Vi har också en god chans att lyckas ta konstruktörstiteln i ett tidigt skede. Förra året vann vi 21 av 22 specialsträckor och inledde den längsta segerraden i WRC-historien. Det är vi stolta över. Men det blir inte lätt att lyckas än en gång. Rally Australia har många olika utmaningar och flera svåra passager där det är lätt att göra misstag. I vårt hemmarally nyligen såg vi hur hur snabbt ett rally kan vara över. Men det är de stora utmaningarna som gör segrarna så mycket mer värda.

Konstruktörstiteln
Volkswagen skulle kunna fira konstruktörstiteln tidigt i Rally Australia. Sébastien Ogier och Jari-Matti Latvala behöver ta fem poäng sammanlagt för att drömmen ska bli sann - det vill säga om Citroën tar en dubbelseger. Vad som än händer räcker det med att de försvarar 129 av sina nuvarande 169 poängs försprång över konkurrenterna. Om de lyckas med det kan det bli en historisk seger. Om de försvarar titeln i Australien blir det den tidigast vunna titeln på 25 år - efter att bara tre fjärdedelar av säsongen.

Ogier versus Latvala
Duellen mellan Ogier och Latvala har hållit fansen i spänning sedan inledningen av säsongen. När de startar i Rally Australia har Sébastien Ogier 44 poängs försprång över sin teamkollega Jari-Matti Latvala. Åtta av nio rallyn har vunnits av en av dessa två. Ogier har vunnit fem och Latvala har vunnit tre. Duellerna mellan de två är en del av WRC-historien. Tre av dem har utspelats i de tio tätaste avgörandena i WRC någonsin. 2011 vann Ogier över Latvala med 0,2 sekunder i Jordanien. I Nya Zealand år 2010 var Latvala bara 2,4 sekunder snabbare än Ogier. Det närmaste resultatet sedan de båda började köra Volkswagen var i Rally Finland i år när Latvala vann på hemmaplan över Ogier med 3,6 sekunder.

Mikkelsen
Efter att ha kommit in bland de fem bästa sju gånger på nio rallyn, med tre pallplatser, är 2014 Andreas Mikkelsens bästa säsong hittills. Han ligger nu på tredje plats i sammandraget efter Ogier och Latvala och är en av de tre som har en matematisk chans att bli världsmästare. Rally Australia är ett grusrally, 25-årige Mikkelsens favoritunderlag. Dessutom har han goda minnen från 2013 års Rally Australia då han i sin debut där slutade som sexa.

Snabba landsvägar, smala skogsvägar
20 specialsträckor, sammanlagt 31,5 mil på tre dagar, Rally Australia som körs runt Coffs Harbour i New South Wales är en utmaning med mycket variationsrika sträckor. Extremt snabba landsvägar följs av smala, krokiga vägar genom täta skogspartier. Mängder av skymda kurvor skapar svårigheter för förare och kartläsare. Rallyledningen har sparat den mest typiska specialsträckan i Rally Australia till söndagen då man kör norr om Coffs Harbour. "Wedding Bells" i den kuperade skogen Wedding Bells State Forest är en krävande 9,23 kilometer specialsträcka som andra gången är Power Stage där de tre snabbaste får bonuspoäng.

Men den största utmaningen möter de tävlande på lördagen på den sydligaste och längsta specialsträckan under rallyt, den 49 kilometer långa "Nambucca." En stor fördel med Rally Australia är de korta avstånden. Åskådarplatserna är bara mellan 30 och 60 kilometer från centrum i Coffs Harbour.

Citat inför Rally Australia
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Rally Australia passar mig perfekt. Jag gillar utformningen av specialsträckorna och jag trivs "Down Under". 2013 var nästan perfekt för Julien och mig, vi var snabbast på 19 av de 22 specialsträckorna och dessutom fick vi tre bonuspoäng på Power stage. Naturligtvis vill vi göra om det i år. Men det blir långt ifrån enkelt. Vi startar först dag ett och konkurrenterna är nära och på hugget. Hyundai bevisade det med första- och andraplatsen i Tyskland. Misstag bestraffas genast, det fick vi erfara, men så är det i rally. Rally Germany ligger nu bakom oss och vi ser framåt. Som tur är mår Julien och jag fint efter olyckan. Vi gjorde en del undersökningar för att vara på den säkra sidan och alla resultat var positiva. I och med Rally Germany säkrade vi förartiteln åt Volkswagen men inte konstruktörstiteln. Det är definitivit målet inför Rally Australia.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Rally Australia är alltid speciellt. Jag gillar den avspända stilen där, landskapet och havet så nära rallyt. Att byta från asfalt till grus är alltid svårare än tvärtom. Men vi gjorde ett snabbt test i Finland inför rallyt för att få den rätta känslan. Finland är bra att testa i eftersom Rally Australia kräver en inställning av bilen som är någonstans mellan Rally Mexico och Rally Finland. Första dagen som går på smala, tekniska passager genom skogen är mer som Rally Mexico. Andra dagen med sina öppna, snabba och långa sträckor är mer som Rally Finland.
-Så vi behöver två inställningar, en mjukare och en hårdare. Det är värdefullt att shakedown körs på en av specialsträckorna den här gången, bara i motsatt riktning. Det ger oss en känsla för banan. Tyvärr lyckades vi inte minska gapet till vår teamkollega Sébastien Ogier i Tyskland. Jag hoppas jag kan kämpa om segern. Men vi måste också hålla ögonen på konkurrenterna. Jag tror att Citroën och Hyundai har en god chans att vinna.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
- Tillbaka på grus igen och jag gillar det. Rally Australia är ett av årets rallyn som jag redan kört med Polo R WRC. Jag har goda minnen från rallyt. Jag njöt av varje specialsträcka den gången. Det finns många skymda kurvor i skogspartierna och det blir allt annat än enkelt. Det är så lätt att göra ett misstag och tvingas bryta. Särskilt får vi se upp med "Nambucca", inte bara för att det är den längsta specialsträckan utan också för att det är den svåraste i Rally Australia. Nästan 50 kilometer lång har den allt som kan göra livet svårt för en rallyförare. Förutom de skymda kurvorna byter den till asfalt igen. Men i år kan vi lita på noterna från 2013 och jag kommer att studera dem i detalj. Jag känner ingen större press eftersom vi ligger bra till i sammandraget om förar-VM. Varje gång jag startat utan press på mig har jag gjort bra resultat. Jag skulle vilja komma på pallplats igen. Naturligtvis skulle det vara stort att vinna ett rally en dag men jag har inte bråttom. Men Rally Australia är ett av de rallyn där jag har störst chans att vinna.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställningen
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 187
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 143
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 110
4. Mads Østberg 74
5. Mikko Hirvonen 73
6. Thierry Neuville 73
7. Elfyn Evans 57
8. Kris Meeke 54
9. Martin Prokop 37
10. Henning Solberg 26

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 305
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 138
3. Hyundai Motorsport 131
4. M-Sport 128
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 109
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 40
7. RK M-Sport WRT 21
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 12
14-06-27 Steady start for Rendina in Poland
Rally Poland marks Italian driver Max Rendina’s penultimate round in the FIA WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup. With five rounds done and one to go, Rendina currently leads the Group N Cup standings by 32 points, but each result remains critical since his two key competitors Juan Carlos Alonso and Ramon Torres have both completed less rounds than Rendina in their campaign for the Group N Cup title.

This morning Rendina kicked off his Rally Poland challenge with three runs of the Shakedown stage. His first ever outing in Poland, Rendina was relying on these loops to find the right feeling with his Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel confident with the car and struggled to find a good rhythm due to a lack of grip. Hopeful of an improvement in the rally proper, he changed the suspension settings ahead of the first competitive test this afternoon to try and get the optimum result from his tyres.

Rendina started the day focused on finishing all the stages unperturbed, clear in the knowledge that his limited traction would cost him dearly on the first pass of each stage. Intent on not losing too much time to either Alonso or Torres, Rendina set off into SS1. Failing to find the right feeling on the opening test, Rendina worked on his Mitsubishi between the stages to try and increase his grip on SS2. A steady run left him second, 24 seconds behind first-placed Alonso, but 8.5 seconds ahead of Torres.

SS3 Mikolajki Arena marked Rendina’s first Group N Cup stage win of the event. A short 2.5 kilometre stage, the victory still increased Rendina’s confidence as he headed to the overnight halt: “It was good to win the evening stage. We didn’t have to focus on conserving our tyres, being careful of unforeseen rocks or changes in surface, so we could push a little for the first time today. I’m really conscious that the Group N Cup standings as well as the event result for Rally Poland are very important, so I really hope that my co-driver Mario and I can pick up some good points this weekend.”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto thinks Rendina has a sensible strategy for this event, which should put him in a strong position for a good result: “Max may not know Rally Poland, but he’s experienced in driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and we’ve seen him take three Group N Cup victories so far this season, all in countries he’d never competed in before. I agree that he has to take it steady this weekend and I hope that if he stays focused he can put in a strong result.”

Tomorrow’s itinerary offers 90.06 kilometres of competitive stages and for the first time at Rally Poland a lunchtime remote service over the border into Lithuania. Tonight’s 45 minute Flexiservice gives Ralliart Italy a good opportunity to make sure Rendina’s Mitsubishi is in top shape before the challenging day ahead of him.
14-06-27 Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg in top 5
WRC POLAND 2014
Rally Poland got underway this afternoon in Mikolajki with a short leg featuring three stages.
The first thirty or so kilometres of timed stages saw the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews establish themselves among the frontrunners. Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended the day third overall, whilst Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson finished in fifth position, just 8.9 seconds behind the leaders.

With the shakedown, press conference and autograph-signing session, the day got off to a busy start for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi Team’s crews. But at 3.30pm, it was time to head off and tackle the opening three stages of Rally Poland.

Kris Meeke wasted no time in getting to grips with the very quick Polish roads in his Citroën DS3 WRC. Never out of the top 5, he ended this short opening leg in the top three.

Just behind him, Mads Østberg stayed in touch on each stage, arriving back at the service park in fifth place. In the WRC2, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye were also among the leaders. In the new Citroën DS3 R5, they ended the day in sixth place in the category.

Winner of the first round of the FIA Junior WRC, Stéphane Lefebvre got off to the best start in Poland in the Citroën DS3 R3. After SS3, he leads from Martin Koci and Simone Tempestini.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “I’m not far off 100%, but you need to be at 101% on these stages! That’s what I’ll be aiming to do tomorrow, because I know I can do it. I think we can improve the set-up a bit more with the technical team.”

Kris Meeke: “We didn’t think that the stages would be quite so fast. As a result, we sometimes ended up being a gear higher than what we had marked in the pace notes. I’m pleased with how I have started the race. It was still very slippery, although there wasn’t any real sweeping this afternoon.”

Sébastien Chardonnet: My feelings were relatively good in the car and I felt confident. We need to rack up more road time to improve our consistency. The Citroën DS3 R5 is working really well. If we hadn’t run off a bit into a field on SS2, we would have been very close to the leaders.”

STANDINGS AFTER SS3
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 17:49.2
2. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2.8
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +7.0
4. Juho Hänninen / Tomi Tuominen (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7.8
5. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +8.9
6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +21.1
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +23.2
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +23.5
9. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +29.4
10. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +31.0…

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 2 – Juho Hänninen, 1.

LEADERS
SS1: Sébastien Ogier
SS2: Andreas Mikkelsen
SS3: Sébastien Ogier
14-06-27 End of Day quotes Rally Poland, day one
Mikko Hirvonen (9th) said:
“It’s been tough out there this afternoon. I don’t feel as though we are driving too badly, but as you can see from the times, something isn’t quite right. The conditions are a little different to what we had on the test and the set-up of the car might be a bit too soft so we’ll make some changes to that for tomorrow.

“If you are even the slightest bit hesitant into the corners on a rally as fast as this, you lose so much time. We need to do something for tomorrow, and I will certainly give it my all and try to get back on the pace.”

Elfyn Evans (13th) said:
“The first stage didn’t feel too bad but on the second one we were a bit hesitant under braking into a corner and ended up going straight on into a field. If I’m being honest, I don’t think we lost too much time as a result of that. More than anything, I’m just struggling to find the confidence and get a good rhythm behind the wheel; on stages as fast as this, it can cost you so much time.

“We’ll have a look at the data in service and discuss with the engineers if we need to make any set-up changes for tomorrow, but we won’t do anything too dramatic. I think I just need to relax a little – stop thinking about what I’m doing so much and just enjoy the stages.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been something of a disappointing day for us. It’s fair to say that both Mikko [Hirvonen] and Elfyn [Evans] have struggled to find their feet, but tomorrow is another day and we just need to look to that.

“The engineers are working hard with the drivers to see if there are any set-up changes which can help them tomorrow. We just need to focus on that and hope for better things when we restart in the morning.” Robert
Kubica (12th) said:
“I was happy with our pace on the first stage, but then on the second [stage] we rolled and lost a lot of time. I was braking over a crest, the car unloaded and we went straight into a ditch. I should have gone straight on but I tried to recover it and we rolled. Luckily, there were lots of spectators to get us back on the stage and there was very little damage to the car.

“Of course it’s a shame that we made that mistake, but I’m happy with the pace we were showing. I want to continue with the same satisfaction on gravel that I had in Sardinia. If we can continue with the pace that we have shown this afternoon then it could be another good gravel event for us.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Robert’s [Kubica] pace was very encouraging before his mishap on SS2 and it was good to see that he was able to maintain that speed after the roll. There is very little damage to his [Ford] Fiesta [RS WRC] and I hope that we will see more of the same promising times tomorrow.”
14-06-24 Rally Poland okänd terräng för Volkswagen
Försvarande världsmästarna och ledarna i årets rally-VM Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), tvåan Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) och Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) på fjärde plats kan se fram emot ett snabbt rally med långa hopp och löst underlag på grus när de startar i Rally Poland med sina Polo R WRC. Starten går den 26:e juni och rallyt avslutas den 29:e juni.

Det är första gången Volkswagen ställer upp med sina 315 hk starka Polo R WRC i Polen nu när Rally Poland åter ingår i WRC-kalendern. Men alla tre förarna har erfarenhet av rally i Polen och alla har något att bevisa.

Inför den sjunde omgången av årets FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) och med ett återstående rally före sommaruppehållet, är paret Ogier/Ingrassia redan mästare i första halvlek. Och medan Ogier/Ingrassia kommer att göra allt för att utöka sin ledning har Latvala/Anttila som mål att minska avståndet fram till ledarna och och deras 33 poäng stor försprång.

Duellen mellan Ogier och Latvala gladde publiken i Argentina och i Italien. Och tusentals fans väntas följa inte bara de 24 specialsträckorna på det 362,48 km långa Rally Poland utan även sträckan i serviceparken Mikolajki. Dessutom kommer på lördagen flera specialsträckor att köras i Litauen.
-Rally Poland är det enda rallyt i WRC-kalendern som vi inte tävlat i tidigare med Polo R WRC, säger Jost Capito, Volkswagens motorsportchef.
-Men det ändrar inte vårt mål att vinna även i Polen. Vi har förberett oss för den här utmaningen med tre dagars intensiva tester och vi har bilarna som alla måste slå. Tio segrar i rad säger allt. Jag är övertygad om att Ogier versus Latvala kommer att kunna bli säsongens stående thriller. Och låt oss inte glömma Andreas Mikkelsen som gjort några fantastiska rallyn i år och redan vid 24 års ålder är en av världens bästa förare. Våra konkurrenter kommer att göra allt för att slå oss. Med andra ord, vi ser verkligen fram emot Rally Poland.

Tre dagars tester
Två veckor före starten av Rally Poland, förberedde sig Volkswagen inför utmaningen med testkörningar. De tre besättningarna, Ogier/Ingrassia, Latvala/Anttila och Mikkelsen/Fløene fick en dag vardera för att bekanta sig med förhållandena i och omkring Mikolajki. Rally Poland består av snabba partier på lösgrus med många krön - bitvis påminner det om Finland. Rallyt är också mycket väderberoende, förra året körde flera startande fast i lera under rekognoceringen före rallyt.

Höjdpunkterna
Den 35,17 km långa specialsträckan Goldap är ny för 2014 och en av rallyts höjdpunkter. Den kännetecknas av spektakulära krön och långa hopp men också av långa kurvor som sätter förarnas mod på prov. SS Kapciamiestis är också en nyhet och en av de fyra sträckor som går i Litauen. Även här finns långa, snabba sträckor på hårt grus. Den absoluta höjdpunkten är ändå den kortaste - sträckan framför publiken i Mikolajki Arena. Den 2,5 km superspecialen är bara ett stenkast från serviceparken och är med i rallyt totalt fyra gånger.

Historien i siffror
19 rallyn, 16 segrar och 28 pallplatser är resultatet hittills för Polo R WRC i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Den 315 hk starka fyrhjulsdrivna bilen har deltagit i 343 specialsträckor och vunnit 226 av dem. Och i Power Stage där de tre snabbaste förarna får bonuspoäng har Volkswagens förare lyckats 32 gånger. En Polo R WRC har varit etta 13 gånger av de 18 Power Stages som körts hittills. Det ger Volkswagen en vinstprocent på 84 procent sedan januari 2013. På 19 rallyn med Volkswagen har Sébastien Ogier kommit på pallplats 16 gånger medan hans teamkollega Jari-Matti Latvala har tagit elva pallplatser. Rally Poland blir Volkswagens 20:e WRC-rally.

Payback time från 2009
Tre förare, tre olika team och tre tidiga slut; Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala och Andreas Mikkelsen har alla något att bevisa i Polen. Sébastien Ogier tvingades bryta tidigt på grund av ett tekniskt fel då han låg på en säker tredjeplats i en Citroën. Jari-Matti Latvala, som körde Ford den gången, råkade ut för en olycka några hundra meter från mållinjen i Mikolajki och tvingades bryta efter att ha legat på andra plats. Andreas Mikkelsen bröt rallyt tidigt i sin Škoda Fabia WRC.

Citat inför Rally Poland
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Det viktigaste är att vi leder världsmästerskapet och att vi lyckades utöka ledningen på Sardinien. Vi vill naturligtvis fortsätta på samma sätt i Polen. Vi vet att vi inte alltid kan vinna men vi har föresatt oss att ta så många poäng som möjligt. Mitt mål i år är att behålla en ledning med 25 poäng över tvåan, det vill säga alla poäng från ett helt rally.
-Man vet aldrig vad som kan hända, jag tror inte vi har någon nytta av noterna från 2009 eller av erfarenheterna därifrån, det var så länge sedan. Jag kanske tittar på en del av bilderna vi tog från bilen den gången. Men det är korrekt att säga att det här årets rally är nytt för alla.
-Testerna har gått bra. Vi fokuserade mest på att ställa in bilen rätt för förhållandena i Polen. Sträckorna är mycket snabba och det var intressant att bekanta sig med underlaget. Det är mycket sandigt och mjukt så efter att några bilar passerat kan det snabbt bli ojämnt. Därför väntar vi oss att körförhållandena kommer att vara mycket annorlunda när vi kör specialsträckorna andra gången på eftermiddagen.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Rally Poland består av mycket snabba sträckor med långa hopp, litet som i Finland. Skillnaden är att det är mindre skog i Rally Poland och specialsträckorna ofta går i mer öppna landskap. Dessutom är underlaget sandigt snarare än stenigt. Jag har redan en hyfsad bild av vad vi kan vänta oss i Rally Poland eftersom vi körde här 2009. Men WRC-förarna är nu så skickliga - de kan snabbt anpassa sig till olika förhållanden, underlag och väggrepp. Så det kommer inte att bli lätt. Några specialsträckor är desamma som i 2009 men trots det skriver vi helt nya noter och kommer inte att använda de gamla överhuvudtaget.
-Specialsträckorna i Litauen är nya. Så det finns många nya inslag och vi måste förbereda oss mycket noga. Fansen i Polen är tokiga i rally. Så var det redan 2009 och det blir ännu mer intensivt nu på grund av att Robert Kubica nu tävlar i WRC. Det kommer att bli en fantastisk stämning.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Efter att ha lyckats väl tillsammans med Ola i Rally Italy, ser jag nu fram emot Rally Poland. Jag fick en del erfarenhet här Škoda Fabia WRC år 2009 och jag gillade det verkligen. Rally Poland är mycket, mycket snabbt. Specialsträckorna är ganska sandiga så det kommer verkligen inte att bli lätt. Det kommer att bli stor publik som stöttar oss och naturligtvis särskilt Robert Kubica som är något av en nationalhjälte här i Polen.
-Publiken kommer att få se några långa hopp. Banan är ganska snabb med långa sträckor utan avbrott som borde passa min körstil fint.Jag är säker på att jag kan nå ett gott resultat här. Vi kom fyra för tredje gången i Italien. Så jag skulle vilja förbättra det med minst en placering.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställning
Förarmästerskapet
1. Sébastien Ogier, 138 poäng
2. Jari-Matti Latvala, 105
3. Mads Østberg, 66
4. Andreas Mikkelsen, 63
5. Mikko Hirvonen, 40
6. Elfyn Evans, 36
7. Kris Meeke, 32
8. Thierry Neuville, 31
9. Martin Prokop, 30
10. Henning Solberg, 22

Konstruktörsmästerskapet
1. Volkswagen Motorsport; 227 poäng
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 109
3. M-Sport, 78
4. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 64
5. Hyundai Motorsport, 57
6. Jipocar Czech National Team, 32
7. RK M-Sport WRT, 18
8. Hyundai Motorsport N, 4
14-06-22 Citroën ventures into new territory
- On its third appearance on the World Championship calendar, Rally Poland marks the mid-way point of the 2014 season.
- Extensively overhauled since the 2009 rally, the route now includes Lithuania, a country that has never before hosted the WRC.
- Two DS3 WRCs have been entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team for Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle.

CITROËN AND RALLY POLAND: A LONG HISTORY
Rally Poland is the second oldest road race still held today. Created a few years after Monte-Carlo, it is celebrating its 71st anniversary in 2014. Between 1938 and 1956, Polish crews secured four category wins in Citroën cars. When the Manufacturers’ World Championship was set up in 1973, Rally Poland was part of the programme. A second appearance in 2009 saw another Citroën finish on the podium as Dani Sordo and Marc Marti finished as runners-up in their C4 WRC.

FAIRLY UNUSUAL TYPES OF ROADS
In addition to only featuring sporadically on the WRC calendar, Rally Poland also offers a profoundly different challenge to the other rounds in terms of the road surface. “We tend to think of the stages as being close in style to those in Finland,” explained Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. ”But there are many other aspects. The ground is especially soft. The racing line becomes rutted and lines form pretty quickly. And there aren’t as many jumps. As it is an event that is back on the calendar after a five-year absence, experience will be less significant than on other rounds.”

The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team is already in Poland this weekend to run test sessions. This will give Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs, the opportunity to assess how the road surface changes as more cars come through the stages: “The aim is to find solutions so that we can provide our drivers with a car that inspires confidence. The stages are so quick that the car has to be particularly precise. We have been working with the shock absorber diagrams and the combination of springs and anti-roll bars to get the results we’re after.”

The road surface will also force the team to alter the set-up of the DS3 WRC at each service: “There are really two distinct parts; the roads will be flowing and fast on the first runs and very rutted on the second runs. Each time, we’ll have to adjust the ride height to avoid the car from scraping too much on the ruts. Where there are lines, the drivers will have to make use of them and manage not to get carried away. They’ll need to drive aggressively to get out of the ruts if they feel it is necessary. But it never comes easily.”

MADS ØSTBERG UPS THE PACE
Runner-up in Sardinia, Mads Østberg has now finished on the podium three times in his last five outings. Increasingly comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC, he will be tackling a completely different surface in Poland: ”I feel full of confidence. We’re on a positive trend. I feel very good in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and we are making progress all the time.”

The Norwegian first competed in this rally in 2009, the last time the WRC came to Poland: ”I have some very good memories of the rally, even it wasn’t easy. I really like fast rallies. That seems to be the main feature of this race. I think the average speeds will be even higher than in Finland. The gravel is a bit softer and there are a lot fewer jumps. Some sections are pretty narrow, but you have to keep as much speed as possible.”

As has been the case all season, Mads starts the rally with the same goal of finishing on the podium: “For the time being, we need to focus on testing, which will take place just before recce starts. It will definitely be very intense because we’ll have to get to grips with the car on these kinds of roads. The gaps will very undoubtedly be very narrow and there’ll be plenty of contenders. We’ll have to push from the word go on the first stage to get among the front-runners!”

GOAL REMAINS THE SAME FOR KRIS MEEKE
Although he wasn’t here in 2009, Kris Meeke has competed at Rally Poland once before. Back in 2006, he enjoyed his first outing in the Citroën C2-R2. “It was a great experience; it was part of the promotion campaign for the car. Winning the two-wheel drive category is still an excellent memory,” recalled Kris.

Unlike the earlier rounds of the championship, Kris Meeke won’t suffer as much through his lack of knowledge of the event: “The stages are relatively new to everyone. When you’re driving as quickly as we will be doing here, you need to pay even more attention during recce.”

Currently seventh in the drivers’ championship, with two podium finishes, Kris Meeke is not putting himself under pressure to get a particular result: “We used Rally Sardinia to rack up a few more miles in the car. Once again, we’ll be applying the same strategy. There is no question of taking any unnecessary risks. I hope I can get through the rally without any mistakes and without any problems. If we manage that, we should be on the pace and the result will take care of itself!”

IN POLAND AND LITHUANIA
As was the case five years ago when Rally Poland last featured on the WRC calendar, this year’s event is based in Mikolajki. The shakedown will start on Thursday morning at 8.00am with two mandatory runs for each crew. The ceremonial start will be held in the city centre in the early afternoon. The action then kicks off with two stages (Milki 14.54km – 4.40pm and Kruklanki 17.24km – 5.30pm), before the crews head back to the service park and take on a super special stage held after dark.

Friday will be partly dedicated to Lithuania. The crews will leave parc ferme at 7.00am and head east. After an opening test in Wieliczki (12.89km – 9.10am), they will cross the border into Lithuania for two stages (Kapciamiestis 26.61km – 11.25am/2.40pm and Margionys 17.97km – 12.30pm/3.45pm), each contested twice. A remote fifteen-minute service will be held between the first and second loops in Druskininkai. On their way back to the base, the crews will tackle the Wieliczki test again at 7.15pm before a second super special stage at the Mikolajki Arena at 10.00pm. After a 45-minute service, the cars will be driven into parc ferme for the night at 11.10pm.

Saturday’s leg will serve up the longest day with 157 kilometres of timed stages through the forests and along the lakes of Warmia and Mazury. The day kicks off at 7.15am with a loop of five stages that will take competitors close to the Russian border with Chmielewo (6.75km – 8.00am), Stare Juchy (14.41km – 9.05am), Babki (15.76km – 10.35am), Goldap (35.17km – 11.35am) and Baranowo (14.90km – 2.05pm).

A thirty-minute service period will split the day into two before a second run on the first four stages. En route back to Mikolajki, Baranowo will be avoided in favour of a third run on the Mikolajki super special stage, once again held at 10.00pm.

Sunday’s action begins at 7.00am, as crews tackle stages covered earlier in the rally. Thursday’s two stages will be repeated (Milki 14.54km – 8.15am and Kruklanki 17.24km – 9.03am) before the crews complete one final run on the Mikolajki Arena super special stage (2.50km – 11.02am), this time in daylight, and the Baranowo Power Stage (14.90km – 12.05am), taken from Saturday’s programme.

The rally is scheduled to finish at the Mikolajki Arena on Sunday, 29 June from 2.00pm.

TAKE PART IN THE CITROËN RACING BY FANS FILM!
At this year’s Rally Poland, Citroën Racing is offering fans the opportunity to share video footage that they film using digital equipment (cameras, smartphones, etc.).

By going to http://tiny.cc/citroenracingbyfans, each fan can post their own videos, which may be used to create the film of Rally Poland.

At the end of the rally, the best videos will be selected to produce the Citroën Racing by Fans film. Each author will be mentioned in the credits and gifts will be sent to the best contributors!

14-06-21 M-Sport mount Masurian deefence
As Rally Poland returns to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) for the first time since 2009, the M-Sport World Rally Team will be looking to defend their previous form having claimed victory with Mikko Hirvonen five years previously. The team’s past experience will prove vital when it comes to understanding the nature and character of the Polish stages, but with much of the route differing from the former encounter, the crews will need to muster all of their concentration and precision as they tackle what is effectively a brand-new event.

Based in the Masurian town of Mikolajki, the rally will also venture into neighbouring Lithuania for more high-speed kilometres. As well as being extremely fast, the sandy stages provide a slippery affair and the tree-lined route hides a multitude of obstacles which threaten to ensnare any crew who venture even slightly off line.

If that weren’t enough, the region’s unpredictable summer can play havoc with strategies. The threat of rain is ever present and shrewd tyre selections can make all the difference.

This is a rally in which the team need to apply all of their knowledge, skill and experience, but speed is arguably key. The fast gravel roads of Poland’s Lake District have been likened to those in Estonia and Finland, something which is sure to be an advantage to M-Sport’s resident Finns.

Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen know what it takes to succeed in Poland. Having won the event in 2009, the Scandinavian’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC will be a real contender for the podium.

The fast, flowing stages suit Hirvonen’s fearless style, and the well-honed pacenote system which he and Lehtinen have developed over their 10 year collaboration will provide the ideal base from which to demonstrate their speed.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans goes to Poland with his confidence high. The Welshman was pleased to see some encouraging progression at the previous outing in Sardinia and he will be looking to carry that momentum forward.

Most importantly, the fresh stages offer a level playing field from which Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt can compare their speed and style to their rivals; without the advantage of past experience.

With 90 per cent of the route new to all crews, next week’s event acts as an opportunity for the Welshman to determine more specific areas for improvement as he continues his development at the WRC’s highest league.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“This is an event that I really enjoy and we won in 2009 so I’m looking forward to returning to Poland next week. We have a good idea of what to expect in terms of the conditions, but the stages themselves will be almost completely new.

“Historically, I’ve always felt quite comfortable at new events so we’ll be looking to be in the fight for the top positions. Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] and I will be making new notes for most of the stages, but that doesn’t really faze me as I’ve always been confident in our ability to do that.

“The stages are very fast and in some ways you could compare them to those in Finland, but the surface is completely different. In Finland the gravel is quite hard, but in Poland it’s really soft and sandy which means that they can become fairly rutted for the second pass.

“The competition will be tough, but I’m feeling really good ahead of this event and looking forward to bringing home what will hopefully be a strong result for the team.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This is another new event for me, but the difference is that it will be new to a lot of other crews too. It offers something of a level playing field – certainly more so than any other event this year.

“For me, the first pass will just be about checking the notes in what is likely to be a very fast rally. But if the feeling is right, it would be nice to pay a bit more attention to the times over the second loop and really concentrate on improving the driving technique.

“From what I’ve heard, the stages are all really high-speed and the soft, sandy surface means that they could become quite rutted for the second pass. I’ll be sure to speak with Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen] on the event to get their thoughts on the stages and how best to tackle them. Their experience and advice has been a real benefit for the new events and I’m sure it will come into play again next week.

“This is a new rally so we need to finish and gain the experience that is so vital at this level, but we also need to keep learning and developing. It’s all about finding the right balance and that is what will ultimately help me reach my goals.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
M-Sport’s range of award-winning rally cars has once again dominated the entry list. With 39 of the 71 competitors opting for the Ford Fiesta, a record-breaking 55 per cent of the field will line up behind the wheel of M-Sport machinery – a statistic that sees Ford’s presence more than double that of the next most popular manufacturer.

Seven Fiesta RS WRCs have been entered. Alongside Hirvonen, Evans and Robert Kubica, M-Sport will also run the Fiesta RS WRC of Henning Solberg who makes a welcome return following a string of standout performances on gravel.

In the WRC2 category, M-Sport can boast an impressive 65 per cent of the field with the Ford Fiesta R5 proving to be the model of choice. Being run by M-Sport in identical Fiesta R5s are Peruvian Nicolás Fuchs and Frenchman Bryan Bouffier.
14-06-10 Volkswagen satsar långsiktigt på VM i rally
Volkswagen har tagit beslut om ett långsiktigt engagemang i världsmästerskapet i rally, FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Volkswagens styrelse har gett grönt ljus för att fortsätta till och med år 2019.

Volkswagen gjorde sitt första framträdande i rallytoppen 2013 med Polo R WRC och vann på första försöket alla tre titlarna - förarmästerskapet, mästerskapet för co-drivers och konstruktörsmästerskapet. Hittills i år är teamet obesegrat och leder VM-tabellen med paren Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) och Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN). Andreas Mikkelsen (N), med kartläsaren Ola Fløene (N) vid sin sida, ligger på fjärde plats.
-Världsmästerskapet i rally, FIA World Rally Championship, är en mycket bra plattform för Volkswagen att visa den stora publiken bilarnas effektivitet, köregenskaper och tillförlitlighet, säger Heinz-Jakob Neußer, ansvarig för märkets motorsportprogram.
- Serien är närmare förknippad med tekniken i de nyaste serietillverkade bilarna än något annat världsmästerskap och baseras på förhållanden som våra kunder världen över upplever till vardags. Dessutom är miljoner människor passionerade för den här spektakulära sporten.
-Det nära sambandet mellan serietillverkning och utvecklingsavdelningarna för motorsport, den sportiga konkurrensen med våra rivaler, och den stora potentialen för marknadsföring i media ledde oss till beslutet att göra en långsiktig satsning på världsmästerskapet i rally, säger Heinz-Jakob Neußer.

Dern ursprungliga satsningen var planerad för tre år, från 2013 till 2015. Styrelsebeslutet betyder att satsningen fortsätter ytterligare fyra år.
-Volkswagens styrelsebeslut att satsa på FIA World Rally Championship till 2019 gör oss mycket stolta, säger Volkswagens motorsportdirektör Jost Capito.
-Förtroendet gör hela teamet mycket motiverat att inte vila på lagrarna för en enda sekund utan att fortsätta med samma passion och beslutsamhet för att garantera fortsatta framgångar i världsmästerskapet.
-En förutsättning för själva mästerskapet är ett format som är anpassat till TV för att göra rally ännu mer attraktivt för den stora publiken. Vi uppmanar arrangörerna att samarbeta med tillverkarna för att väsentligt öka mediabevakningen av serien.

Tillsammans med Formel 1 är världsmästerskapet i rally den mest kända motorsportserien för bilar i världen. Världsmästerskapet i rally har körts sedan 1973 och består av 13 deltävlingar på fyra kontinenter - på asfalt, grus, snö och is. Tävlingsbilarna utgår från serietillverkade bilar och har en 1,6-liters fyrcylindrig motor som utvecklar cirka 315 hk. De är försedda med fyrhjulsdrift.

Efter tre segrar i rad i Dakar-rallyt med dieseldrivna Race Touareg åren 2009 - 2011, sökte Volkswagen en ny utmaning och ställde upp i FIA World Rally Championship med Polo R WRC år 2013. Med tio segrar på 13 starter vann fabriksteamet med Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, VM-titeln för förare och co-driver vid första försöket. Dessutom vann Volkswagen konstruktörsmästerskapet. Den här säsongen har Volkswagen Polo R WRC vunnit sex rallyn av sex möjliga.
14-06-08 Sébastien Ogier vinner för fjärde gången i år
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) tog sin fjärde seger för säsongen under extremt svåra förhållanden i Rally Italia. Volkswagen är därmed obesegrade år 2014 och har utökat sin segerrad till tio segrar i rad.

Under en stor del av rallyt fick fansen vara med om en av de mest spännande duellerna för säsongen. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) var länge inblandade i en kamp med team-kollegorna Ogier/Ingrassia om sträcksegrar, om tiondedelar av sekunder och om totalledningen innan en punktering kostade det finska paret ledningen och såg dem droppa ned till tredje plats.l

Det tredje paret i Volkswagen Polo R WRC imponerade också, Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) avslutade det sjätte rallyt för säsongen med en fjärdeplats.
-Ogier mot Latvala - det var en av de mest spännande kamper jag har sett på väldigt länge, säger Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, i styrelsen för teknisk utveckling hos Volkswagen.
-Jag tror att duellen kommer att fortsätta att underhålla oss under resten av säsongen. Hela Volkswgen-teamet gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb. Tack till alla som bidragit till framgången.

Ogier mot Latvala
Trogen Volkswagens motto - må bäste man vinna -, vilket utesluter alla stallorder i kampen om VM-titeln, tog Jari-Matti Latvala ledningen på den femte specialsträckan. Sébastien Ogier fortsatte att vinna delsträckor och höll jämna steg med sin team-kollega. På lördagseftermiddagen, när bara 12,3 sekunder skiljde de två Volkswagen-förarna åt och när 100 km av rallyt återstod, tog duellen slut. Latvala slog i en sten på den 13:e specialsträckan och skadade ett hjul som han vare tvungen att byta på plats.

Medan Ogier fortsatte och kunde ta en komfortabel 13:e seger i Volkswagens färger utmanade Latvala Mads Østberg (Citroën) om andraplatsen ända in till Power Stage. Tredjeplatsen var tillräckligt för att ge Latvala/Anttilla deras 43:e pallplats och deras elfte på 19 rallyn i Volkswagen.

Norge kommer tillbaka
Andreas Mikkelsen och hans nygamla co-driver Ola Fløene trivdes i sin första tävling tillsammans för året och slutade på en imponerande fjärdeplats. Det var Mikkelsens tredje fjärdeplats i rad. Under största delen av Rally Italy hade Mikkelsen/Fløene en kamp om tredjeplatsen med Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S, Citroën). Den tog slut när de slog i en sten mitt på vägen på den 17:e specialsträckan och skadade en stötdämpare. På de resterande specialsträckorna tog Mikkelsen/Fløene inga onödiga risker utan gick in för att säkra fjärdeplatsen

Hetta och sand
Rally Italia visade sig bli en verklig test av människa mot maskin. Lös sand gav inte mycket vägrepp för dem som startade tidigt. De hade inget annat val än att svepa bort sanden för bilarna som kom bakom dem. Volkswagens förare kom till Rally Italia som etta, tvåa och trea i VM-tabellen. Då säger reglerna att de ska gå ut som de tre första bilarna. Trots handikappet låg de på första, andra och fjärde plats när en tredjedel av rallyt körts.

Besättningens fysiska kondition kom att spela en avgörande roll. Med temperaturer upp till 36 grader i skuggan var det hett i cockpit. Och trots att väderleksutsikterna lovade solsken under hela rallyt hade väder-teamet händerna fulla med att välja rätt däck. Temperaturen steg snabbt på morgonen, på bara två timmar steg den med nio grader.

Segerraden fortsätter
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia tog sin fjärde seger för säsongen och lade ännu ett kapitel till Volkswagens framgångssaga. Från och med slutet av säsongen 2013 har de tio senaste segrarna gått till Volkswagen. Polo R WRC har nu 16 vinster och 28 pallplatser efter 19 körda rallyn i WRC. Volkswagens rallybil är inte bara snabb utan också tillförlitlig. Sedan Polo R WRC gjorde sin debut 2013 har den efter 19 starter inte tvingats bryta en enda gång på grund av tekniska fel.

Volkswagen har vunnit 226 av 343 specialsträckor sedan förra årets Monte Carlo-rally. I och med Rally Italy har Polo R WRC varit bland de tre snabbaste vid 521 av 953 möjliga tillfällen.

Långa dagar, korta nätter
Mycket jobb och litet sömn, den sjätte omgången i årets WRC-tabell blev en fysisk utmaning för servicepersonalen. Trots det utförde de sin vanliga felfria och tillförlitliga prestation vid de åtta servicetillfällena. Dessutom tillbringade de flera timmar med korsa Sardinien för att nå 15-minutersservicen i Buddusò, 120 km från serviceparken i Alghero.

För första gången sedan Polo R WRC började tävla i världsmästerskapet i rally tog Volkswagens team alla bonuspoängen i Power Stage. Andreas Mikkelsen var snabbast och tog för första gången de tre bonuspoängen. Andraplatsen betydde ytterligare två poäng till Jari-Matti Latvala medan Ogier på tredje plats fick en poäng. Efter 18 Power Stages har Volkswagens förare tagit bonuspoäng vid 32 tillfällen.

Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia utökade sin ledning i förar-och kartläsarmästerskapet och kommer att avsluta första halvan av säsongen som VM-ledare - oavsett hur det går i Rally Poland. Deras närmaste konkurrenter är team-kollegorna Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. Ännu en Volkswagen-förare är med och tampas om tredjeplatsen i VM-tabellen, Andreas Mikkelsen är med sin fjärdeplats bara tre poäng efter Mads Østberg

Citat efter Rally Italy
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Jag är överlycklig! Den här segern är definitivt en av de tuffaste i min karriär. Redan från första dagen pressade Julian och jag oss till det yttersta här på Sardinien. I den här hettan och på de extremt halkiga vägarna var vi tvungna att riskera allt för att sätta press på Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila. Det lönade sig till slut och vi vann. Vi leder visserligen VM halvvägs in i säsongen men det är inget skäl koppla av. Jari-Matti är i toppform just nu. Men vi håller också ett öga på de andra. Mads Østberg imponerade och grattis till Andreas Mikkelsen för hans seger i Power Stage.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
- Jag kan inte vara riktigt nöjd med tredjepatsen. Vi ledde alltsedan i fredags och hade en god chans att vinna. Tyvärr försvann allt hopp om seger efter lördagens sladd och punkteringen. Vi hade också en del andra mindre problem. Vi försökte ta in på Mads Østberg på söndagen men hans försprång var för stort. Men vi tog ändå två bonuspoäng i Power Stage. Vad det gäller farten var vi mycket bra här på Sardinien, det är det ingen tvekan om. Det här resultatet gör inte situationen i mästerskapet lättare men det är fortfarande sju rallyn kvar och vi måste se framåt mot dem.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Vi hade en bra utgångspunkt inför starten i dag. Det var ett stort gap till tredjeplatsen och ett ännu större till femteplatsen bakom oss. Vi ägnade hela morgonen åt att koncentrera oss på att spara däcken så mycket som möjligt inför Power Stage. Det lönade sig även om vi gjorde några mindre misstag. Trots det lyckades jag vinna min första Power Stage. Fantastiskt! Sammantaget är jag mycket nöjd med Rally Italy. Vi åstadkom det vi hade föresatt oss göra. Jag är mycket nöjd med att ha Ola Fløene tillbaka vid min sida. Han gjorde direkt ett mycket bra jobb. Det här är min tredje fjärdeplats i rad. Jag skulle vilja klättra minst en placering nästa gång. Jag är säker på att vi kan klara det. Uppåt är nu den enda vägen för Ola och mig.

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Italy – slutresultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 4h 02m 37.8s
2. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 1m 23.1s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1m 32.8s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen + 2m 39.3s
5. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 4m 41.8s
6. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 6m 05.3s
7. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor (N/A), Ford + 7m 15.8s
8. Robert Kubica/Maciej Szczepaniak (PL/PL), Ford + 12m 19.0s
9. Lorenzo Bertelli/Mitia Dotta (I/I), Ford + 15m 22.1s
10. Khalid Al-Qassimi/Chris Patterson (UAE/GB), Citroën + 16m 49.3s

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Italy – Power Stage Resultat
1. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen 5m 39.7s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1.0s
3. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 2.5s

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställningen
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 112
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 105
3. Mads Østberg 66
4. Andreas Mikkelsen 63
5. Mikko Hirvonen 40
6. Elfyn Evans 36
7. Kris Meeke 32
8. Thierry Neuville 31
9. Martin Prokop 30
10. Henning Solberg 22

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 227
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 109
3. M-Sport 78
4. Volkswagen Motorsport II 64
5. Hyundai Motorsport 57
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 32
7. RK M-Sport WRT 18
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 4
14-06-08 Mads Østberg records his best result with Citroën
With two third-place finishes already secured in Sweden and Portugal, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson went one better in Sardinia as they ended the rally as runners-up.
Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson scored their first point of the season in the Citroën DS3 WRC.
Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye produced a fine performance to finish second in the WRC2 class on the World Championship debut of the new Citroën DS3 R5.

After putting together a performance over the first two particularly demanding days, the Citroën Racing drivers were able to convert their good form into results today. Sunday’s schedule involved less than fifty kilometres of timed stages before the rally was due to end in Alghero.

Kris Meeke set off second on the road, with the unenviable task of sweeping loose gravel off the racing line. His sole aim was to make it to the finish and pick up some more experience. Despite rejoining under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday morning, he managed to score two points for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.

The last four stages were above all a great opportunity for Mads Østberg to claim his best result to date in the Citroën DS3 WRC. Having opted for a different tyre strategy to his main rivals (two soft and four hard Michelin tyres as opposed to five hard tyres for the other competitors), the Norwegian snuffed out any hope of a comeback for Jari-Matti Latvala to head into the final kilometres without any pressure.

Fifth in the Power Stage, he held onto second position in the final overall standings. This, his third podium finish in five races, means he now holds third place on his own in the Drivers’ World Championship standings after six of the thirteen rounds.

Increasingly confident thanks to the work carried out with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team engineers, Khalid Al Qassimi also recorded his best result of the season as he took tenth place, picking up one point.

On its World Championship debut, the Citroën DS3 R5 confirmed the high hopes that had been placed in it. Entrusted to Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye, the reigning WRC3 champions and winners of the 2013 Citroën Top Driver series, the new flagship model of Citroën Racing’s customer racing line-up celebrated its debut outing by grabbing second place in the WRC2 category! A successful weekend was rounded off by Thomas Pletka’s win in the two-wheel drive class in a Citroën DS3 R3.

The next round of the WRC will be held on 26-9 June in Poland.
QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “We regularly matched the pace of our main rivals throughout the rally. Having said that, second place wasn’t completely sewn up when we started this morning. But we went for a good tyre strategy and that helped us to consolidate our position. I feel better and better in the Citroën DS3 WRC. My confidence is growing and I’m managing to drive faster without taking any risks. We need to keep working in order to make further progress. The next goal is to move up another place!”

Kris Meeke: “The rally had started well. We had good pace until the alternator problem meant we had to retire and rejoin under Rally 2 rules. From Saturday morning onwards, we were first on the road. It is always difficult to feel confident in conditions like that but it was an interesting and useful experience. I hope it’ll be useful in the future.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “It was an especially difficult race. The stages were very rough. It was tough for the cars but also for the crews. We adapted the set-up throughout the first part of the rally. The changes began to pay off on Saturday afternoon. The times were a lot better even though we were sweeping the loose gravel off the line. The engineers did a fantastic job. They understood what I needed to feel comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC.”

Sébastien Chardonnet: “The Citroën DS3 R5 worked perfectly. We learned a lot this weekend and the technical team also acquired a lot of information. We did what we set out to achieve. It’s been a perfect weekend. We were even able to start working in more depth on the set-up, so as to acquire a bit more experience and to prepare for the rest of the season.”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “It has been a very intense rally for Citroën Racing. The team has been really united this weekend. It’s a strength which meant we were able to make the right calls and give our crews the opportunity to showcase their skills. Mads managed to overcome the difficulties of the rally to grab a fine second place. Despite an alternator problem on his car, Kris was able to add to his experience and rack up a few more miles on the stages. Khalid improved a lot on what are very demanding roads. His tenth place is just rewards. And finally, we can also celebrate the superb debut of the Citroën DS3 R5. This was its first outing in the World Championship and it was also its first gravel rally. Sébastien Chardonnet produced a perfect performance and was able to share a lot of information with his engineers. Finishing second in the WRC2 class and ahead of all the other R5 cars is a very promising start!”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS14 – Cala Flumini 1 (8.98km) – Mads Østberg opted for a different tyre configuration to his main rivals. The Norwegian went with two soft and four hard tyres whereas the other leaders opted for five hard tyres. The opening test of the day suggested he’d made the right call as he won the stage ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala.

SS15 – Castelsardo (14.00km) – Mads Østberg was fastest on the first two splits before losing a little time in last few hundred metres. Jari-Matti Latvala was the main beneficiary, but the Finn only made up 1.4s. Sébastien Ogier remained overall leader, more than a minute clear at the front.

SS16 – Tergu-Osilo (14.88km) – Jari-Matti Latvala clocked the fastest time, 6.2 seconds ahead of Mads Østberg. The Citroën pilot maintained a 16.9s lead in the overall standings, ahead of the final stage.

SS17 – Power Stage Cala Flumini (8.98km) – Kris Meeke, Khalid Al Qassimi and Mads Østberg reached the end of a rally that remains as demanding as ever. Andreas Mikkelsen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier collected the bonus points on offer in the Power Stage. Overall victory went to Sébastien Ogier, ahead of Mads Østberg and Jari-Matti Latvala. Khalid Al Qassimi finished tenth overall, just ahead of Sébastien Chardonnet, who was second in the WRC2 class.

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 4:02:37.8
2. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:23.1
3. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:32.8
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:39.3
5. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:41.8
6. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:05.3
7. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +7:15.8
8. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +12:19.0
9. Lorenzo Bertelli / Mitia Dotta (Ford Fiesta RRC) +15:22.1
10. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +16:49.3
11. Sébastien Chardonnet / Thibault De la Haye (Citroën DS3 R5) +17:33.7
18. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +30:33.6…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 7 – Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Mads Østberg, 2 – Mikko Hirvonen, Thierry Neuville, Juho Hänninen and Andreas Mikkelsen, 1.

LEADERS
SS1: Mikko Hirvonen
SS2: Thierry Neuville
SS3: Juho Hänninen
SS4: Thierry Neuville
SS5 to SS12: Jari-Matti Latvala
SS13 to SS17: Sébastien Ogier

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 138 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 105 points
3. Mads Østberg 66 points
4. Andreas Mikkelsen 63 points
5. Mikko Hirvonen 40 points
6. Elfyn Evans 36 points
7. Kris Meeke 32 points
8. Thierry Neuville 31 points…
25. Khalid Al Qassimi 1 point

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 227 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 110 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 78 points
4. Volkswagen Motorsport II 64 points
5. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 59 points
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 32 points
7. RK M-Sport World Rally Team 18 points
14-06-08 Kubica takes the positives from Sardinia
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica is taking the positives from this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna. Despite having to start the final day under Rally 2 regulations, the Pole finished in eighth place overall.

The event allowed Robert to demonstrate both his potential and his progress. The 29-year-old was unlucky to damage the front-right wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC after an impact with an unsighted rock on SS12, but the positives were clear to see.

Partnered by fellow countryman and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak, the Pole kept pace with the front-runners over the course of Friday’s stages. Setting two third fastest times on SS3 and SS9 as well as the second fastest time over the first pass of ‘Loelle’ (SS5), his impressive performance through the more familiar speed tests highlighted how vital experience can be.

Returning for the final day of competition with 10 minutes of Rally 2 penalties, Robert had a positive attitude having gained more confidence behind the wheel of his Fiesta. Well aware of the progress he has made this weekend, the Pole concentrated on gaining further experience whilst maintaining his top-ten position.

Thoroughly enjoying this weekend’s outing on what is his least preferred surface, the Formula One race winner has established an encouraging platform on which to continue his development as the championship returns to his native Poland later this month.

Robert Kubica (8th) said:
“Unfortunately we made one small mistake this weekend. It wasn’t a mistake from driving too fast; we just hit a stone that we could not see which broke the wheel. Were it not for that we would have finished a lot higher.

“Of course the most important thing is the way I drove all rally. The feeling behind the wheel was very good which is important because normally on gravel I don’t have such a good feeling. This is something promising and I hope that we can take this forward to the next events.

“Rally Poland will be another new event for us, but I think that the rally will be something very special. Not only for myself, but for also for Polish motorsport and for the Polish fans – of which there are a lot!”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s fair to say that Robert [Kubica] was really unfortunate yesterday. The rock was unsighted and he had done very little damage to the car.

“He’s made a big step in performance and it is great to see him leaving a rally full of confidence and looking forward to his home event.”
14-06-08 Evans encourages M-Sport in Sardinia
There was an encouraging performance from M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans as Rally Italia Sardegna came to a close today. Finishing in a strong fifth place, the Welshman was propelled up the drivers’ standings from eighth to sixth.

In what has been his best performance of the year, Evans combined a marked increase in speed with a controlled and mature drive. Trading stage times with the rally leaders during Friday’s technical stages, the M-Sport man came out fighting – just 0.3 seconds per kilometre adrift of the leader on the opening speed test (SS2).

Adopting a more cautious approach to conserve his position throughout Saturday’s challenge, the youngster continued to impress. As others were caught out by the complex nature of the stages, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt kept their Ford Fiesta RS WRC well clear of trouble to climb into a comfortable top-five position.

Embarking on the rally’s final leg, Evans continued his impressive performance. Following a steady start to the unfamiliar stages, the youngster continued to up his pace considerably with a fourth fastest time through the abrasive Tergu-Osilo stage (SS16).

Developing quickly, the Welshman’s dedication and analytical approach has all the makings of a top-class driver and this weekend’s result marks another significant milestone in what is becoming a highly impressive debut.

When Evans took to a world rally car for the first time at last year’s Rally Italia Sardegna, he produced one of the best debuts in history with sixth place – 2.3 seconds per kilometre off the leaders and 11 minutes adrift of first place. This year, he has climbed a place to fifth but only 0.7 seconds per kilometre adrift of the leaders and four minutes shy of the overall winner.

Having proved he has the speed and the reliability, Evans will now turn his attention to consistency – his ultimate goal being to maintain his proven speed throughout the course of an entire rally weekend.

Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“There are a lot of positives to take from this weekend. We showed good speed at times and we’ve managed to run a clean event with no mistakes and no dramas at all. The car has been absolutely perfect all weekend, so all in all a very productive weekend.

“Our next target will be to maintain the gap to the leaders throughout an entire weekend. Poland is going to be another new event for us so we’ll need to approach that with the aim of gaining as much experience as possible. Finland too will provide another steep learning curve as we haven’t had chance to complete the full rally in a four-wheel-drive car.

“That said I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming events. We’ve made some good progress this weekend and I’m encouraged to continue that trend as the season continues.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen another vital step in Elfyn’s [Evans] learning process this weekend and another strong result which sees him climb from eighth to sixth in the drivers’ championship. I’ve been very impressed with his maturity and he can be very pleased with the job he has done this weekend.

“He’s given himself a positive base to build on as the season progresses and it will be interesting to see how he fares in Poland. It will be a new event for the majority of the field, and that will give him a good measure of where he is and where he can make further improvements.”
14-06-08 Strong finish for Rendina at Rally d'Italia
After a troubled first day at Rally d'Italia, Italian driver Max Rendina fought back hard in his Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X to finish a strong third in the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup and collect 15 points towards his title campaign. Rendina now lies 32 Group N Cup points ahead of nearest rival Juan Carlos Alonso with two rounds to go.

A short day of 46,84 kilometres, Rendina started Day Three with only two new tyres and had to be careful to conserve the tread of the two used ones he selected throughout today's stages. Despite this challenge, he topped the Group N Cup field on all four tests on the Day Three itinerary and was pleased to reach the finish ramp 19.5 seconds ahead of fourth-placed countryman Gianluca Linari.

Rendina's next round will be Rally Poland 26-29th June. It will be his first time on the Mikolajki-based event, but he's hoping to use it to prove his potential once more: "After a strong start to the season with three back-to-back victories, the last couple of events have proved a little tougher for my co-driver Mario and me. We really wanted to put on a good show for our home crowd this weekend. I just hope our performance today made everyone proud! Now we're already looking ahead to Poland and how to prepare best to pick up as many championship points as possible. Our sights are firmly set on the Group N Cup title, but along the way our understanding of rallying and the different conditions that can be thrown at competitors has increased ten-fold. We both feel really lucky to have the opportunity to compete in the WRC this season."

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is pleased at Max's comeback this weekend: "It's never easy to suffer a misfortune on Day One of a rally and come back, calm and focused and work your way onto the podium. I - like the rest of the team at Ralliart Italy - am really proud of Max and Mario's performance this weekend. One of the greatest skills any crew can have in rallying is knowing how to make the best of a bad situation and that's what's kept Max at the top of the Group N Cup standings. Noone ever has a flawless season, but Max is in a strong position and I'm confident he'll come out fighting in Poland too!
14-06-08 Tough but steady day for Rendina at Rally d’Italia
The Day Two itinerary of Rally d’Italia is characterized by the twice-run, long SS11 / 13 Monte Lerno stage. A total of 59,13 kilometres, the test held the majority of today’s competitive kilometres within it. Unfortunately, Ralliart Italy-run Italian driver Max Rendina never had the opportunity to compete on the stage.

Rendina did not have any problems on Day Two and his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X ran perfectly. However, due to incidents ahead of him in the stage on both loops it was twice removed from his Day Two itinerary. On the first loop, too many retired cars were stuck ahead of him in the road to make the stage safe to tackle. On the second loop, a car caught fire ahead of Rendina and again the stage was cancelled.

Rendina got the second fastest times in the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup field on both loops of the shorter SS10 / 12 Monte Olia test. The warm conditions made the slippery sandy-based stage an even tougher challenge, but Rendina stayed focused and concentrated on getting through it as quickly, but safely as possible. His results left him third in the Group N Cup at the end of Day Two following the release of notional times for SS11 / 13.

The Day Three itinerary offers four stages of a total of 46,84 kilometres, including the 8,98 Cala Fluimini stage. A shorter day, Rendina knows that there’s still all to play for and has his sights set on the Group N podium.

Reaching evening service safely after successfully completing the Day Two itinerary demanded of him, Rendina was disappointed not to have had the chance to prove himself on Monte Lerno, but pleased not to have had any problems himself: “It was a real shame not to get to compete on Monte Lerno. I’d been really looking forward to the challenge. Of course I’m sorry for the guys who retired ahead of me on the road, but it could’ve made all the difference to my event and my goal of winning the Group N Cup this year if I could’ve put in a good time on the stage at least once!”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is equally disappointed for Rendina: “Max left service this morning with a really positive attitude. He was ready to try and make up lost ground and was really focused on trying to get a good result in front of his home crowd. We all understand that rallying is unpredictable, but that the stage was cancelled on both loops for different reasons is really bad luck!”
14-06-08 Mads Østberg grabs secpmd åpsotopm!
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson head into the final day of Rally di Sardegna in second place in the overall standings.
Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson lie ninth overall and are on course to score their first points of the season.
After rejoining the rally this morning in their Citroën DS3 WRC, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle spent the day’s four stages sweeping loose gravel off the racing line.
The running order was totally shaken up this morning for the second leg.Kris Meeke had the unenviable task of being first on the road.Khalid Al Qassimi started in fourth position whilst Mads Østberg was running eleventh, enjoying considerably better conditions than yesterday.

The schedule was equally very different.Crews had to complete only two stages, each run twice, with a thirty-minute midday service between loops.One of the two tests set by the organizers was the 59 kilometre-long Monte Lerno:a real challenge for the crews and their cars.

Whilst Kris Meeke used these precious kilometres to acquire as much experience as possible and run a few tests, Mads Østberg was directly involved in a four-way battle at the front of the field.

Starting this morning with a four-second lead over his fellow countryman Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads was slightly quicker on each of the stages to stretch his advantage to almost a minute.In keeping out of trouble, he also inherited second position overall when Jari-Matti Latvala stopped on the day’s final stage to change a wheel.

Still focussed on looking for the right set-up, Khalid Al Qassimi found his pace to end the leg without making any mistakes.He moved into the top 10 after SS13, and now has the chance to secure his first points of the season tomorrow.

In the WRC2 category, Sébastien Chardonnet spent this particularly tough day demonstrating his consistency and the capabilities of the Citroën DS3 R5 on gravel, as he grabbed third place.

Less than fifty kilometres of timed sections are still to be completed before the end of the rally.Three stages will lead the crews to the 8.98 kilometre-long Power Stage (starting at 12.08pm), before the scheduled finish of the rally in Alghero from 1.30pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg:“We were fairly cautious on the stages.There was no question of taking any risks.Our second position shows that it was the right strategy.There’s a fairly big gap to third and we still have some room for improvement in terms of performance.We just have to keep it up until the end of the rally!”

Kris Meeke:“It’s really not easy to sweep the lines.You have to carve out a line through the dust.It’s tough, but at least it’s an interesting experience for the future.It was a bit easier this afternoon.We used the stages to try out some new shock absorbers but I didn’t feel confident and had trouble finding the right pace.But at least we were able to use the leg to keep learning. That’s the positive we’ll take from today.”

Khalid Al Qassimi:“I span twice this morning on the long stage.At the midday service, we worked on the set-up a lot with the engineers.I think we are heading in the right direction.With the revised set-up, I enjoyed the handling of the Citroën DS3 WRC more when I pushed.I also made sure that I didn’t make the same mistakes.”

Sébastien Chardonnet:“It was a long day, even more difficult than yesterday, but just as rewarding.We were able to work on the set-up of the car.I feel like I have made good progress.There’s a second place in the WRC2 up for grabs tomorrow!”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS10 – Monte Olia 1 (19.27km) – After a long road section, competitive action resumed.The top four in the overall standings finished in the same order on the day’s opening stage:Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest, ahead of Sébastien Ogier, Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen.Kris Meeke was back in action.The Briton had the unenviable job of running first, sweeping loose gravel off the racing line.

SS11 – Monte Lerno 1 (59.13km) – Although the longest stage so far this season provided an ideal opportunity to open up big gaps, the Norwegian pair of Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen marked one another very closely.Sébastien Ogier won the stage and edged nearer to Jari-Matti Latvala.Just behind, Mads Østberg completed the 37 minute-plus stage 3.1s ahead of Mikkelsen.

SS12 – Monte Olia 2 (19.27km) – Another stage win for Sébastien Ogier, followed by Jari-Matti Latvala and Mads Østberg, who stretched his advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen slightly further.Seventh-fastest, Kris Meeke tested new shock absorbers on this loop.Robert Kubica was forced to retire after ripping off a wheel.

SS13 – Monte Lerno 2 (59.13km) – Jari-Matti Latvala lost over two minutes changing a wheel.Sébastien Ogier took over as leader ahead of Mads Østberg, as Latvala dropped down to third overall.Khalid Al Qassimi moved into the top 10, grabbing ninth position in the overall standings.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:30:15.8
2. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:40.1
3. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:01.5
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:37.8
5. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:24.3
6. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:26.1
7. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:09.6
8. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +12:03.7
9. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +15:05.2
10. Lorenzo Bertelli / Mitia Dotta (Ford Fiesta RRC) +16:08.1…
18. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +29:36.9…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 5 – Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Mads Østberg, Mikko Hirvonen, Thierry Neuville and Juho Hänninen, 1.

LEADERS
SS1: Mikko Hirvonen
SS2: Thierry Neuville
SS3: Juho Hänninen
SS4: Thierry Neuville
SS5 to SS12: Jari-Matti Latvala
SS13: Sébastien Ogier

14-06-08 Kubica caught out by Monte Olia
Having put in an encouraging performance in the early phases of Rally Italia Sardegna, RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica was caught out by the second pass of Monte Olia (SS12). Taking the front-right wheel off his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Pole’s day came to an untimely end.

As the crews embarked on another full day of competition, the rally was to deliver no less a challenge than yesterday’s eventful outing. With just four stages to contend with, one may be forgiven for assuming that the crews were in for a somewhat easier day. But with two passes of a mammoth 59.13 kilometre speed test, another daunting day’s rallying lay in wait.

Continuing to demonstrate their progression, Robert and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak maintained their recent good form over the morning loop to further highlight their potential. Using the first pass to refine his notes on the more familiar stages, the Pole was driving well and able to harness the speed to challenge towards the head of the field.

Unfortunately, his hard work was to become undone on SS12. Clipping a rock just a kilometre from the stage end, the M-Sport driver took the front-right wheel off his Fiesta RS WRC which brought a premature end to his day’s rallying.

With the M-Sport mechanics currently repairing the damaged RK M-Sport Fiesta, Robert will restart with 10 minutes of Rally 2 penalties tomorrow.

Robert Kubica (8th) said:
“It was a short, quick turn. I kept my car close to the inside since the road was narrow. Unfortunately somewhere in the bushes was hidden a big rock. We hit it and the wheel came off.

“It's a shame because up until that moment I was driving steadily and showing some good pace without taking any risks. We had no big moments at all.

“These things happen and we need to remember that there are still a lot of positives to take from the last two days. Our times and my driving through some of the stages show that I am heading in right direction.

“We will continue tomorrow. It's important for the mileage and besides I think the best thing to do in such situations is to get back in the car and drive again.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’ve not had chance to speak with Robert [Kubica] personally, but from what I understand he was caught out on SS12 – clipping a rock which damaged the front-right wheel.

“As we have seen, this is a very difficult event and up until that point he was having a really good day. He’s certainly heading in the right direction and most importantly he will be back under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.”


14-06-08 Evans continues to impress
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans continued to impress as Rally Italia Sardegna entered its penultimate phase today. On course for another encouraging result, the Welshman currently holds fifth place overall.

There may have only been four stages to contend with, but with two passes of the year’s longest speed test, there remained much to be won and lost. Rising to the challenge, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt looked at one behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. When others became victims of the tricky conditions, the Brits kept their Fiesta firmly planted to the gravel stages whilst setting a string of positive times.

Having made a huge leap forward in terms of speed, the Welshman maintained the same high level of performance throughout the day’s 156.80 kilometres. Despite admitting to what was perhaps an overly cautious approach to the unknowns of the opening loop, the M-Sport man made significant strides with regards his development as a world class driver.

As one of the championship’s most conscientious and articulate new talents, Evans combined a marked improvement in pace with an analytical approach to each new kilometre. Continuously assessing areas for improvement, the Welshman continues to build upon his seconds per kilometre target.

With 53.86 kilometres left to run on tomorrow’s final day, the ‘rookie’ is on course to add yet another significant result to what is becoming a highly impressive debut.

Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“It’s been an OK day. We had a reasonable run through the first stage of the loop [SS12], but there was quite a bit of tyre wear so we were a little bit concerned as to how that would play out for the long one [SS13]. Then we heard that Robert [Kubica] had had an incident so it was just a case of driving to Martin’s [Prokop] splits.

“We took it really carefully and, to be honest, the splits were quite positive. As we were driving with really low risk, we decided to keep it at that. It was a tough stage and it was important that we made it through.

“We’ve learnt a lot this weekend. I was happy with the pace yesterday and although the times haven’t been quite as impressive today, they weren’t so bad. I don’t think we’ve done a bad job. We maintained our position and avoided mistakes so in that respect it was good.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m very pleased with the way Elfyn [Evans] has evolved throughout this event. He showed some really strong pace yesterday, but he also knows that it is important for him to finish and he kept that in mind today.

“I think it’s fair to say that this is the best performance we have seen from him and Dan [Barritt, co-driver]. There is still some work to do on the consistency, but that is something that will come with time and experience and it has still been a very impressive performance.”

14-06-07 Midday Quotes Rally Italia, Day three
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“This morning was OK. The first stage [SS10] was pretty good for us although we struggled a little towards the end when the grip levels reduced and we lost the rhythm. But on the whole it was good.

“On the long one [SS11] I was perhaps a little too conscious of the fact that I have had a tendency to be quite hard on the brakes in the past. I was a bit too conservative and looking back now that might not have been the best way to go. We lost quite a lot of time to Robert [Kubica] and to be honest it didn’t feel that great in the stage either.

“But, we also take comfort in the fact that we didn’t have any issues with the brakes which is a step forward. This afternoon, let’s see if we can maintain a better pace.”

Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“We had a good run through the first pass – a smooth drive without any risks. We needed to be a little careful over the opening loop so that we could amend our notes and maybe look to increase the pace at certain sections this afternoon.

“I feel like we are driving well and I know that I can get much more out of the car in the high-speed sections. It’s just a case of knowing when to push and when to be careful, but for now, it’s all moving in the right direction.”

14-06-07 Rendina to restart on Day Two
After a cautious, but solid start to the day, Italian driver Max Rendina unfortunately retired from Day One of his home event on SS7, second stage of the afternoon loop. After retrieving his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, his team Ralliart Italy is pleased to confirm that Rendina will restart under the Rally 2 regulation and take to the stages again tomorrow morning.

The Rally d’Italia itinerary kicked off Day One proper with SS2. Rendina decided to approach the opening stage this morning cautiously after an unfortunate incident on Shakedown yesterday which left him minus a wheel.

Clipping a small rock around five kilometres into SS2, Rendina bent an arm on his Lancer, throwing the Mitsubishi’s alignment off for the rest of the morning loop, but kept going. Quickly alerted to how rough and rocky the conditions of the Sardinian gravel roads can be, Rendina continued the stage with more caution to complete the first test 41 seconds off the pace of the faster driver in the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup.

Topping the timings on SS3, Rendina found a new, confident and better rhythm as he began to familiarise himself with the sandy-surfaced stages.

Despite growing up rallying on Italian roads, Rendina has only competed in Sardinia twice before and never in the WRC field. The unusual characteristics of the roads alongside the deep ruts – especially on the second pass – are as foreign to Rendina as many of his rivals from overseas.

Determined to overcome the dust, the scorching temperature both in and out of his rally car and any stray rocks thrown in his path, Rendina continued to pick off today’s stages one at a time. Strong times on SS4 and SS5 brought Rendina safely into Remote Service at Buddusò.

A quick replacement of the bent steering arm with a spare which Rendina had fortunately been carrying in his Lancer realigned his Mitsubishi. This increased Rendina’s confidence in his car, leading to his third Group N Cup stage win of the rally on SS6, completing the stage a full 51 seconds faster that on the first loop.

Lying third on the Group N Cup leaderboard after SS6, Rendina only had 10.1 seconds between him second place and took to SS7 with renewed vigour. It wasn’t to be though – approximately six kilometres into the stage, Rendina saw a big rock in the middle of his path and couldn’t avoid it. He hit the stone, which lay immediately after a crest, damaged his suspension and on the following downhill stretch of road he lost his front right wheel, forcing him to retire for the day.

Disappointed not to be able to continue in front of his home crowd, Rendina is still looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge: “It wasn’t an easy day today. The condition of the stages is incredible – especially on the second loop. They’re much rougher than we could have anticipated on recce. I don’t want to make excuses, but I honestly believe we were really unlucky to find the rock that was our downfall on SS7. We can see from the WRC field that rally’s unpredictable and anything can happen to anyone, so we just need to focus, sit tight and do our best again tomorrow.”

Team Manager Bruno De Pianto also regrets Rendina’s misfortune: “Tomorrow’s another day. The longest stage of the rally is 59,13km, fast and run twice on tomorrow’s itinerary. I think that could be the defining stage of the rally and a real survival test. With 156,80 competitive kilometres in total on Day Two everything could change again. I’m confident that Max and his co-driver Mario will do the best they can and I hope to see them in a stronger position by evening service tomorrow.”

14-06-07 Mads ØSstberg holds third overall i Sardina
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson won one stage on their way to ending day one of Rally di Sardegna in third position in their Citroën DS3 WRC.
An electrical problem prevented Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle from making it to the service park.
Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson finished the first leg twelfth overall in the third DS3 WRC entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.

Rally di Sardegna began on Thursday evening on the tarmac roads in the centre of Cagliari. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews lined up at the start in front of a passionate crowd. After a short but spectacular first stage, the WRC bandwagon returned overnight to Alghero, two hundred kilometres to the north.

The rally resumed late this morning, this time on gravel. Despite being one of the first on the road and therefore having to sweep loose gravel and sand off the racing line, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke managed to fight with the frontrunners.

And when conditions were more favourable, the Norwegian produced a fine performance to set the fastest time on Coiluna-Crastazza (SS4). Mads continued his progress, grabbing second place in the overall standings as the crews stopped for the remote service in Buddusò. He ended the day in third position, in the middle of a four-way battle for the lead.

Fifth at the start of the day, Kris Meeke was forced to retire in the afternoon with an electrical problem. Making steady progress throughout the leg, Khalid Al Qassimi headed back to Alghero tonight in twelfth overall, regularly finishing close to the top 10.

In the WRC2 category, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye were on the pace throughout the day in their Citroën DS3 R5. The crew produced a focused and committed performance to end this first day on gravel in fifth place in their category.

Saturday’s leg features just four stages. The crews set off from Alghero at 6.30am for a day in which they will cover a total of 800 kilometres, with 156.8kms of timed stages. After SS13, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme at 10.05pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “We knew that the first few stages would be difficult. We were fairly cautious to make sure we avoided making any mistakes on the more uneven sections. The other stages went better. I’m very happy to end the day in third position. It is still very tight at the front. It should be a good battle again tomorrow.”

Kris Meeke: “I felt very good in the car. We weren’t taking any risks and the times were pretty good. On SS4, we had a warning light for the battery. We didn’t have enough time before the start of the next stage to try and locate the problem. Unfortunately, we lost all power after five kilometres on SS5 so we had to stop. We should be okay to rejoin tomorrow.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “It was a very tiring day. We tried to find the right balance. Our soft set-up was very effective in the slower sections. But in the quicker sections, the car moved sideways quite a lot. We are working with the engineers to find new solutions so we can improve the handling of the car. I think we are going to harden the set-up in order to obtain greater precision.”

Sébastien Chardonnet: “It was a very good day. We have learned a great deal. There were so many tricky sections but we didn’t have any problems. This is a very good sign for a debut in the Citroën DS3 R5 in the WRC and on gravel. I really enjoyed it today. The car worked really well and we’re only just beginning to get a glimpse of its potential.”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): ”Mads is ideally placed to meet his target, which is to finish on the podium. Kris was held up by an electrical problem on SS4 before having to retire on SS5. Fortunately, after analysis by our technical team, he’ll be able to rejoin tomorrow.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Citta’ di Cagliari (1.3km) – The rally got underway in the streets of the Sardinian capital. On tarmac roads around the port of Cagliari, Mikko Hirvonen went fastest, ahead of Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke grabbed the sixth fastest time, whilst Mads Østberg was tenth.

SS2 – Terranova Nord 1 (19.81km) – After the cars were transported back to Alghero overnight, the crews set off on the rally’s first gravel stage. On Terranova Nord, Thierry Neuville made the most of being down the running order to win the stage and grab the overall lead. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke followed one another in seventh and eighth places.

SS3 – Terranova Sud 1 (12.4km) – Twelfth on the road, Juho Hänninen was next to go fastest, ahead of Thierry Neuville and Robert Kubica. Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg were once again bunched together, finishing inside the top 10.

SS4 – Coiluna-Crastazza 1 (20.29km) – This stage started over an hour late after Mikko Hirvonen’s car burst into flames on the road section before the stage. Unsurprisingly, he did not start SS4. Featuring different types of roads, Mads Østberg grabbed the stage win to move up to fourth overall. Kris Meeke finished the stage in tenth but reported a battery warning light on the dashboard.

SS5 – Loelle 1 (27.30km) – On the day’s longest stage, Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest, taking over as rally leader ahead of Mads Østberg and Martin Prokop. Kris Meeke stopped on the stage due to an electrical problem. A mechanical issue cost Thierry Neuville over twenty minutes. Hänninen retired after rolling his car. Khalid Al Qassimi set the twelfth fastest time to move up to twelfth overall at the remote service period in Buddusò.

SS6 – Terranova Nord 2 (19.81km) – On the second pass, sweeping was no longer a handicap for the first cars on the road. Latvala took the stage win, ahead of Ogier, Mikkelsen and Østberg.

SS7 – Terranova Sud 2 (12.4km) – Jari-Matti Latvala extended his lead at the front of the field by winning this seventh test. Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen closed on Mads Østberg, who remained second overall.

SS8 – Coiluna-Crastazza 2 (20.29km) – Ogier finished ahead of Latvala, Mikkelsen and Østberg. A four-way battle for the lead was developing at the front of the field.

SS9 – Loelle 2 (27.30km) – Despite finishing behind Latvala, who ended the leg in the overall lead, Sébastien Ogier snatched second overall from Mads Østberg on the day’s final stage. However, the Norwegian held off his fellow countryman Andreas Mikkelsen to hold onto the final podium spot.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:49:09.5
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +22.4
3. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +33.7
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +37.7
5. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +56.9
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:19.3
7. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:29.0
8. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:36.9
9. Yazeed Al Rahji / Michael Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC) +5:15.8
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +5:19.9…
12. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +5:40.5…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 4 – Mads Østberg, Mikko Hirvonen, Thierry Neuville, Juho Hänninen and Sébastien Ogier, 1.

LEADERS
SS1: Mikko Hirvonen
SS2: Thierry Neuville
SS3: Juho Hänninen
SS4: Thierry Neuville
SS5 to SS9: Jari-Matti Latvala
14-06-07 Kubica porves his potenital
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica completed the first full day of competition at Rally Italia Sardegna in a highly respectable fifth position. Combining his recent caution with flashes of his customary speed, the Pole is continuing to progress behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

In what is arguably the toughest and most challenging day of this weekend’s event, Robert and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak combined a steady start with some impressive stage times to underline their potential.

As the latter half of the loop returned to more familiar territory, Robert was able to harness his experience from last year’s WRC 2 winning campaign. Highlighting the importance of experience at the WRC’s highest league, the Pole set the second fastest time through ‘Loelle 1’ (SS5) to jump an impressive four places – from ninth to fifth overall.

With only a short 15 minute remote service to split the 159.98 kilometres of competitive stages, crews had to endure a technical route and blistering heat without the comfort of a traditional service break. The technicians were limited to the spares which had been carried in the competition cars that day and the crews were under pressure to make it through the morning loop unscathed.

Despite the added challenge, Robert took the day in his stride and continued to consolidate his position with a string of consistently competitive times over the afternoon loop.

With another challenging day to come – including two passes of the mammoth ‘Monte Lerno’ stage at 59.13 kilometres in length – the Pole is perfectly placed to equal, if not better, his best ever result in the FIA World Rally Championship.*

Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“It’s been a good day. It was quite tricky in the morning as the stage was really slippery but I think that we settled into a good rhythm. We were able to show some good pace on the stages that were familiar to me from last year, and we have had a clean run with no big moments.

“There is still a long way to go, but for the moment, it is going well for us and I’ve been happy with the pace and the progress we have made. It’s another positive step forward and we just need to continue like this.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a really encouraging day for Robert [Kubica]. He’s continued where he left off in Argentina and the pace that he has shown on the stages he experienced in 2013 just goes to show how important knowledge of these events can be. He’s had a really clean run with no mistakes. If he continues as he has so far, he’ll be on course for another very strong result.”

*5th at ADAC Rallye Deutschland in 2013.

14-06-07 Mixed emotions for M-Sport
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans completed an eventful second day of Rally Italia Sardegna in a highly respectable sixth place. Unfortunately, there was something of a different story for his teammate Mikko Hirvonen. Having led the rally in its early phase, the Finn’s hopes of success were dashed as his Ford Fiesta RS WRC became engulfed in flames on the liaison between SS3 and SS4.

Having been unleashed by team principal Malcolm Wilson, Evans was keen to show that he could challenge the championship’s more experienced drivers whilst continuing to develop his skills within the FIA World Rally Championship’s top class. Keeping in touch with the leaders over the morning loop, the Welshman proved just that.

Despite struggling to find a consistent rhythm amidst the varying grip levels, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt held their own. Setting a string of competitive times over the morning loop, the Brits climbed as high as fifth overall before a more cautious approach over a rutted second pass dropped them back to sixth.

With just over 30 seconds separating Evans’ Fiesta RS WRC from the top-three, there remains all to play for and the M-Sport man has the potential to couple his clear progression with another strong result.

Hirvonen’s rally came to a heart-breaking end on the liaison between SS3 and SS4 when his Fiesta became overwhelmed by flames. Most importantly, both he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were unharmed in the incident, but despite their best efforts they could not save their car from the blaze.

The news that the pairing would take no further part in this weekend’s event came as a bitter disappointment to the entire M-Sport team who will subsequently take the remains of the car back to their base in Northern England for a thorough investigation. Rally Italia had long been a favoured hunting ground of the Finn and after taking an early lead on last night’s Super Special Hirvonen had looked on course to battle for the top positions.

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“We had a clean enough run through this afternoon’s stages. We had a puncture on SS7 but I don’t think it cost us too much in the grand scheme of things.

“We’re currently in what is effectively the same position as last year, but in terms of time it’s a massive jump forward compared to where we were 12 months ago; and to be honest it’s a massive jump forward compared to where we were earlier this year too.

“We’re not in a position where we want to do more for the moment, but it’s a really good stepping stone and if we find ourselves in a position where we do want to do more, then we’ll see how it goes.”

Mikko Hirvonen (DNF) said:
“I have no idea what happened and I don’t think we are ever going to find out. It was really strange. Straight after the stage [SS3] everything was OK and operating as it should. We stopped, took our HANS and helmet off, checked all the tyre pressures, had the usual look around the car and everything was fine.

“After we set off again, the car caught fire. We smelt the smoke and as I looked back the rear-right corner was covered in flames. We stopped straight away but they were already over the roof. I managed to empty three fire extinguishers but it didn’t do anything to calm the blaze. There was nothing we could do to save the car.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Obviously we’re all relieved that Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen] are both OK after today. The car has been completely destroyed and there is nothing to be rescued which is a big blow to the team. We’re still waiting to get the car back, but having spoken with Mikko it seems to have started somewhere towards the right-rear wheel which is something we do not really understand. There’ll be a thorough investigation back at Dovenby Hall to work out exactly what happened, but for now the main thing is that both Mikko and Jarmo are OK.

“We’ve seen a really strong day from Elfyn [Evans] – his best performance to date at less than 0.5 seconds / kilometre off the fastest competitor. He’s comfortable at the speed he’s running which is very encouraging for the season ahead. I’ve been very impressed with the progress he has made and he just needs to continue as he has today.”
14-06-06 Midday Quotes Rally Italia, day two
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“We’ve had some quite mixed feelings from the stages this morning. In some places it feels like we’re driving really well, but then the next minute there’s no grip and it all becomes a little untidy. It’s difficult to find a really clean, smooth rhythm, but it’s certainly not been a bad morning for me.”

Mikko Hirvonen:
Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC became engulfed in flames on the liaison section between SS3 and SS4. Most importantly, both Hirvonen and his co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were unharmed in the incident, but their Fiesta will take no further part in this weekend’s event.

Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“It was quite slippery in places, but we have had no big dramas this morning. As we got to some of the stages that were a bit more familiar to me, it made a big difference. When you have some knowledge of the stage it helps a lot – the pacenotes are more precise, you feel more confident and everything is just that little bit easier.”
14-06-06 Rendina takes on Home Turf at Rally d'Italia
Rally d’Italia kicked off this evening in Sardinia and marks Italian driver Max Rendina’s fifth round in his challenge on the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup. This season, the event’s Service Park has moved for the first time to Alghero from Olbia. The rally this weekend is made up of 17 Special Stages offering a total of 371,94 competitive kilometres.

Following Shakedown this morning, the rally opened with the 1,30km SSS1 Città di Cagliari this evening following the Ceremonial Start in Cagliari. The first driver to enter SSS1 in front of his home crowd, Rendina was pleased to top the Group N Cup field on the opening Super Special. Now he looks forward to Day One proper tomorrow as he takes on 158,98km of competitive tough gravel stage on his home event.

Familiar with the Italian gravel, Rendina still sees the challenge presented by the Sardinian terrain. However, Rendina and his team hope that they saw the worst of the rally on Shakedown this morning. A small collision approximately 200 metres before the end of the stage left the Roman’s Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X minus a wheel and in need of urgent repair ahead of this evening’s stage.

This minor incident gave Rendina a fair warning to maximise his confidence on his home rally, but not to push hard. Having learnt the Italian roads in his national championship, he isn’t used to the ruts created by the more powerful WRC cars ahead of him on this event.

Fortunately, the team was able to repair Rendina’s Lancer in time to get to Cagliari for the start. Rendina was delighted at their efforts: “The team really did a great job this afternoon! I’m so happy to be here on my home WRC round that it would have been awful not to be able to start with everyone else this evening! I know the rally’s going to be difficult and I’ll be more cautious after this morning’s incident – especially on the second pass when the stages could be really rough.”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto shared Rendina’s relief to see Cagliari this evening: “Sometimes rallies start in an unexpected way, but let’s say – things can only get better! Our technicians did a fantastic job to repair the car in such a short time and I’m sure now that Max will do them proud out on the stages over the weekend!”
14-06-06 Mikko masters Cagliari
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed an early lead at Rally Italia Sardegna this evening. Mastering the opening 1.30 kilometres sprint stage, the Finns go into tomorrow’s speed tests with a 0.2 second advantage over the chasing pack

Huge crowds turned out to see the FIA World Rally Championship’s finest tackle the tricky super special and Hirvonen did not disappoint. Piloting his Ford Fiesta RS WRC through the narrow stage on Cagliari’s picturesque harbour front, the M-Sport man will sleep well tonight – safe in the knowledge that he has taken an early lead on an event at which he traditionally thrives.

Mikko Hirvonen (1st) said:
“It was a really good show and I think that we did a good job of entertaining the thousands of spectators who came out to see us. We only have a 0.2 second lead going into tomorrow, but it is still a stage win and to take it in front of such a fantastic crowd was a really nice way to start the rally. The real work starts tomorrow, but this evening, we can go to bed happy.”
14-06-02 Kubica looks to progress on the Italian Isle
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica will take to this week’s Rally Italia Sardegna with one goal in mind – further progress behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Having conquered the challenge of Rally Argentina, the Pole will be keen to continue his development on the island of Sardinia.

As one of the most technically demanding events of the year, Robert will need to apply all that he learnt in South America. Finishing in a creditable sixth place, the Pole produced a highly controlled performance, but as with any true racer, he will be keen to up his pace and continue his progress at the FIA World Rally Championship’s highest level.

Sardinia may be a prime location for the world’s rich and famous, but it is also ideal rallying territory. The gravel stages are extremely fast but also demand an air of caution. Huge rocks and tree stumps line the route ready to turn even the slightest of mistakes into a costly error.

The Formula One race winner has an affinity with all things Italian. Having made the move to Italy as a teenager, much of his early rallying was contested on the Italian asphalt and he claimed a dominant victory as part of the WRC 2 category on his Sardinian debut last year.

Progress will be the name of the game for the Pole and his fellow countryman and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak. The pairing made strides with their pacenote system in Argentina, and that is something that they will be keen to develop further as the WRC returns to Europe.

Robert Kubica said:
“During my days in karting I spent quite a lot of time in Italy, so in Sardinia – as well as in Poland – I should have more fans than usual. Like all of the gravel events in the WRC, this is a difficult rally so in that respect my approach won’t be too different from the previous outing in Argentina.

“Of course Sardinia is a rally that I got to know a bit in WRC2 last year, but my goal will stay the same. I will just try to maximise my chances of finishing the rally, which means minimising any mistakes.

“All of the stages are very technical and the surface is sandy so it is quite slippery out there. All of the stages are fast – very fast in places – but it is also extremely narrow so you have to drive very precisely and try to get as much speed through the corner while keeping the line. There really is no margin for error in Sardinia.”

14-06-02 Rally Italy - Ogier och Latvala i kamp om VM-poäng
Kampen om ledningen i världsmästerskapet i rally, FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), står inför den sjätte omgången än en gång mellan två Polo R WRC. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) och Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) ställer upp i Rally Italy den 5:e till 8:e juni, båda med målet att förbättra sina positioner i världsmästerskapet. Det ena paret vill utöka sin ledning medan det andra siktar på att överta ledningen.

Därmed är chansen stor att duellen mellan världsmästaren och utmanaren, eller mellan ettan och tvåan i årets mästerskap, blir lika spännande som den var i den senaste omgången i Argentina. Ogier leder nu med 24 poäng före Latvala. Deras närmaste rival, teamkollegan Andreas Mikkelsen (N), som nu ställer upp tillsammans med sin förre co-driver Ola Fløene (N), är ytterligare 40 poäng efter Latvala.
-Volkswagen befinner sig nu i en fördelaktig position i världsmästerskapet, säger Volkswagen Motorsports chef Jost Capito.
-Hela teamet jobbar hårt och är fokuserat på att lyckas och förser hela tiden våra tre förare med toppmaterial. Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala och Andreas Mikkelsen betalar tillbaka i form av fantastiska prestationer och toppresultat. Etta och tvåa i förarmästerskapet och etta i konstruktörsmästerskapet är bevis på det. Fans i Italien och alla som följer WRC hemifrån kan än en gång se fram emot en rättvis tävling av högsta klass. Jag måste säga, den som inte följer tävlingen på Sardinien går miste om något

Inga stallorder
Ogier och Latvala ställer upp för start i två identiska Polo R WRC, båda på 315 hk. Ute på sträckorna är det upp till Volkswagen-förarna att slåss om poäng i världsmästerskapet, pallplatser och om möjligt segern. Trots att duellen i toppen av mästerskapet är en ren Volkswagen-affär är kampen om segern i Rally Italy en vidöppen fråga. De tre Volkswagen Polo R WRC möter ytterligare ett dussin snabba WRC-bilar från tillverkare som Citroën, Ford och Hyundai. Utmaningarna som väntar i Rally Italy ger litet extra krydda åt världsmästerskapet.

Precision och däcksstrategi
Rally Italy är det fjärde grusrallyt på rad. Det innehåller trånga partier på ett lager av lös, fin sand. Långa sträckor av banan kantas av stora stenpartier. Den som kör för brett riskerar att slå sönder hjulupphängningen. Förarna måste både köra exakt och spara på däcken. Förarna i WRC har maximalt 25 däck plus de fyra de använder för Shakedown. Hettan kan också spela roll i Rally Italy. Sommartemperaturen på Sardinien i juni kan vara trevlig för den som slappar på stranden men inte för dem i WRC-bilarna på Rally Italy´s långa specialsträckor.

Nytt basläger, samma rally
För första gången sedan 2004 när Rally Italy kördes på Sardinien för första gången är Alghero rallyts bas. Staden med sina 40 000 invånare på västra sidan av ön, även känd som lilla Barcelona, ersätter Olbia som basen för serviceparken. Rallyt startas i Cagliari i år. En sak som är oförändrad är den grundläggande karaktären på Rally Italy. Bara 74,65 av rallyts 364,92 km skiljer sig från förra årets. Två specialsträckor har kombinerats för att bilda "Monte Lerno"-sträckan. 59,13 km lång är det den längsta specialsträckan hittills i 2014 års WRC-kalender. Rallyt består av 17 specialsträckor. Den avslutande "Cala Flumini" är också Power Stage där de tre snabbaste kan få bonuspoäng. Den sträckan körs klockan 12:08 på söndag och direktsänds i TV.

2014 års Rally Italy får en dramatisk start med specialsträckan "Citta’ Di Cagliari". Klockan 21:13 på torsdag, 27 minuter efter solnedgången, sätter WRC-bilarna iväg på en 1,3 km lång sträcka genom hamnkvartern nära stadscentrum - rallyts enda asfaltsträcka. Men den verkliga höjdpunkten i Rally Italy är "Micky’s Jump" på specialsträckan Monte Lerno. Det legendariska hoppet som kommer efter en högersväng får bilarna att flyga långt innan de landar i en utförsbacke. Det utsågs till "FIA Motorsport Moment of the Year" 2013 när Sébastien Ogier landade perfekt med sin Polo R WRC efter hoppet.

Noter på norsk
Det nygamla paret Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) gör sin debut i Polo R WRC. Med Ola Fløene har Andreas Mikkelsen återvänt till sin första co-driver i rallykarriären. De två norrmännen körde tillsammans mellan 2006 och 2012 vann titlar i förar-och kartläsar VM i 2011 och 2012 års Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) - nuvarande European Rally Champinonship. 2012 var de också inblandade i Volkswagen Motorsports läroår i WRC, när team och förare tävlade under säsongen i en Škoda Fabia Super 2000.

Andreas Mikkelsen och hans förre kartläsare Mikko Markkula skildes åt genom en gemensam överenskommelse. För Mikkelsen betyder det att han återgår till norska medan det vidareutvecklade systemet för noter förblir oförändrat.

Citat inför Rally Italy
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Efter de extremt hårda och leriga specialsträckorna i Argentina ser jag verkligen fram emot rallyt på Sardinien. De snabba grussträckorna passar min körstil betydligt bättre. Som första startande på fredagen kan det bli svårt för mig och Julien på den lösa sanden men jag tror fortfarande att vi har en god chans att vinna. Jag har alltid känt mig mycket bekväm på Sardinien och jag har alltid gjort goda resultat här. Min tuffaste rival blir min teamkollega Jari-Matti Latvala. Och jag kan lova Jari-Matti och hans fans, det kommer defintivt att bli en spektakulär och spännande duell.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Det finns några rallyn i WRC-kalendern som jag särskilt ser fram emot och Rally Italy är ett av dem. Vägbanan är litet som i Rally Portugal även om det är bättre sikt genom kurvorna i Italien. Vägarna är också halare eftersom det översta lagret är mycket sandigt. Men greppet blir bättre när sanden sopats bort av någa bilar. Gatorna är ganska smala och träd och stenar kan vara mycket nära vägen. Trots det tar det inte så lång stund att finna en rytm på specialsträckorna. Det finns inte mycket utrymme för att sladda så vi måste vara försiktiga och inte trycka på för mycket från start. Förra året var vi snabbast på kvalificeringen men tyvärr råkade vi ut för en punktering på den inledande sträckan. Miikka och jag lyckades dock kämpa oss tillbaka till en tredje plats. Efter segern i Argentina kommer jag till Italien full av tillförsikt och med siktet inställt på utmana om segern. Mitt mål är att sluta bland de tre bästa.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Det känns bra att ha Ola tillbaka i cockpit. Vi har kanske inte haft möjlighet att testa inför Rally Italy men jag tror inte att det blir ett problem. Vi har båda känt varandra så länge och har bara varit åtskilda ett kort tag. Vi kommer inte att ändra något när det gäller noterna - utom det faktum att de kommer att vara på norska igen i stället för på engelska. Oavsett vad som händer är målet att genomföra ett rent rally utan misstag. Ett resultat bland de fem bästa skulle vara fantastiskt. Om man analyserar tidigare år av Rally Sardinia kan man se att många förare fått punkteringar eller tvingats bryta. Det gör att prioriteringen blir att undvika att göra något dumt och att ta väl hand om bilen. Jag ser särskilt fram emot specialsträckan "Monte Lerno" med Micky´s Jump som är en höjdpunkt varje år. Nästan 60 km långt är det årets längsta specialsträcka hittills. Det spelar ingen roll om det är en lång eller kort specialsträcka eftersom jag är i god fysisk form. Men att variera mellan korta och långa specialsträckor är bra för förarna, kartläsarna och åskådarna.

Tre frågor till Ola Fløene
Du är tillbaka vid Andreas Mikkelsens sida och startar tillsammans med honom i Polo R WRC för första gången i Rally Italy. Hur känns det?

Fløene: det har inte riktigt sjunkit in än. För en vecka sedan besökte jag Volkswagen motorsports huvudkontor i Hannover för första gången på över ett år. Det var litet som en dröm. Det första jag gjorde var att gå och säga hej till mekanikerna i verkstaden. Jag fick ett varmt välkomnande med många ryggdunkar från mekaniker och tekniker. Det var ett känslosamt ögonblick.

Förra året vann du juniorklassen i WRC tillsammans med Pontus Tidemand och fick samtidigt den tredje stora titeln i karriären. Vad har du tagit med dig från det året?

Ola Fløene: att ställa upp som kartläsare i JWRC var en fantastisk erfarenhet. Det gav mig nytt liv och en tävlingsanda och jag fick tillbaka min kärlek för rally. Och jag tränade upp till 16 timmar per dag i 18 månader för att visa de unga att jag var i form. Därför är jag inte bara ultramotiverad, men också mer vältränad än någonsin.

Hur kommer noterna att ändras för Andreas?
Fløene: det första är att vi går tillbaka till att tala norska i bilen. Men i övrigt finns det inte mycket anledning att göra några större förändringar i noterna. Min företrädare Mikko Markkula introducerade några goda saker i systemet som vi nu drar nytta av. Tidigare använde vi två eller tre ord för att beskriva en situation. Mikko minskade det till bara ett ord. Det gör noterna mer exakta och famförallt snabbare. Man kan säga att Mikko har gjort livet enklare.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställningen

Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 112
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 88
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 48
4. Mads Østberg 48
5. Mikko Hirvonen 40
6. Kris Meeke 32
7. Thierry Neuville 31
8. Elfyn Evans 26
9. Martin Prokop 22
10. Bryan Bouffier 18

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 187
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 90
3. M-Sport 68
4. Hyundai Motorsport 55
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 52
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 24
7. RK M-Sport WRT 12
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 0
14-05-12 Kubica takes sixth in Argentina
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica overcame all that Rally Argentina had to offer to bring his Ford Fiesta RS WRC home in a highly respectable sixth place.
After two extremely challenging days of rallying, today’s final leg was to be no different. Leaving the mountain tracks and open roads far behind them, the crews embarked on some of the championship’s most unique and iconic terrain – the moonlike vistas of the Valle de Traslasierra.

The conditions posed a real challenge with thick fog and mud accounting for poor visibility and a considerable loss of grip. The nature of the stages demanded precision cornering and near-perfect concentration. Despite his limitations, Robert rose to the challenge brilliantly with a highly composed and consistent drive that saw him post the fifth fastest time through the event’s final stage (SS14).

Having developed his pacenotes alongside fellow Pole and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak, the Formula One race winner found the perfect compromise – displaying caution in the narrower sections whilst resisting the temptation to show his true pace through the faster speed tests.

As with any true racer, the Pole is always looking to improve and having completed one of the year’s most demanding events without incident, Robert is now well placed to further his development as the season continues.

Robert Kubica (6th) said:
“It’s been a very long and demanding rally with some very difficult conditions. Coming here for the first time with no experience of the stages was really challenging, and we knew after the recce alone that it would be a difficult event. The stages themselves are very technical, and then when you add the conditions that we witnessed today, it was certainly not an easy event.

“There is no magic in this sport and experience is fundamental. It is better to finish in sixth than not finishing at all, but to finish in fourth or second is even better! Of course we need to be realistic for the moment and I think that myself and Maciek [Szczepaniak, co-driver] have driven a very positive rally this weekend.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I am very pleased for Robert [Kubica] to have finished such a technically demanding rally without incident. He’s kept out of trouble to gain the experience that is so vital at this level, and the knowledge that he has gained can only further his development. He’s taken a step forward and is well placed to continue his progression.”
14-05-12 Hirvonen shows his class
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen reaffirmed his class as Rally Argentina came to a close with four stages to the west of Villa Carlos Paz today. In a bitter sweet turn of fortune, the Finn claimed three of the four stage wins to prove that he would have been fighting at the head of the field were it not for his uncharacteristic mistake on SS2.
If the opening two days were not taxing enough, the final leg incorporated two legendary stages in the Valle de Traslasierra. Meandering through moonlike vistas littered with huge boulders and tight hairpin bends, ‘Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero’ and ‘El Condor – Copina’ are demanding at the best of times. Combine that with the added complication of thick fog and mud, and today’s final stages provided what was arguably the biggest challenge of the weekend.

Never one to pass up a challenge, Hirvonen was the man of the hour over the morning loop and looked untouchable behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Thriving in the tricky conditions, the Finn dominated the opening three stages. Fearless in the fog that blighted the opening speed test, the M-Sport driver was a full 36.4 seconds faster than his nearest rival.

Thoroughly enjoying the tricky conditions, Hirvonen’s impressive pace highlighted the strength of his partnership with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. Driving to the notes with near-perfect precision, the pairing showed total trust in each other’s ability and reaped the rewards as a result. Setting the second fastest time in the points-paying Power Stage, the pairing also added an additional two points to their championship campaign.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt continued to develop their skills. Making it through all 14 speed tests unscathed, it was mission accomplished for the young Welshman who leaves his first visit to Argentina with a wealth of experience that will be invaluable in years to come.

Piloting his Fiesta through some of the championship’s most technically demanding terrain, Evans showed real maturity and is now well placed to continue his progression at the sport’s highest level.

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“It’s not been easy to display good speed whist being safe at the same time and, for me, it has definitely been the most difficult event of the year. When you’re trying to learn a new rally you tend to settle into a rhythm as the event unfolds, but here, there is something new all the time and you are constantly learning how to tackle each variation.

“With regards to the first day, the stages were very technical in nature and there was no margin for error. Yesterday was quite high-speed with a really soft surface so it was quite difficult to commit, and today the weather made things very tricky with mixed conditions within the stages themselves.

“Although it has admittedly been a bit of a frustrating weekend for me, I know that the amount we have learnt will undoubtedly help my development for the future. We’ve made it to the end without incident and that is a big positive. Now it’s just a case of going back over the data with the team to decipher exactly where we can improve for next year.”

Mikko Hirvonen (9th) said:
“After my mistake on Friday we just wanted to finish the rally with a good pace and we were able to do that. Everything worked really well this morning. The boys clearly did a fantastic job with repairing the car and I was just able to really go for it.

“I tried to enjoy it as much as I could and we had a really good time out there. OK, it didn’t work out so well in the Power Stage, but I thought that I should probably let someone else take a stage win today too!

“I’ve always been quite confident in the fog. I have a good feeling with my notes and I’m able to really trust the distances into the corners – it just works for us.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Mikko [Hirvonen] did a fantastic job today which just goes to show the exceptional job that the mechanics did with repairing his Fiesta on Friday evening. He has always thrived in tricky conditions and I think that part of that is due to the strong partnership between himself and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver]. They have complete faith in each other’s ability and that is just what’s required when the conditions are as they were today.

“It’s fair to say that Elfyn [Evans] was a little frustrated with his pace this weekend, but from start to finish, he has done exactly what was asked of him. It’s sometimes difficult for a young driver to hold back, but Elfyn knows how vital this experience will be for the future and I’ve been very impressed with his mature approach.”

14-05-12 Ny dubbelseger för Volkswagen i Argentina
Rally Argentina är Volkswagens största seger i WRC, världsmästerskapet i rally. Under extremt svåra förhållanden tog Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) och Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) en dubbelseger. Volkswagens tredje fabriksbil körd av Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) kom på fjärde plats. Det är Volkswagens nionde seger i rad.

Med dubbelsegern ökar Volkswagen sin ledning i konstruktörsmästerskapet och de tre förarteamen toppar nu förar- och kartläsarmästerskapen. Rally Argentina blev Jari-Matti Latvalas tionde seger i WRC och hans tredje för Volkswagen.

Redan från start bjöds åskådarna på en spännande duell i kampen om ledningen. Nuvarande världsmästarna Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia vann de två första specialsträckorna. Sedan gjorde Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila sin motattack och tog ledningen på rallyts längsta specialsträcka, den nästan 52 km långa "Ascochinga–Agua de Oro". Innan dagen var över hade förstaplatsen växlat två gånger mellan Latvala och Ogier.

Latvala dominerade på lördagen och söndagen med åtta sträcksegrar mot en för Ogier. Med sin seger knappade Latvala in på Ogiers försprång i totalställningen i VM. Nu skiljer bara 24 poäng.

Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula svarade för rallyts mest imponerande uppkörning. Redan första dagen råkade de ut för att generatorremmen lossnade och de slutade på sjunde plats med en femminutersbestraffning. Men de gav inte upp. På lördagen körde de förbi tre av sina konkurrenter genom att vara snabbast på en specialsträcka och komma bland de tre bästa på två sträckor.

På söndagen säkrade Mikkelsen/Markkula sin fjärdeplats tack vare bra resultat på de klassiska specialsträckorna "Mina Clavero" och "El Condor". Deras körning hade med marginal räckt till en pallplats om det inte varit för tidstillägget.

Rally Argentina är inte bara ett klassiskt WRC-rally. Det har också ryktet om sig att vara det tuffaste mot både människa och maskin. Inför 2014 års rally hade kraftiga regn och stormar eroderat sträckorna och oräkneliga djupa potthål och diken tvärs över vägen utsatte bilarna för svåra prov. Volkswagens erfarna mekaniker utnyttjade de tre servicetillfällena varje dag - ett på morgonen (15 minuter), ett vid lunchtid (30 minuter) och ett på kvällen (45 minuter) för att se till att de tre Polo R WRC-bilarna alltid var redo för de kommande specialsträckorna.

Genom att komma etta, tvåa och fyra kunde Volkswagen fira sin största seger hittills i WRC. Det överträffade resultatet i Rally Great Britain från i november 2013 då de tre Volkswagen-teamen kom etta, tvåa och femma.

Rally Argentina består av 14 specialsträckor, totalt 405,10 km. Ogier, Latvala och Mikkelsen hade bästa tid på tio av dem, kom tvåa elva gånger och tog tredjeplatsen på tio av dem. Det betyder 31 placeringar bland de tre bästa av 42 möjliga.

Med Jari-Matti Latvalas seger i rally Argentina 2014 har Volkswagens segerrad i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) fortsatt. Volkswagen har nu vunnit nio rallyn i rad. Märket avslutade förra säsongen med att vinna i Australien, Frankrike, Spanien och Storbritannien. Det resultatet har följts upp under 2014 med segrar i Monte Carlo, Sverige, Mexiko, Portugal och Argentina. Volkswagen är därmed obesegrade så här långt 2014 och firar sin tredje dubbelseger på fem rallyn och sin femte totalt.

Än en gång dominerade Sébastien Ogier det avslutande Power Stage där extrapoäng delas ut till de tre snabbaste. Världsmästaren slutade 10,5 sekunder före Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) och ytterligare en tiondels sekund före teamkollegan Jari-Matti Latvala. Det betyder att fyra av de sex extrapoängen gick till Volkswagen.

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia leder nu världsmästerskapet totalt med 112 poäng, följda av Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila med 88 poäng. Med sin fjärdeplats i det senaste rallyt är nu Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula trea totalt med 48 poäng.

I konstruktörsmästerskapet ökade Volkswagen sin ledning och ligger nu 97 poäng före tvåan Citroën.

Citat efter tredje dagen i Rally Argentina
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Förhållandena i årets Rally Argentina var de svåraste jag upplevt på länge. Vägarna var otroligt tuffa mot både förare och bilar så jag är lycklig över att ha kommit tvåa. Jag vill gratulera Jari-Matti som gjorde en stark prestation och förtjänade att vinna. Jag är faktiskt glad över att folk inser att det inte är så lätt att vinna som det ibland ser ut. Julien och jag gav allt hela helgen men särskilt på slutet var grusvägarna så leriga och hala att vårt enda mål var att komma över mållinjen. Att klara av ´El Condor’ var ett riktigt äventyr. Hur som helst är det alltid överväldigande att ta sig an sträckorna inför så många entusiastiska fans. Jag ser fram emot nästa år när jag än en gång ska försöka ta mig överst på pallen i Argentina.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
- Jag är naturligtvis helt tagen över att ha vunnit Rally Argentina. Det är ganska många år sedan en finne vann det här rallyt. Det var fantastiskt att kämpa om segern med Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. Min kartläsare Miikka Anttila bidrog enormt mycket till vår framgång. Hans instruktioner guidade oss säkert genom några extremt svåra partier. Vi har analyserat och jobbat mycket med oss själva de senaste veckorna och månaderna och det gav resultat här. Ett stort tack går också till hela Volkswagen-teamet för vår Polo var alltid perfekt preparerad och höll för de enorma påfrestningarna ända till slutet. Segern betyder också mycket för mig personligen eftersom vi vann det här svåra rallyt på våra egna meriter, vilket visar att vi fortfarande är en kraft att räkna med i världsmästerskapet.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Jag har aldrig varit så glad över att sluta som fyra. Sedan vi misslyckats med att komma i mål på den sista sträckan på fredagen på grund av ett tekniskt fel och fick ett tillägg på minuter, försökte vi göra det bästa av situationen. Vi kunde helt enkelt inte ha gjort mer och jag är mycket nöjd med vår prestation. Efter att ha kommit upp till fjärde plats redan tidigare än vi hoppats på var vi litet mer försiktiga på söndagen. Massor av lera, tjock dimma - sista specalsträckorna var verkliga utmaningar. Men vi lyckades bra och minskade avståndet till tredje plats. Allt som allt är vi mycket nöjda.

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Argentina – slutresultat
1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen 4t 41m 24.8s
2. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 1m 26.9s
3. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 5m 54.7s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen + 6m 18.3s
5. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 8m 25.8s
6. Robert Kubica/Maciej Szczepaniak (PL/PL), Ford + 10m 08.0s
7. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 10m 32.2s
8. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 12m 03.9s
9. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 19m 54.8s
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Q/I), Ford + 23m 10.2s
FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),

Rally Argentina – Power Stage resultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 14m 29.3s
2. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 10.5s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 10.6s

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), ställningen totalt
Förarmästerskapet
poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 112
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 88
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 48
4. Mads Østberg 48
5. Mikko Hirvonen 40
6. Kris Meeke 32
7. Thierry Neuville 31
8. Elfyn Evans 26
9. Martin Prokop 22
10. Bryan Bouffier 18

Konstruktörsmästerskapet
poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 187
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 90
3. M-Sport 68
4. Hyundai Motorsport 55
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 52
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 24
7. RK M-Sport WRT 12
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 0
14-05-11 Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle and Citroën grab podium spot i Argentina
Third at Rallye Monte-Carlo at the start of the season, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle claimed another podium finish in their Citroën DS3 WRC at Rally Argentina. Carrying a hand injury, Mads Østberg dropped out of the rally after SS12. With this fourth podium finish in five events, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team consolidated its second place in the World Rally Championship Manufacturers’ standings.

Having hurt his hand with a kick-back through the steering on SS9 yesterday afternoon, Mads Østberg began today’s leg trying to drive through the pain barrier. However, with his injury preventing him from racing properly, the Norwegian decided – with the agreement of the team – to retire after SS12.

With a firm grip on third position since Friday, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle pursued their clearly-defined strategy of avoiding making any mistakes to secure their second podium finish of the season in the Citroën DS3 WRC.

Following this, the fifth round of the WRC, Mads Østberg shares third place (on 48 points) in the World Rally Championship Drivers’ standings. Kris Meeke’s podium finish moves him up to sixth position, with 32 points. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team consolidates its second position in the Manufacturers’ standings.

The next round will be held on 6-8 June in Sardinia.
QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “I was determined to get a good result at this Rally Argentina. I focussed on driving as precisely as possible so as to not take any risks. I used every second I had to make sure of getting across the finish line. It was difficult but this is a fantastic result. I would like to dedicate it to everyone in the team. They put a lot of faith in me, so I owed them one!”

Mads Østberg: “Yesterday, on the penultimate stage of the day, I got a bad kick back through the steering on my right hand. We tried to carry on today with the injury. I was having to drive with only my left hand and it was too dangerous and too painful. It wasn’t sensible to keep going. We talked it through with the team and we decided to stop after the first loop.”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “It was an especially difficult rally. Kris had never raced in Argentina as part of the World Championship. He got to grips with the stages, confirmed his pace notes and found the right pace. Once he grabbed third spot, he managed his position remarkably well to finish on the podium. As regards Mads, initial tests suggest that the injury isn’t too serious. He will spend some time resting and recovering before preparing for Rally Italia Sardegna. Our aim is now for both crews achieve the same level of consistency in finishing among the leaders, starting at the next round.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS11 – Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero 1 (22.07km) – First on the road in very slippery conditions, Mikko Hirvonen set the fastest time of the day. Latvala extended his lead by 16 seconds at the front of the field. Through the thick fog, Kris Meeke held onto third overall whilst Mads Østberg managed the conditions despite suffering acute pain in his right hand.

SS12 – El Condor – Copina 1 (16.32km) – No change in the overall standings after the first run on El Condor. Mikko Hirvonen won the stage again, whilst Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg held position.

SS13 – Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero 2 (22.07km) – Still running first on the road, Mikko Hirvonen claimed another stage win. Mads Østberg did not line up at the start, heading straight for the service park to get treatment on his injured right hand.

SS14 – Power Stage El Condor (16.32km) – With conditions still foggy, Sébastien Ogier collected the three bonus points awarded to the winner of the Power Stage, finishing ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, who wrapped up overall victory in the rally. Seventh on this final stage, Kris Meeke was able to celebrate his first WRC podium on gravel.

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 4:41:24.8
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:26.9
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +5:54.7
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6:18.3
5. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:25.8
6. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +10:08.0
7. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +10:32.2
8. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +12:03.9
9. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +19:54.8
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +23:10.2…

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 5 – Sébastien Ogier, 4 – Mikko Hirvonen,3 – Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS2 and SS4: Sébastien Ogier

SS3, SS5 to SS44 (finish): Jari-Matti Latvala
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 112 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 88 points
3. Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen 48 points
5. Mikko Hirvonen 40 points
6. Kris Meeke 32 points
7. Thierry Neuville 31 points
8. Elfyn Evans 26 points…

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 187 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 90 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 68 points
4. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 55 points
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 52 points
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 24 points
7. RK M-Sport World Rally Team 12 points
14-05-11 Rendina completes tough Rally Argentina
The Day Three itinerary of this year’s Rally Argentina offered what are arguably the two most iconic stages of the event: SS11 / 13 Guilio Cessare – Mina Clavero and SS12 / 14 El Condor – Copina. Totalling 76.78 kilometres of competitive stages with no midday service, today’s test was challenging for even the most experienced of drivers. However, Ralliart Italy-run Italian driver Max Rendina was not put off by the feat ahead of him. He didn’t come to Argentina with the target of an easy ride.

His eye is firmly set on winning the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup this season and with a maximum 75 points over his first three events, he’s well on his way. But Rendina had another ambition when he and his long-term co-driver Mario Pizzuti decided to take on the Group N Cup with three times Production car World Champions Ralliart Italy. Rendina wanted to experience rallying at its extremes, gain experience and compete on the same stages as the greatest rally drivers – and codrivers – of all time.

While the 10 Group N Cup points he’s taken home from the event shouldn’t be sniffed at, far more important for Rendina was the achievement of taking on – and completing Rally Argentina. He didn’t have an easy run today. After breaking the driveshaft on his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X only 50 metres into SS11, he had to finish the day limited to rear-wheel drive only for over 75 kilometres of stage section. Nursing his Mitsubishi back to the Cordoba-based Service Park, Rendina recognised that the task ahead of him wasn’t an easy one. Mud laden stages do not lend themselves to a two-wheel-drive vehicle and the stress on the differential’s transfer case was so great that he feared it could have broken at any moment.

It was his customary calm and control that got Rendina through to the finish and now he can look ahead to his next event on familiar home ground in Sardinia: “Of course it would’ve been nice to take my fourth win in a row – I think anyone would agree - but I also entered this event knowing that I lacked a lot of experience. Competing in Rally Argentina has really opened my eyes and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Now I’d just like to come back next year and show those stages who’s boss!”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto believes that Rendina showed good potential on the event: “Max didn’t have an easy run here in Argentina, but he put in good times on the stages he ran untroubled and showed that with more experience he could come back and do a great job out here in future. Now we’re looking ahead to Rally d’Italia. It’s the home event for Ralliart Italy and Max and we can’t wait. He has a lot of experience competing in Italy and I’m sure the spectators will be pleased to see him out on the World Rally stages. I just hope they’re every bit as supportive as the great fans out here in Argentina!”
14-05-11 Rendina to restart on Day Three
Italian driver Max Rendina was third in the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup when he reached the overnight halt yesterday and started Day Two focused on moving into second place as quickly as possible. With only five seconds to make up, Rendina confidently took to SS6, the first stage of the day, and had snatched the runner-up spot by the time he was only halfway through the opening test.

Unfortunately, in the same stage, he landed on a stone following a jump and damaged the underneath of his Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Alerted to the problem by a loud noise coming from the bottom of his car, Rendina decided to slow down to avoid making the situation worse. Investigating the problem between the stages, Rendina did a makeshift repair on the road section to SS7. His efforts paid off when on SS7, the 39.16 kilometre Amboy - Yacanto stage, he increased the gap to third place to 1 minute 24 seconds. Pleased with his performance and beginning ato find a rhythm, Rendina returned to the Rally Argentina Service Park for midday service where the Ralliart Italy technicians repaired his Mitsubishi ready for the afternoon loop.

With his car back on top form, Rendina headed out to SS8, topped the Group N Cup leaderboard on that stage, and moved into the to rival and local hero Juan Carlos Alonso who was leading the Group N Cup pack. Unfortunately, disaster struck on SS9 when Rendina hit a rock and irreparably damaged his suspension, forcing him to retire for the day.

Rendina will restart tomorrow under the Rally 2 regulation and is still focused on taking each stage as it comes – including the famous SS12 / 14 El Condor - Copina test – and putting in the best performance he can: “I’m really sorry that I made a mistake on SS9. My confidence and feeling was increasing on the tough terrain. However, it’s still very hard to find the right compromise between speed and caution, especially since it’s my first time competing in Argentina. I’m learning with every kilometre though and I hope that tomorrow I’ll be able to put those lessons into practice!”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is disappointed for Rendina, but hopeful that he will put in a strong performance tomorrow: “It might be Max’s first time out here at Rally Argentina, but it isn’t mine, and one lesson I’ve learnt is that everything can change at any moment. Max and Mario will be back in the mix tomorrow, which means it could be all change once again. It’s a hard event, especially for a novice, but I feel confident that they’ll come back fighting!”
14-05-11 Kubica on course in Argentina
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica and Maciek Szczepaniak are on course for a solid result at this weekend’s XION Rally Argentina. Maintaining a cautious approach, the pairing kept their Ford Fiesta RS WRC clear of trouble and currently hold sixth position overall.

Swapping the Punilla Valley’s mountain tracks for the open roads of the Valle de Calamunchita, today’s stages may have provided less of a technical challenge but it was not without its perils. High-speed undulations and huge rocks lay in wait to punish a mistake and the crews had to maintain the same concentration levels they had adopted for the previous day.

With fewer tight corners, Robert and Maciek settled into their rhythm. Despite admitting that their guarded approach had resulted in notes that were not ideally suited to the faster sections, the pairing were satisfied with their compromise.

Conditions were far from ideal with rain and fog the order of the day, but the Poles rose to the challenge with a highly consistent performance.

Keeping his mind firmly fixed on the job in hand, Kubica is determined to make it through all 14 speed tests unscathed. On course to secure that goal, the popular driver looks set to take the next step in his development and continue his progression at the FIA World Rally Championship’s highest league.

Robert Kubica (6th) said:
“It has been a good day with no mistakes and no problems. The conditions were not so easy and we took it very cautiously in the fog this afternoon. We had a small moment on SS8 but it wasn’t a big drama and we are still here which is the main thing.

“Tomorrow looks like it could be another very difficult day, especially if there is a risk of fog. The stages will be a bit tighter again, but there is no point in taking any unnecessary risks. I am satisfied with the way things are going for the moment, so we just need to continue like this.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m really pleased for Robert [Kubica]. He’s put in another very solid performance and steadily increased his pace without any major dramas or concerns. It’s great news for his confidence and for his progression as the season continues. We obviously have another very difficult day to come, but if he continues where he left off today, he’ll be on course for a very solid and encouraging result.”
14-05-11 Evans continues to progress
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans continued his development as Rally Argentina reconvened in Cordoba’s southern territory today. Holding seventh place, the youngster displayed maturity beyond his years and is on course for a solid result on what is his first taste of the South American fixture.
Returning to the stages following an unfortunate retirement on yesterday’s opening speed test (SS2), Mikko Hirvonen climbed the standings. Currently holding 11th place, the Finn is now tantalisingly close to a points-paying finish.

Contested over the open roads of the Valle de Calamunchita, today’s terrain provided a much more civilised affair. Far removed from the narrow tracks of the mountains north of Villa Carlos Paz, the stages were fast and flowing, but that did not alter Evans’ approach.

Resisting the temptation to show his true potential behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Welshman stuck to his strategy. Tackling each new stage with an air of caution, M-Sport’s latest protégée knows how vital the knowledge of such a specialist event will be in years to come. Guided by the experience of his team and co-driver Daniel Barritt, the youngster remains focused on that goal and on course for another solid result.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were regaining their rhythm after yesterday’s high-speed – and uncharacteristic – mistake. Using the day wisely, the Finn was able to assess various set-up options and build further confidence for future events.

Upping his pace significantly for the afternoon loop, Hirvonen looked at one behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC once again. Fearless in the fog that blighted the second pass of ‘Amboy – Yacanto’ (SS9), the popular M-Sport driver even came close to securing a stage win – just 0.3 seconds adrift of the rally’s advantageously placed leader, Jari-Matti Latvala.

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“We’ve had another clean and consistent run with no mistakes, but I can’t pretend that it’s not been a little frustrating at times. There’s a lot to learn and the stages have been very testing so we have just tried to keep out of trouble.

“It’s important not to do more than what feels 100 per cent comfortable at the time. If you do more than that, the risk goes up and it’s a long way to come not to gain the experience. It’s so important if you want to progress at this level and, ultimately, we want to ensure that we are in a good position for next year.

“Tomorrow looks like it could be another very difficult day. We know that the stages are very tight and very rough, and then there is the weather to take into account as well. But if we continue like we have today and learn as much as we can from each of the stages, then it’ll be job done.”

Mikko Hirvonen (11th) said:
“It was a bit tricky this morning. I didn’t find the best rhythm and it took a while to get back into the swing of things but this afternoon was a lot better. We made some small changes on the car – trying a few different things and doing a bit of testing – which I was really happy with.

“We were then able to set a really good time on SS9. I think we drove that stage really well and I hope that we can carry that speed forward to tomorrow. It’s going to be another tricky day, but let’s see if we can continue like this and score some points.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another solid day for Elfyn [Evans] and he has done exactly what was required. I know that he is frustrated with the pace, but I have also reassured him that it is just part of the learning process. He needs to gain the experience that is so vital to progressing at this level – especially at an event like this where the stages are so technically demanding. He may be frustrated now, but he is doing exactly what has been asked of him and it will put him in a much stronger position for the future.

“We’ve also seen a very solid day from Mikko [Hirvonen] – coming back strongly after yesterday’s disappointment. He’s had the opportunity to test some different settings with the car and, although he might not have seen a benefit this morning, he really came into his own this afternoon. We’re expecting some tricky conditions tomorrow, and it’s there where Mikko really thrives, so hopefully we’ll see him climb back into the top-ten.

“Finally, all credit to our mechanics and engineers. Both cars have performed faultlessly and considering the amount of damage that they had to repair on Mikko’s car, I think it’s fair to say that they have done another exceptional job.”

14-05-11 A third position to defend
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle have been in third overall since the end of SS5 at Rally Argentina in their Citroën DS3 WRC.
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson rejoined the action this morning and enjoyed a full day of rallying, acquiring valuable experience for the rest of the season.

Mads Østberg’s Citroën DS3 WRC was repaired overnight, enabling the Norwegian to rejoin this morning under Rally 2 rules. The third-placed driver in the World Championship standings set off in second position on roads that had been left muddy by the rain. Mads took advantage of the day’s stages to gather more experience. From eighteenth overall when he drove the car out of parc ferme this morning, Mads ended the day tenth position.

Third overall, Kris Meeke applied his strategy without making any mistakes. Managing to hold his position despite the rain, mud and fog, he moved ever closer to a second WRC podium finish.

There are four stages still to run tomorrow before the end of Rally Argentina. The final leg gets underway at 6.48am in Carlos Paz, featuring a total of 382 kilometres, including 76 kilometres of timed sections on El Condor – Copina and Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero. The Power Stage is scheduled to start at 1.05pm with the rally due to finish from 2.48pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “After recce, we knew this would be the most difficult day of the rally. You need a great deal of experience to be able to go fast on these roads. We have learned a lot. It was important to avoid making any mistakes and we have achieved that goal. Overall, we’re very pleased with the day because we still have a two-minute lead over our closest challengers. We just have to keep it going to the end of the rally!”

Mads Østberg: “The stages were particularly difficult on the second runs. I did my very best, even though we can no longer fight at the front. Our aim is to at least score some points. In the ruts on SS9, I got a bad kick back through the steering. On the last stage, I could only use my left hand on the steering wheel. I hope the team doctor will be able to find a way of reducing the pain…”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “The goals were clearly set today. Kris had to protect his third position whilst driving at a decent pace. He is learning all the time and improved between the two runs. The gap is big enough to feel confident going into the final day. For Mads, this was his first full day. He managed to up the pace. Unfortunately, he hurt his hand. We hope he will have recovered sufficiently tomorrow to be able finish the rally.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS6 – San Agustin – Villa del Dique 1 (39.99km) – Having rejoined under Rally 2 rules, Andreas Mikkelsen claimed the stage win ahead of Latvala, who extended his overall lead. Mads Østberg went fifth fastest. Kris Meeke finished seventh. Dani Sordo was held up by a problem with the turbocharger.

SS7 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (39.16km) – Latvala proved to be the fastest in the rain. Mads Østberg went fourth fastest to move up to thirteenth overall, whilst Kris Meeke held onto third place.

SS8 – San Agustin – Villa del Dique 2 (39.99km) – Another stage win for Latvala, who further extended his overall lead. With fourth fastest time, Mads Østberg closed the gap to the top 10. Kris Meeke enjoyed a problem-free second run.

SS9 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (39.16km) – Latvala took another stage win, extending his lead to Almost thirty seconds in the overall standings. Despite his hand being very painful, Mads Østberg finished fourth on this long stage. Kris Meeke set the seventh best time.

SS10 – Super Especial 2 (6.04km) – Both Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team won their head-to-head. Østberg beat Hirvonen and Meeke won against Evans. The fastest time went to Neuville, just ahead of Østberg.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:33:19.1
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +31.2
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:47.0
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +5:43.0
5. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +6:40.9
6. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +7:14.4
7. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +7:52.0
8. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:20.9
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +16:20.6
10. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +20:35.8

FASTEST TIMES
Jari-Matti Latvala, 5 – Sébastien Ogier, 3 – Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS2 and SS4: Sébastien Ogier
SS3 and SS5 to SS10: Jari-Matti Latvala
14-05-10 Midday Quotes Rally Argentina, Day three
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“We’ve increased the first pass pace from yesterday. It still feels safe at the moment, but we don’t want to veer to far from the plan as it can still be quite tricky out there.

“It’s frustrating in a way because we’re effectively in a battle, but not battling. That said, we also need to be clever and stick to our target. We came here to learn and to gain experience, and in that respect, it’s been a good morning.”

Mikko Hirvonen (15th) said:
“It’s been an OK morning but I think I’ve been driving a little too softly and not really attacking the stages as I maybe should – that inevitably loses time. Everything on the car is working perfectly so the boys did a really good job there. We did try a few things with the geometry which didn’t work out quite as we would have hoped, but that isn’t a big issue. We just need to carry on. It’s mainly about finding the right rhythm and I’m sure if we push a bit harder, the times will come.”

Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“The rally is going well for us at the moment but there is still a long way to go. Today’s stages were not as extreme as yesterday, so the pacenotes were a little slow in the fast corners, but that is the compromise we had to make in order to move forward this weekend. To be honest, I came here just to finish. We made some changes to the pacenotes in preparation for that and that is the priority.

“It’s not easy and as we saw yesterday there were many mistakes and so many rocks to watch out for. Fortunately, we have had a really clean run and it’s going OK. It’s difficult to say that I am happy as I am always looking ahead, but for the moment, it is good.”
14-05-10 Rendina Ready for Day Two Comeback
Ralliart Italy-run Italian pairing Max Rendina and Mario Pizzuti currently lie third in the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup at Rally Argentina. Rendina had a steady start to the day, focusing on making it through the opening stage without falling foul of the mud after having selected tyres with the gargantuan 51.88 kilometre SS3 in mind. Despite this careful planning, Rendina still encountered difficulties on SS3 when he broke one of his turbo supports on his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and began to lose turbo pressure from the middle of the stage onwards, costing him almost a minute. That said, he put in a solid time and finished the test one minute faster than anyone else in the Group N Cup.

Since it was impossible to repair the broken support, the team decided to change the entire turbo at midday service as a precaution. However, a complication in the replacement process meant that Rendina suffered a four minute time penalty for exiting service late.

The afternoon got off to an equally complicated start as the organisers awarded Rendina a notional time for safety reasons. Fortunately, Rendina saved the best for last and confidently navigated Ascochinga / Agua De Oro on his second pass to complete it 1 minute 50 seconds faster that Group N Cup leader Juan Carlos Alonso who is competing this weekend on home soil.

This strong finish left Rendina only five seconds off second place and 2 minutes 35 seconds behind Alonso. With his confidence increasing, Rendina still recognises the challenge ahead of him and is pleased to have completed Day One: "It was a crazy day. I got some good times, but I also had few a problems! I want to thank the team because they managed to fix my Mitsubishi at midday service and that wasn't an easy job! Now I hope tomorrow I'll be on good form and able to put some pressure on the first two cars in the Group N Cup."

While Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto recognises that today's time penalty was unavoidable, he also hopes that Rendina will have the chance to fight back on Day Two: "I'm really sorry for the time lost when service ran over, but I believe we made the right choices. I'll never compromise on safety and it was important to make sure Max's car was performing as well as possible. I believe this is what allowed him to get such a good time in SS5 too. Now he's finished the day safely and will be ready to take on tomorrow's stages with new energy."
14-05-10 Kubica holds fifth in Argengina
Robert Kubica completed the first full day of competition at Rally Argentina in a strong fifth place. Maintaining a composed drive throughout all four speed tests, the Pole’s new approach was paying dividends.

When it comes to tricky and demanding events, there is no fiercer example than Rally Argentina. Encompassing two loops of two exceptionally difficult stages through the Sierras Chicas mountains, today’s 157.94 kilometres were a challenge in themselves.

Long and technical in nature, the opening stages demanded near-perfect precision. Crews needed to be confident not only in their driving styles and set-ups, but also in their own physical strength – particularly with two passes through the 55.88 kilometres of ‘Asochinga / Auga de Oro’ (SS3 and SS5).

The physical aspects failed to faze the RK M-Sport World Rally Team driver; the real challenge being the mere nature of the roads. Far removed from the smooth, open asphalt which has dominated so much of his professional career, Robert found himself tackling some of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) roughest and most abrasive terrain.

Taking to the challenge with one goal in mind, he and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak were resolute on making it through all of the stages without incident. Mission accomplished, the Poles did just that – piloting their Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a strong fifth place just 0.2 seconds adrift of fourth.

Upping their pace significantly for the second pass, the pairing made the most of their first encounter with the South American event and will be looking to make further progress as the rally continues.

Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“If you consider how difficult these stages are and how little experience I have here, I think it has been a very good day. The first stage [SS2 and SS4] in particular is very narrow and twisty and I know how difficult it is for me to drive with my limitations.

“It’s really frustrating not being able to turn into the hairpins as cleanly as I would like, but there are some things that I cannot overcome and I know that on the tight corners I have to compromise to lose as little time as possible.

“The priority is to finish and in that respect today has been a good day with some good driving. Of course there are two very difficult days remaining, so we need to ensure that we continue like this.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m really pleased to see a trouble free day from Robert [Kubica]. He’s adopted a cautious approach whilst showing some good pace and it has paid dividends for him today. If he continues the performance, he will be on course for a very strong result and a good platform to build on for the rest of the season.”
14-05-10 Evans advances in Argentina
Elfyn Evans has emerged from a dramatic opening day at Rally Argentina in fourth place overall. Unfortunately, Mikko Hirvonen became one of numerous drivers to fall foul of the difficult conditions and was forced to make an untimely exit on SS2.
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has always demanded precision driving and near-perfect concentration – a feature which makes it one of the most daunting events of the year.

As the action reconvened in the Punilla Valley north of Carlos Villa Paz, this year’s outing proved to be no exception. There may have only been four stages to contend with, but the technical nature of ‘Santa Catalina / La Pampa’ combined with the mammoth 51.88 kilometres of ‘Ascochinga / Agua de Oro’ meant that merely making it through the day was an accomplishment in itself.

Using the first pass as a high speed recce, Evans did just that. There are few more challenging tasks for a fledging driver and the Welshman took to the Argentine stages with real maturity – guided, as ever, by the expertise of his fellow Briton and co-driver, Daniel Barritt.

Fighting the temptation to show his true pace behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the youngster kept his mind on the job in hand – making it through all of the stages unscathed and gaining the vital knowledge and experience required to progress at this level.

Despite holding back, the Welshman improved his pace over the afternoon loop – reducing the gap to the leaders and proving that his cautious approach could reap rewards on what is first and foremost a finishers’ rally.

Unfortunately, there was less good fortune for Hirvonen as the Finn made an uncharacteristic mistake seven kilometres into the first pass of ‘Santa Catalina / La Pampa’ (SS2).

Missing a corner, the popular M-Sport driver hit a concrete wall on the outside of a tight left-hand corner – damaging the front and rear right suspension of his Fiesta RS WRC and signalling an untimely end to what could have been another strong result.

Directly after the incident, Hirvonen commented that ‘mechanics can sometimes do miracles’, and the M-Sport team did not disappoint. Stripping the Fiesta down to its shell, the team even repaired a section of rollcage to ensure their man could be back in the fight tomorrow.

Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“It’s been a very difficult day to be honest. The stages are very tricky and it’s been fairly rough in places. We’ve been very cautious all day and it’s been a bit frustrating at times, but when you look at the retirement list it was definitely the right course of action.

“We’re not paying too much attention to the result, that’s not our aim this weekend. Tomorrow will just be more of the same – concentrating on our own rally and our own pace to make sure we get as much experience of these challenging stages as possible.”

Mikko Hirvonen (19th) said:
“I made a mistake myself. I don’t think that I have ever missed a corner like that. There was a really short, flat-right and somehow I missed the whole corner. I thought it was flat-out, but obviously it was not. There was only a 30 metre straight after that into a very tight left-hander and I was just carrying way too much speed. There was no way I could stop for the corner. There was a concrete wall on the outside; we hit that and did a lot of damage to the car. A big mistake from my side.

“I need to say a huge thanks to the mechanics for the great job they did to repair the car. Thanks to them, we can definitely be back on the pace tomorrow. These things do happen so it’s not going to get me down and make me go any slower. We’ll go flat out, try to get back in the points, and see what we can do in the Power Stage.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Rally Argentina is certainly the toughest event in the championship at the moment and it’s been a long time since we have seen so many retirements on the first day. With that in mind, Elfyn [Evans] has done a very good job. He’s done exactly what the team asked for him, and it’s paying reward.

“Mikko [Hirvonen] rarely makes a mistake so this morning was really unfortunate. That said, the mechanics have done a fantastic job – even repairing a section of the rollcage – to ensure he can be back in the fight tomorrow. He’s not going to let today get him down, and he has a really good chance of making it back into a points paying position.”


14-05-10 Kris Meeke flies the flag for Citroën
After the opening five stages of Rally Argentina, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle lie third overall for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. In the second DS3 WRC, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson were unable to finish this long first day, featuring almost 160 kilometres of timed sections.

Rally Argentina got underway on Thursday afternoon with a first run on the super special stage held just a few kilometres from the Carlos Paz service park. Mads Østberg finished second on the opening test, while Kris Meeke set the eighth fastest time.

This morning, on very technical and tricky roads, Mads Østberg went off on SS2. The incident brought the Norwegian’s day to a premature end, leaving his team-mate Kris Meeke to defend the chances of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team for the rest of the leg.

The British driver kept out of trouble throughout the long stages on roads around La Cumbre. And by cutting the gap to the leader on the day’s final stage whilst other crews retired, he managed to grab third place in the overall standings.

Saturday’s leg features five stages. Crews will set off at 6.25am from Carlos Paz, covering a total of 646 kilometres, with 146km of timed sections. After SS10, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme at 8.23pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “It was a fantastic day. It wasn’t always easy because the stages were really difficult. When I saw that Mikkelsen and Neuville had stopped, I eased off a little to hold my position. This afternoon, we went with the soft compound whereas all the other crews opted for hard tyres. I think we drove pretty well, really. Tomorrow, we’ll need to apply the same strategy and make sure we continue to avoid making any mistakes.”

Mads Østberg: “After sixteen kilometres of the day’s opening stage, there was a small jump after a right-hand corner, and the rear of the car kicked up slightly. We landed on the front axle and were thrown off the racing line. The car hit a rock which damaged the front left wheel and the suspension.”

Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): “It was an incident-packed day. We knew that the stages were going to be demanding. Almost half of the WRC crews didn’t finish the leg. Mads Østberg made a mistake. We are waiting for the car to see whether or not he’ll be able to rejoin tomorrow. As regards Kris Meeke, he managed to stay out of trouble. He also showed he could up his pace on the second loop.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Super Special Stage Fernet Branca (6.04km) – The rally got underway on Thursday afternoon. After the two-lap super special stage, Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time, followed by Mads Østberg in second. Kris Meeke finished eighth.

SS2 – Santa Catalina / La Pampa 1 (27.09km) – The crews were very apprehensive about this stage after recce. Within a few kilometres of the start, Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg retired, and Dani Sordo lost close to three minutes. Sébastien Ogier went fastest once again, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. Fourth fastest on the stage, Kris Meeke moved up to fifth overall.

SS3 – Ascochinga / Agua de Oro 1 (51.88km) – Stages of over fifty kilometres are few and far between in rallying. The Argentinean course features one that the crews had to complete twice. With a time of over 38 minutes, Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest, ahead of Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke consolidated his position with the fifth best time.

SS4 – Santa Catalina / La Pampa 2 (27.09km) – Sébastien Ogier won the stage to reclaim first place overall by less than a second from Jari-Matti Latvala. Kris Meeke remained fifth overall.

SS5 – Ascochinga / Agua de Oro 2 (51.88km) – Quicker than his team-mate on the long stage, Jari-Matti Latvala ended day one holding the overall lead in the rally, followed by Sébastien Ogier in second. Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville both stopped on this stage. By closing the gap on the stage-winning time considerably compared with the first pass, Kris Meeke grabbed third place overall.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:57:36.3
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +17.7
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:07.4
4. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:48.1
5. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:48.3
6. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:12.2
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +5:36.8
8. Yuriy Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta RRC) +8:22.0
9. Diego Dominguez / Edgardo Galindo (Ford Fiesta R5) +10:36.5
10. Gustavo Saba / Diego Cagnotti (Skoda Fabia Super 2000) +11:43.0

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 3 – Jari-Matti Latvala, 2.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS2 and SS4: Sébastien Ogier
SS3 and SS5: Jari-Matti Latvala

14-05-09 Midday Quotes Rally Argentina, Day two
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“We’re happy to be here without having made any mistakes, but at the same time it is frustrating having to drive at what seems like such a slow pace! There are so many things to hit and being 100 per cent committed to your notes is very difficult. If you make a small mistake or go even slightly off line it can damage the car – it’s just the nature of the road here.

“It’s been a fairly careful morning for us – a bit of a high speed recce to be honest. We’ve seen a lot of drivers make mistakes, and that’s the reason we’ve been so careful. We’ll certainly be a lot more comfortable with the notes this afternoon and I hope we’ll be a little bit more competitive. But the aim is not to attack and push for stage times – it’s just to make it through and gain the experience.”

Mikko Hirvonen:
Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen hit a wall some 7 km into the first test of the day (SS2). Both driver and co-driver are OK, but their Ford Fiesta RS WRC will go no further today.

Robert Kubica (8th) said:
“You cannot compare these stages to what I have been used to the majority of my career! I have no experience of these kinds of roads – there is so much variation and so much that you have to watch out for. On gravel, with very narrow and tricky roads, is it not the easiest of tasks.

“It’s been a difficult morning, but we are here and that is the most important thing. My approach has been very safe – in fact I don’t think it could get much safer for my standards! We know where we can improve, but that is not our goal here this weekend. Our aim is to finish and to gain the experience we need. Up until now, everything is running smoothly so let’s continue like this.”
14-05-06 Volkswagen till Rally Argentina för att vinna
Volkswagen ställer upp i årets femte WRC-rally, Rally Argentina, med siktet inställt på seger. Regerande världsmästare och årets totalledare Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), deras teamkamrater Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), just nu på andra plats i mästerskapet och Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) har 405,10 kilometer specialsträckor framför sig när rallyt drar igång på torsdag den 8:e maj.

Deras 315 hk starka Polo R WRC-bilar måste klara höjdskillnader på 1 500 m, långa sträckor med grovt grus, vadställen över vattendrag och oräkneliga kurvor. De tre fabriksteamen är väl motiverade och de kommer att hjälpas fram av tusentals fans som kantar de 14 specialsträckorna.
-Rally Argentina är en av höjdpunkterna i världsmästerskapet, säger Volkswagen Motorsports chef Jost Capito.
-Det har mycket långa specialsträckor, med stora höjdskillnader, kurvpartier, lösgrus och flodövergånger. Förarna, kartläsarna och bilarna måste vara på topp igen. Vi har varit mycket framgångsrika den här säsongen vilket har gjort att många ser oss som favoriter. Men när man går ut på första specialsträckan börjar alla från noll. Bara de som kan behålla koncentrationen alla tre dagarna, och inte överutnyttjar materialet och samtidigt gör så få misstag som möjligt har en chans att vinna. Det gäller förarna, teknikerna och hela teamet. Det är ingen tvekan om att vi vill vinna men vi är också medvetna om att man inte får något gratis i sport. Vi ser fram emot utmaningen och vet att allt är möjligt i rally, säger Jost Capito.

Rally Argentina drar varje år ett stort antal entusiastiska och kunniga fans till området kring Cordoba, Argentinas näst största stad. Och där argentinare samlas kommer grillarna fram. För förarna och kartläsarna skapar det en unik atmosfär, att likna vid en stor fest. Åskådarna trängs längs specialsträckorna där de hejar fram sina favoriter.

För första gången på nästa tio år kommer en ny vinnare att utses. Ingen av WRC-förarna som startar i 2014 års rally har vunnit Rally Argentina tidigare. Bara en person vet hur det känns att stå överst på pallen, Mikko Markula, Andreas Mikkelsens kartläsare. Tillsamans med Juho Hänninen vann han 2010 års rally i en Skoda Fabia Super 2000. Men vid den tiden ingick inte Rally Argentina i WRC-kalendern.

De som startade i 2013 års rally har en given fördel, tio av de 14 specialsträckorna är identiska med förra årets. Ytterligare två har ungefär samma sträckning. Totalt är 84,62 procent av 2014 års sträckor desamma som förra årets. Det gör dock inte jobbet enklare för förare och kartläsare. Specialsträckan "El Cóndor" är en världskänd klassiker. Sträckan har en rad olika utmaningar, tvära hårnålskurvor åtföljda av snabba, öppna kurvor. Dessutom är väderförhållandena unika på "El Cóndor", vissa delar är ofta insvepta i tjock dimma medan solen skiner på andra ställen.

När förarna återkommer till "El Cóndor" för andra gången är det i form av Power Stage med chans till bonuspoäng för de tre snabbaste.

När WRC-bilarna accelererar iväg från starten vid "El Cóndor" dyker de också från rallyts högsta punkt till dalen nedanför. Medan Rally Mexico går på de högst belägna vägarna i WRC-kalendern är Rally Argentina tävlingen med de största höjdskillnaderna, vilket i sin tur skapar särskilda problem för bilarna. Motorernas styrsystem måste kunna ge maximala prestanda vid rallyts högsta punkt vid "El Cóndor" - 2 138 möh - liksom vid dess lägsta punkt bara 620 möh vid starten på specialsträckan "Amboy-Yacanto". Höjdskillnaden 1 518 meter är den största i WRC-kalendern.

De två ledande Volkswagen-förarna börjar bli vana vid den särskilda utmaningen att gå ut först i rallyt. Reglerna stipulerar att VM-ledaren startar först - i det här fallet Sébastien Ogier. Bakom honom en annan Volkswagen-förare, Jari-Matti Latvala. Andreas Mikkelsen på fjärde plats i sammandraget startar därmed som bil nummer fyra på de fem första specialsträckorna.

Citat inför Rally Argentina
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Vi har förberett oss för Rally Argentina på Sardinien. Den sandiga marken där liknar det vi kommer att möta i Argentina. Även om ytan i Argentina är litet mjukare har vi lärt oss mycket från testerna. Jag har aldrig vunnit i Rally Argentina. Jag var nära 2011 och ifjol också. Det gör mig desto mer inriktad på att vinna i Argentina. Noterna är nästan identiska med 2013 års och det är en liten fördel för oss. Trots det kan ett grusrally förändras dramatiskt från ett år till nästa. Av det skälet ska vi vara mycket fokuserade under rekognosceringen så att vi får med alla mindre förändringar i noterna.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Jag ser fram emot Argentina. Jag tog min första pallplats för Volkswagen där förra året. Rallyt passar min körstil, men det är inte lätt för förarna. Om man inte är försiktig kan man träffa av en stor sten om man kör på gränsen - särskilt på andra slingan. Därför måste man ge sig själv litet andrum för att kunna reagera snabbt om det blir nödvändigt. Jag skulle bli mycket glad om jag kom på pallen. Jämfört med förra året är de flesta specialsträckorna oförändrade, med bara mindre förändringar. Bara sista dagens ‘Mina Clavero’ kommer att köras i motsatt riktning jämfört med förra året. Det blir helt nytt för oss och en utmaning.

Det gick inte så bra för oss i Portugal. Nyckeln nu är att inte göra några fler misstag och köra lika jämnt som vi gjorde vid de tre första rallyna i år.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Det känns bra att åka till ett rally som jag känner väl sedan de två föregående åren. Jag hade en lång kamp med Sébastien Ogier i en Skoda Fabia Super 2000 år 2012. Förra året satsade vi litet för hårt men kunde komma tillbaka på poängplats den sista dagen. Även om individuella resultat inte var topprioritet första året med Polo R WRC skulle jag vilja få ett bättre resultat i år. När det gäller Argentina betyder det att avsluta rallyt utan några större incidenter och komma så nära toppen som möjligt. Avslutande Power Stage kommer bokstavligen att bli höjdpunkten. Starten vid ‘El Cóndor–Copina’ är den högsta punkten i Rally Argentina. Därifrån dyker vi längs vindlande vägar ner till dalen. Det ser jag särskilt fram emot, det kräver både mod och exakt körning.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), ställningen totalt
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 91
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 62
3. Mads Østberg 48
4. Andreas Mikkelsen 36
5. Mikko Hirvonen 36
6. Thierry Neuville 21
7. Elfyn Evans 20
8. Bryan Bouffier 18
9. Martin Prokop 18
10. Kris Meeke 17
11. Henning Solberg 16
12. Ott Tänak 10
13. Benito Guerra 8
14. Chris Atkinson 6
15. Jaroslav Melichárek 4
16. Pontus Tidemand 4
17. Juho Hänninen 4
18. Matteo Gamba 2
19. Craig Breen 2
20. Nasser Al-Attiyah 2
21. Yuriy Protasov 2
22. Jari Ketomaa 1
23. Dani Sordo 0

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 144
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 75
3. M-Sport 60
4. Hyundai Motorsport 45
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 40
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 20
7. RK M-Sport WRT 4
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 0
14-05-04 Kubica focused on the finish
Despite showing incredible speed, RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica has suffered bad luck since stepping up to the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) highest league. Putting his previous outings behind him, the Pole will be focused on a single goal at next week’s XION Rally Argentina – making it through all of the speed tests unscathed

When Robert and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak first took to the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, there was no doubting their potential. Leading Rallye Monte-Carlo in its early phases, the Pole created a sensation and became one of the sport’s most exciting and popular drivers.

His progression has since been disrupted by a string of unfortunate incidents, but the Formula One race winner remains determined and will be hoping that his outing in Argentina marks a step forward.

Famed for the abundance of passionate rally fans that line the stages, the vibrance and popularity of the Argentine event masks a demanding route with marked variation in character.

There may only be 14 stages to tackle, but the contrast between the open plains of the Calamuchita Valley and the mountain tracks through the Sierra Chicas – not to mention the moonlike landscape of El Condor – place huge demands on crew and team alike.

In order to be competitive, drivers need to adapt quickly and efficiently to each variation of the stages’ character and work with the team to decipher a set-up that can deliver optimum performance through all of the event’s diverse terrain.

Venturing into the unknown for the fourth time this year, Kubica’s sights are firmly fixed on the ceremonial finish. The Pole is intent on learning as much as he can from the WRC’s voyage to South America and on gaining the vital experience that will allow him to progress at future events.

Robert Kubica said:
“Argentina will be another new and difficult event for me, but I am hoping that it will be better than the previous rallies. Our goal stays the same, and we want to get to finish.

“I will try to change my approach – going back to the way I tackled events when I first began my WRC career. Driving on gravel I must focus more on survival and getting to finish as opposed to driving as fast as I can. There are too many variables and surprises that can often catch out inexperienced drivers. That is why I think a few steps back will do me no harm.

“The things that are happening now are not a nice experience, but at the same time, they are not unusual. I think my winning the WRC2 category last year with so little experience was much more unusual! Most drivers who are experiencing these stages for the first time compete in much less powerful cars. I am driving one of the best cars in the championship alongside the best rally drivers in the world amidst conditions I have never previously experienced. This is the highest level, I need to remember that.

“When I made the decision to go rallying, I knew what I was getting into and I cannot allow the past few months to write-off my goals and ambitions. It is true that it has not been the luckiest start to the season for me, but I believe it will get better. The most important thing is to make the most of this experience and learn from it. I am sure that better times will come.”
14-05-03 Rally fever grips Argentina
One of the highlights of the World Rally Championship, Argentina hosts the fifth round of the 2014 season. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will drive the two DS3 WRCs entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Citroën Racing has a record of nine consecutive wins in Argentina as part of the World Rally Championship.

CITROËN AND RALLY ARGENTINA: A LOVE AFFAIR…
When people talk about motor racing and passion, Citroën’s love affair with Rally Argentina invariably comes up. Since its debut season as a works team in the WRC in 2003, Citroën Racing has enjoyed a nine-year winning run at Rally Argentina. After its first win in 2004 with Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, and then with Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroën’s Xsara WRCs, C4 WRCs and DS3 WRCs have never been beaten on the roads around Carlos Paz.

Having amassed nine consecutive wins, Citroën has enjoyed thrilling the hundreds of thousands of fans that gather here every year. José-María López has been part of the crowd on many occasions, but the current leader of the WTCC won’t be watching the stages next weekend, as he’ll be in Slovakia competing in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.

THREE RALLIES IN THREE DAYS
A popular event for many of the crews, Rally Argentina is one of the most comprehensive tests on the World Championship calendar. During the three days of racing, the WRC drivers have to deal with some very specific conditions.

Compact, flowing gravel roads on day one are followed by more technical stages on the sandy roads of the Santa Rosa de Calamuchita region on day two and finally, competitors tackle the narrow, rocky roads in the mountains of Traslasierra on day three.

“Rally Argentina is one of the highlights of our season,” emphasized Marek Nawarecki, who will assume the role of Deputy Team Principal in the absence of Yves Matton, who is set to be busy with the WTCC. “The weather and road conditions can really vary. It’s a great event and one which is especially interesting for the team.”

To adapt to the constantly-varying conditions, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team prepares for the event long before it starts and draws on its extensive experience: “There are some sections at over 2,000 metres above sea level,” analysed Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs. “For that, we’ll use the work we did before Rally Mexico. For the set-up, we have had two days of testing with our drivers. Using our experience, we suggest tried and tested solutions for the various Argentinean stages. Then, we use a database and their feelings to adjust the set-up of the Citroën DS3 WRC, always with minor changes. Our aim is to help them to feel full of confidence.”

It is during these pre-event test sessions that the driver and his engineer must concur with and understand one other: “We know the type of set-up to adopt for each day of the rally. We also know what pitfalls must be avoided. But we are also currently working on development of the car. For Rally Argentina, we have the possibility of introducing some minor upgrades to the set-up. These are elements that have undergone testing and been approved. We never try to revolutionise the car in its entirety. We have made the upgrades available to our drivers, who were able to compare their feelings during testing. The aim is to have another option which may be useful to them. They don’t necessarily make the same choices, because their driving styles are different. But the settings are never that far apart.”

MADS ØSTBERG FULL OF AMBITION
For his fourth appearance at Rally Argentina, Mads Østberg is looking forward to enjoying the event’s famous atmosphere: “Argentine is in the top 5 of my favourite rallies. The fans and their passionate support create a real party atmosphere. And some of the stages are very beautiful.”

Having finished on the podium twice this year, in Sweden and more recently in Portugal, the Norwegian is hoping to keep improving: “Our preparation has been perfect. Since the final day of Rally Mexico, the development has been very positive. Testing enabled me to confirm the progress we have made. I am working on my driving style in to order to be more competitive in the Citroën DS3 WRC. We have managed to achieve some good results with the engineers. It’s a long process which isn’t going to work overnight but the pace at which we are improving already is very promising!”

Third in the Drivers’ World Championship standings, Mads Østberg claimed a podium finish at Rally Argentina in 2012: “The goal is the same this year. This event is as tough as ever. We’ll need to be consistent. I can’t wait to drive the stages on Saturday’s leg. They are quick with a lot of rhythm. On Sunday, we have to tackle Mina Clavero downhill. When you drive it uphill, it’s complicated enough, so that promises to be provide one hell of a challenge at the end of the rally! The aim is to come away with a good result. Depending on the conditions, we’ll see if we can push a bit more…”

A NEW EXPERIENCE FOR KRIS MEEKE
Unlike Sweden, Mexico and Portugal, Kris Meeke has a little experience of Rally Argentina. He has never made the trip to Carlos Paz, however, to compete in World Rally Championship event.

“I competed at this rally as part of the IRC calendar in 2010,” reported Kris. “The stages weren’t all the same but I have a good idea of what the roads are like here. I’ll be a little bit less in the dark than in the previous rounds.”

During testing organised in Sardinia, Kris and Paul were able to get their bearing in the Citroën DS3 WRC again: “It was really great to be back in the car. Driving a WRC isn’t something you can practice at home. The tests went really well. The entire team has worked really hard, constantly trying to develop new solutions. We have better traction and the car is better balanced. I feel confident and I have great faith in the Citroën DS3 WRC.”

Having finished on the podium at the opening round of the season, the British crew will be looking to open their account on gravel: “We have to finish a rally without making any mistakes. Whatever happens, regardless of the conditions, we must bring the car home. Since the start of the season, we have had good pace. We just need to cut out the mistakes. And first and foremost, that means making good notes during recce.”

FROM BUENOS AIRES TO CARLOS PAZ
One of the key rounds in the World Rally Championship for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Rally Argentina begins a week before the actual start of the event for Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg.

The drivers are due to take part in a number of promotional activities in Buenos Aires before hopping on a plane to Cordoba.

Recce will get underway on Tuesday, 6 May from 8am. Two days later, the shakedown will kick off proceedings on Thursday, which will also see the ceremonial start and a super special stage in Carlos Paz at 4pm local time.

On Friday, the crews head north for the roads around La Cumbre. Two stages are due to be completed twice: Santa Catalina – La Pampa (27.09km) and the huge Ascochinga – Agua de Oro (51.88km). A thirty-minute service period is scheduled to begin at 12.18pm.

Saturday’s two stages will be held on roads to the south. The crews set off from parc ferme at 6.25am and head for the Calamuchita Valley. Once again, two runs on San Agustin – Villa del Dique (39.99km) and Amboy – Yacanto (39.16km) will be separated by a thirty-minute service period.

The final day will be a shorter affair, with only 76.78 kilometres of timed sections. Crews will tackle the moonlike landscapes of the Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero (22.07km) and El Condor – Copina (16.32km) stages without any service period. The legendary Giulio Cesare stage will be run in the opposite direction to previous rallies, from the top of the mountain down into the Traslasierra Valley.

The second pass on El Condor will serve as the Power Stage. The rally is scheduled to finish in Carlos Paz on Sunday, 11 May from 2.48pm.
14-05-02 M-Sport advance on Argentina
Spirits are high as the M-Sport World Rally Team advances on the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship: XION Rally Argentina. With Mikko Hirvonen having led the previous outing in Portugal, the squad is full of confidence and eager for further success.

Contested amongst some of the championship’s most challenging and diverse terrain, the Argentine fixture presents no easy task and the top positions will be hard fought. With passes through the Sierras Chicas, Valle de Calamuchita and Valle de Traslasierra, the gravel route offers a wealth of variation – narrow mountain tracks contrasting with open plains and dramatic moonlike vistas.

Incorporating some of the longest stages of the year, a good tempo for each variation is paramount. With no more than four traditional speed tests per day, those intent on victory can’t risk easing into a comfortable rhythm and that is sure to separate the men from the boys.

Crews also need to be 100 per cent confident behind the wheel – content in the knowledge that their car is set-up to deliver optimum performance over each aspect of the stages’ diverse character. This is something Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen used to their advantage in Portugal, and the pairing will be looking for more of the same next week.

The Finn insisted that when everything came together, he would be capable of challenging for rally wins and he proved that on the Algarve. Looking at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the M-Sport man looks set to continue that trend and truly make his mark on the championship.

Having contested the Argentine event on nine previous occasions, Hirvonen is keen to continue where he left off in Portugal – his experience of the route and his rejuvenated relationship with the Fiesta signalling the prospect of another strong result.

Elfyn Evans will also be looking for a solid result next week. Having never contested the South American fixture, Evans’ primary focus will be getting his Fiesta RS WRC through all of the stages unscathed.

Undertaking a fourth new event in as many months does not faze the young Welshman. Co-driver Daniel Barritt has good knowledge of the rally having tackled it on three previous occasions, and Evans has spent his time preparing for the challenge both in and out of the car.

A full week of development testing covering more than 1,200 kilometres provided the added seat time that can only boost a fledgling driver’s confidence and to best cope with the physical demands of the mammoth stages, the Welshman embarked on a strict fitness regime with M-Sport’s trainer – Champion European Triathlete, Barry Johnson.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“We were really happy with the result in Portugal, and we’ll be hoping for a bit more in Argentina. When everything is working well, we know that we have the car and the pace to be challenging at the top, and that is what we will be aiming for.

“It’s a tough event – even to be in the fight for the podium – but we will definitely be going all-out to do that. We want to be battling for the top positions. That is the minimum objective, but we also know that we will have to work hard to achieve it.

“There are a lot of different kinds of stages which makes maintaining a good rhythm quite challenging – you really need to be on the case with that and not get left behind early on. There can also be a lot of stray rocks on the roadside and parts of the route are very technical and narrow. It’s one of those events – like Portugal – where there really is no room for error.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“It’s another new event for me so I’ll need to find the right balance between ensuring I learn as much as I can whilst still showing some of the pace we were displaying in Portugal. We’ll have to judge the situation as it comes, but the most important thing will be to make it through all of the stages.

“I’m not too sure of what to expect, but I’ve heard that parts of the route are like driving on the moon! As with every new event I do everything I can to ensure that I am as fully prepared as possible. I watch a lot of onboards to try and get a feel of what to expect, and these stages look like they’ll be some of the most technical of the year, but you never really know until you experience it for yourself.

“We’ve been doing a lot of development testing since Portugal and the added seat time has been really beneficial. Whilst testing, I am there to do a job, but it also allows me to experiment with the driving and discover new things with the car.

“I’ve also done a lot of fitness training with Barry [Johnson, M-Sport trainer] so I feel well prepared for the physical demands of the longer stages. We do a lot of different things such as cycling and even running in a full racesuit! It’s all good practice to make sure that I am in peak condition for the challenges to come.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
M-Sport’s range of award-winning Ford Fiesta rally cars make up a huge 48 per cent of the Rally Argentina entry list. Four Ford Fiesta RS WRCs have been entered alongside six Ford Fiesta RRCs, five Ford Fiesta R5s and four Ford Fiesta R2s – another bumper entry for the UK-based firm.

Run by the M-Sport team, Yuriy Protasov will defend his WRC 2 lead behind the wheel of a Fiesta RRC. Looking to challenge the Ukrainian in similar M-Sport run Fiesta RRCs are Nicolas Fuchs and Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari. Quentin Gilbert will also continue his WRC 2 campaign with a second outing in an M-Sport prepared Fiesta R5.
14-04-06 Sébastien Ogier och Volkswagen vann Rally Portugal
Volkswagen tog segern i det tuffaste rallyt för året. Under svåra, ständigt skiftande förhållanden säkrade regerande världsmästarna Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) den fjärde segern i 2014 års FIA World Rally Championship. Det är dessutom den åttonde i rad för Volkswagen inklusive de sista tävlingarna förra säsongen.

Men parets 19:e vinst sammanlagt var långt ifrån någon promenadseger. I Rally Portugal delades pallplatsen mellan tre tillverkare efter dueller där det bara skiljde någon tiondels sekund. Under rallyt var tre olika team i ledningen vid olika tillfällen. Volkswagens Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/F) kom på fjärde plats.

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) kämpade sig tillbaka efter en avåkning på fredagen och tog värdefulla poäng i konstruktörsmästerskapet. De slutade som tvåa i avslutande Power Stage där de tre snabbaste får extrapoäng.
-Rally Portugal blev precis som väntat, svårt för både team och förare, men till slut framgånsrikt, säger en glad Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer medlem i styrelsen för teknisk utveckling hos Volkswagen.
-Ogier/Ingrassia visade än en gång sin klass under svåra förhållanden. Men hela teamet gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb. Sättet som de lyckades få Jari-Matti Latvalas bil i ordning inom tidsgränsen efter hans krasch var väldigt imponerande. Ett annat värdefullt skäl för mig att åka till Portugal är att det är stort att uppleva entusiasmen hos de många fans som hejar på våra förare längs sträckorna.

Recce och svåra däcksval
Rallyt i Portugal utvecklades snart till en händelserik och framgångsrik vecka för Volkswagen. Först vann Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia "Fafe Rally Sprint", en uppvisning inför 140 000 åskådare. Sedan gjorde ihärdigt regnande förhållandena särskilt svåra inför Rally Portugal. "Recce", rekognosceringen, fick skjutas upp och specialsträckor kortas på grund av mjuka, regndränkta vägbanor.

Trots att solen kom tillbaka dominerades fredagen av svåra däcksval - Michelins mjukare däck visade sig vara det idealiska valet. Med bara 16 mjuka däck tillgängliga blev det viktigt att spara på däcken på söndagen.

En svit som går till historien
Sébastien Ogiers seger är den åttonde raka för Polo R WRC. Därmed har Volkswagen lika lång segersvit som Citroën nådde 2011. Volkswagen vann i Australien, Frankrike, Spanien, och Storbritannien 2013 och har sedan fortsatt med segrar i Monte Carlo, Sverige, Mexico och Portugal den när säsongen. Volkswagen har tangerat det gamla rekordet efter bara sjutton starter i WRC.

Polo R WRC #2 återuppstod
En kraftfull insats låg bakom Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttilas återkomst till Rally Portugal. Ett litet misstag fick stora konsekvenser. När de låg tvåa och jagade ledaren slutade deras fredag i förtid. Men inom tidsramen på tre timmar kunde chefsmekanikern Jose Azevedo och hans i huvudsak portugisiska team få fart på bilen så att den kunde fortsätta rallyt på hans hemmaplan. Det var en insats som var värd sin vikt i guld, både för Latala/Anttila och för Volkswagen. Teamet kunde fortsätta och ta fyra värdefulla poäng till i konstruktörsmästerskapet. Vid rallyts avslutning av blev det finska paret tvåa i Power Stage och fick ytterligare två bonuspoäng i förar- och konstruktörsmästerskapen.

Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula på fjärde plats
Inför sin andra start i Rally Portugal bestämde sig Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula för att skriva nya noter. Men kraftigt regn och dåligt sikt under "Recce" gjorde deras noter mindre detaljerade än önskat. Paret beslöt sig för att ta det försiktigt och inte riskera för mycket. Till skillnad från i Sveige och i Mexico kunde de inte hålla samma fart som sina teamkamrater. Men en fjärde plats i Portugal är ett gott resultat där alla konkurrenter kämpade för att klara de tuffa och svåra omständigheterna.

Volkswagen dominerar WRC
Efter Rally Portugal utökade Volkswagen utökade sin ledning i förar-, kartläsar- och konstruktörsmästerskapen. Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia har 91 poäng - 29 fler än deras teamkamrater och närmaste konkurrenter Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula är nu på fjärde plats totalt. I konstruktörsmästerskapet ökade Volkswagen sin ledning över Citroën med 14 poäng till 69.

Citat efter dag tre i Rally Portugal
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Fyra segrar på fem år. Det är ingen överdrift, Rally Portugal är ett av mina favoritrallyn! Hela veckan har varit fantastisk för Julien och mig. Först den fantastiska showen inför mer än 100 000 fans vid "Fafe Rally Sprint" och sedan som grädde på moset försvaret av titeln i Rally Portugal i Algarve. Fansens uppmuntran och stöd är ganska speciellt här. Vi tog inte fler risker än nödvändigt på de mjuka däcken sista dagen. Trots det var målet att ta de tre bonuspoängen vid Power Stage, även om Jari-Matti inte gjorde det lätt för mig.
-Ledning i VM är nu litet större men konkurrenterna sover inte - det visade Mikko Hirvonen och Mads Östberg. Jag hörde att Markku Alén är den okrönte kungen med fem segrar i Rally Portugal. Vi kan också klara det nästa år. Det är vårt mål.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Rally Portugal har än en gång visat att det är ett av världens svåraste rallyn. Vi hade bra fart i bilen så vi hade möjlighet att komma på pallplats. Tyvärr fick ett litet misstag på fredagen ganska stora konsekvenser. Det var en stor besvikelse och satte stopp för våra chanser till ett bra resultat. Vi ändrade sedan strategi och gick in för Power Stage. Vi sparade några mjuka däck för att kunna montera dem inför attacken mot bonuspoängen. Det lyckades och vi slutade som tvåa. Avståndet till våra lagkamrater i topp har ökat men det är fortfarande mycket kvar av säsongen. Vi har gott självförtroende inför rallyt i Argentina och vi ska förhoppningsvis kunna utmana om segern där igen.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Sammantaget gick inte Rally Portugal som jag hade hoppats, även om slutresultatet inte var så dåligt. Vi bestämde oss för att skriva nya noter. Men det kraftiga regnet under "Recce" gjorde att sikten var så dålig att jag inte hade något riktigt förtroende för de nya noterna. De osäkra förhållandena i början av rallyt gjorde mig också litet försiktig. Jag förlorade mycket tid men det sista jag ville göra vara att ta för stora risker. Det lönade sig, åtminstone om man ser till resultatet. Fjärdeplatsen var det bästa vi kunde ha hoppats på som det utvecklade sig. Jag var nöjd med min körning igen på söndagen. Jag hade en bra rytm och jag ser fram emot nästa rally i Argentina.

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
-Fjärde segern för säsongen. Det Volkswagen-teamet uppnådde den här helgen, trots svåra förhållanden, är helt enkelt fantastiskt. Jag är otroligt stolt över alla inblandade. Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia var i en klass för sig och satsade vid exakt rätt tillfällen och förtjänade verkligen att vinna. Andreas Mikkelsen och Mikko Markkula gjorde det bästa av en svår situation och visade stor mognad. Detsamma gäller Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila. Trots kraschen i fredags lyckades de begränsa skadan och vinna värdefulla poäng för oss i konstruktörsmästerskapet och poäng till sig själva i Power Stage. De kan känna tacksamhet mot Volkswagens mekaniker för utan deras kraftfulla insats hade inget av detta varit möjligt. Som Motorsportschef kan jag bara säga: jag är stolt.

Rally Portugal – slutresultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3t 33m 20.4s
2. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 43.2s
3. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 1m 12.4s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen + 4m 50.5s
5. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor (N/A), Ford + 5m 10.2s
6. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 8m 27.2s
7. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 8m 32.3s
8. Juho Hänninen/Tomi Tuominen (FIN/FIN), Hyundai + 8m 51.6s
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Q/I), Ford + 10m 14.7s
10. Jari Ketomaa/Kaj Lindström (FIN/FIN), Ford + 10m 36.3s

Ställningen i FIA World Rally Championship (WRC),
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 91
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 62
3. Mads Østberg 48
4. Andreas Mikkelsen 36
5. Mikko Hirvonen 36
6. Thierry Neuville 21
7. Elfyn Evans 20
8. Bryan Bouffier 18
9. Martin Prokop 18
10. Kris Meeke 17
11. Henning Solberg 16
12. Ott Tänak 10
13. Benito Guerra 8
14. Chris Atkinson 6
15. Jaroslav Melichárek 4
16. Pontus Tidemand 4
17. Juho Hänninen 4
18. Yuriy Protasov 2
19. Matteo Gamba 2
20. Craig Breen 2
21. Nasser Al-Attiyah 2
22. Jari Ketomaa 1
23. Dani Sordo 0

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 144
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 75
3. M-Sport 60
4. Hyundai Motorsport 45
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 40
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 20
7. RK M-Sport WRT 4
14-04-06 Pontus Tidemand på pallen i Rally de Portugal
Rally de Portugal är ett av de mest tekniskt utmanande eventen i VM-serien. Det stoppade inte 23-årige värmlänningen Pontus Tidemand som slog till med en pallplats i premiärtävlingen med en Ford Fiesta R5 driven av M-Sport. Efter både klok körning och prov på sin kapacitet under press, landade Pontus på en tredjeplats när rallyt avslutades på söndagen.
- Jag är jättenöjd med resultatet, säger Pontus efter sista sträckan. Vi kom hit med målet att samla erfarenhet från tävlingen i sig och klara av debuten i R5:an, men det är klart att man alltid siktar mot toppen oavsett. Vi började köra på säkerhet för att undvika risker och eftersom allt funkade bra kunde vi trycka på lite framåt slutet för att säkra tredjeplatsen.

Torsdag kväll var starten för Rally de Portugal och tävlingen inleddes med en superspecial i Lissabon. Pontus och kartläsaren Ola Fløene var på hugget och satte den fjärde snabbaste tiden, bara 1,4 sekunder efter ledarna.

Men det var först på fredagen som kampen tog fart. Sex sträckor väntade under dagen, alla över två mil långa, och det massiva regnet tidigare i veckan gjorde väglaget i huvudsak lerigt och halt. Pontus plockade tidigt upp ett bra tempo och höll sig i resultatlistans toppskikt dagen igenom.

Pontus fortsatte sin fina körning även under lördagen, satte jämna sträcktider och tyckte tävlingen utvecklades i rätt riktning. Trots den tuffa konkurrensen i det stora startfältet på 20 ekipage i klassen, hade Pontus ett hårt grepp om tredjeplatsen och planerade inte att släppa den. Mot slutet av dagen började estländaren Karl Kruuda knappa in och när dagen avslutades skiljde bara dryga fyra sekunder mellan dem. Med endast tre sträckor kvar av rallyt var det upplagt för en kamp om pallplatsen under den sista tävlingsdagen.

På söndagen reagerade Pontus direkt på pressen från Kruuda för att försvara sin tredjeplats. Redan efter morgonens första sträcka hade Pontus utökat tidsdifferensen och på följande sträcka gav han prov på sin kapacitet genom att ta en sträckvinst med en tid som var över sju sekunder snabbare än sträcktvåan Ketomaa. Efter den sista sträckan stod det klart att Pontus hade lyckats ta en pallplats i sitt första Rally de Portugal med fyrhjulsdriven bil och börjat sin WRC 2-säsong på bästa möjliga sätt utefter sina förutsättningar.
- Den största utmaningen för oss var att lära känna den nya bilen, säger Pontus. Rally Portugal är ett såpass tekniskt rally att det kanske inte är en optimal tävling för att bekanta sig med en ny bil, men vi har gått framåt allteftersom under helgen. Både Ketomaa och Al-Attiyah som låg före oss körde otroligt snabbt men jag är glad att vi kunde hänga med i topp tre.

Nu är Sardiniens VM-rally i början av juni nästa mål och med EVEN Management och Tätab i ryggen ser det lovande ut. Efter det planeras ytterligare fyra-fem event i WRC 2-klassen och Pontus ser fram emot att fortsätta visa framfötterna:
- Jag är definitivt positiv inför kommande event. Vi har mer att jobba på, men med ordentliga förberedelser och tester innan varje tävling tror jag absolut att vi kan göra bra ifrån oss.

Resultat Rally de Portugal WRC 2 topp 5
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) 3:43:35.1
2. Jari Ketomaa (FIN) +11.6
3. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) +2:07.0
4. Karl Kruuda (EST) +2:20.9
5. Bernardo Sousa (PRT) +3:10.3
pontustidemand.se
14-04-06 On the pace: Hirvonen takes second in Portugal
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were back on form at this weekend’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Fighting for the lead, the pairing finished in a strong second place – their best performance of the season to date.

Straight on the pace, Hirvonen took an early lead with an inspired tyre choice through the first full day of competition. Despite falling victim to a revived Sebastien Ogier, the Finn looked at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Finding himself outside of the top-three on only four of the 15 speed tests, the Finn produced a highly competitive and consistent performance.

Tyre choice was a tricky call for the final day. Having selected the prime option for each of the earlier legs, Hirvonen was at a disadvantage for the final loop with just a selection of well-worn soft compounds in his arsenal. Opting for a configuration of worn-soft and fresh-hard tyres, Michelin’s resilient rubber held up to the challenge and the Finn was even able to post a second fastest time through S. Brás de Alportel (SS15).

Growing in confidence with each new kilometre, the M-Sport driver commented on how natural he felt behind the wheel of his reacquainted charge. Able to fight risk-free at the head of the field, this weekend’s result provides the perfect platform for a resurgent Hirvonen to make his mark on the championship.

Speaking of comebacks, Elfyn Evans came back fighting after a disappointing retirement on Friday’s opening leg. Rather than holding back, the Welshman was encouraged to continue the pace he was setting at the beginning of the rally. The youngster didn’t disappoint and rewarded his team of expert mechanics – who had worked throughout Friday night to provide him with a perfect Fiesta RS WRC – by posting a fourth fastest time on SS12 and continuing his development at the WRC’s highest level.

Regularly around half a second a kilometre off the pace of the leaders, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt are making real progress whilst displaying all the potential for future success.

Following a successful weekend for the M-Sport team with 42 Ford Fiestas appearing on the entry list – the highest number of M-Sport cars to have ever appeared at a single WRC event – the team prepares for Rally Argentina with what looks set to be one of its highest entry percentages.

The rally organisers have released a provisional entry list, and of the 22 cars entered to date, 55 per cent carry the Blue Oval. Entries for the South American fixture close this Tuesday.

Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I’m really happy with this result. We came here wanting a good, clean rally and that is what we have done. The car has been absolutely perfect – and really competitive – all weekend so a big thanks to the boys for the top job they’ve done.

“We knew that we had the pace, it was just a case of bringing everything together and I think that we did that this weekend. We’ll keep developing and learning, so hopefully we can fight even harder in the coming rallies.

“We’ve been another step closer this weekend, and it’s really good for the whole team. I’m sure this result will boost everyone and that we can continue to challenge at the head of the field.”

Elfyn Evans (22nd) said:
“After the mishap on Friday, the rally has been quite good to us. I need to say a huge thanks to the mechanics who worked through the night to provide us with a perfect car from Saturday onwards. After the state we left it in, I really wasn’t expecting it to be perfect! They did a brilliant job and I hope that we’ve done them proud over the past two days.

“We had a chance to learn a lot about the car and the driving so it’s been a great learning experience and another good step forward. Obviously we have another new rally next, so we might see a slightly different approach there, but I’m pleased with the way things are going so far.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to see Mikko [Hirvonen] fighting for wins again. We all knew that he had the speed and the determination to do it and to see it all coming together now is fantastic. He had the perfect strategy for the opening phases – taking an early lead – and then controlled it brilliantly to bring home a season-best second place.

“I was also very impressed with how strongly Elfyn [Evans] came back after Friday’s disappointment. He continued to run at the same pace and set some very encouraging times. He’s making some really good progress and we’ll be sure to see more from him as the season continues.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Never giving anything less than 100 per cent as he piloted his Ford Fiesta RS WRC through Rally de Portugal’s tricky speed tests, Henning Solberg secured an impressive fifth place overall. The charismatic Norwegian set a string of highly competitive splits and was able to challenge the WRC regulars on what has been his first gravel event in a World Rally Car for more than two years.

In the WRC 2 category, M-Sport continued their dominant display with another victory. A range of M-Sport cars occupied the top eight places with Nasser Al-Attiyah’s Ford Fiesta RRC securing the win ahead of the Ford Fiesta R5s of Jari Ketomaa and Pontus Tidemand. The Ford Fiesta S2000 of Karl Kruuda finished in fourth place – proving that M-Sport’s product range remains competitive at every level.

Being run by the M-Sport team, Tidemand’s podium was a fantastic result on what is the Swede’s first outing with the Fiesta R5. The reigning FIA Junior World Rally champion put in a composed, managed and progressive drive. When his podium position came under threat, he posted the fastest time on SS15 – some 7.7 seconds quicker than anybody else – to underline his speed and potential. Continuing to develop, Tidemand’s next outing in the WRC’s premier support series will be at Rally Italia Sardegna in June.

Henning Solberg (5th) said:
“I am very satisfied with the job we have done this weekend. This is my first time in a world rally car on gravel in more than two years and I was really very pleased with the pace we were able to set.

“I can go faster, I am sure of that. I’m an old guy, but I am very motivated. Give me a couple of days testing and I’ll be beating these young guys again, I can tell you that!”

Pontus Tidemand (3rd in WRC2) said:
“I am very pleased with the job we have done this weekend. We were able to make some really good progress and, when we came under pressure, we were able to show some really good speed too. It’s been a very controlled rally and I’m really pleased with the result.

“The car has been perfect all weekend so a big thanks to the team for that. It’s such a comfortable car to drive, and I’m really looking forward to the next events to see what we can do.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Henning Solberg, is there really much more that you can say? It’s always a pleasure to have Henning in the service park, and to see him performing so well here this weekend – more than two years after his last outing in a world rally car on gravel – is something very special. A very competitive performance from him and Ilka [Minor, co-driver] and if we see them back this year, I’m sure he’ll be challenging the young guys once again.

“It’s also been another very encouraging weekend for our Fiestas in the WRC 2 category with another clean-sweep of the podium. The [Ford] Fiesta RRC, R5 and S2000 were all represented in the top-four and I think that just goes to show what a competitive product range we have developed with Ford.

“I was also very impressed with Pontus’ [Tidemand] drive. This was his first outing in the Fiesta R5 and he controlled his debut brilliantly. He didn’t take any unnecessary risks and managed the entire rally with some very encouraging progress. Then, when his podium position came under threat, he posted an absolutely sensational time [on SS15]. This has been a very good event for him, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do as he gets more accustomed with the car
14-04-06 Podium plus for Mads Østberg in Portugal
Having already finished on the podium in Sweden, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson clinched third place at Rally de Portugal in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Citroën DS3 WRC.
The Norwegian and the Swede also scored a bonus point by finishing third on the Power Stage.
Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson ended the rally in thirteenth position.

Thanks to the work put in since the start of Rally de Portugal, Mads Østberg was able to tackle this morning’s stages with three new soft tyres out of the set of five he took with him.

Third overall as he set off on SS14, over three minutes ahead of his closest rival, the Norwegian treated himself to a stage win on SS15 before tackling the Power Stage.

Committed and sharp, he grabbed third place in this final test, adding a bonus point to the fifteen he claimed for finishing third overall in the rally.

Khalid Al Qassimi continued to work with the technical team to find the right balance for the remaining technically challenging stages, still partially covered in mud. The Abu Dhabi made it to the finish in thirteenth position.

With the sixteen points he collected this weekend, Mads Østberg consolidated his third place in the Driver’s World Rally Championship. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team remains second in the Manufacturers’ standings. The next round of the WRC will be held in Argentina on 8-11 May.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “This second podium finish of the season, the first on gravel, has been earned through the hard work done by the entire team since the start of the year. We are making progress at every rally and in each test session. This third place is an excellent result and the point from the Power Stage is a bonus. That was our aim before the start. We didn’t take too many risks during the rally. It augurs well for the rest of the season. We’ll be able to aim even higher in future.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “We worked hard throughout the rally to find the right set-up. This rally is a very specific test. I was looking to find the right set-up in order to have a well-balanced car. I’m pleased with what we managed to do at such a difficult rally. I am now going to turn my attention to the upcoming rounds of the Middle East Rally Championship.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Mads Østberg’s third place demonstrates the ability of the team to compete with the leaders. We have all worked hard to improve and to try and achieve strong results. This podium finish is another good step forward in the first third of the season. We hope we can keep improving. I would also like to congratulate the crews that took part in the FIA Junior WRC this weekend. They proved themselves to be competitive and consistent and there was a good atmosphere in the service park. Congratulations to Stéphane Lefebvre for his brilliant win in the Citroën DS3 R3.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS14 – Loulé 1 (13.83km) – Having rejoined under Rally 2 rules, Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest on the first run on Loulé. He finished ahead of Mads Østberg. Khalid Al Qassimi set the eighteenth fastest time. Dani Sordo was forced to retire on the road section before the stage.

SS15 – San Bras de Alportel (16.21 km) – Mads Østberg grabbed the stage win, finishing six seconds ahead of Mikko Hirvonen.

SS16 – Loulé 2 (13,83 km) – Rally leader Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time on the Power Stage, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mads Østberg. The rally was won by Ogier, with Mikko Hirvonen second and Østberg third. Khalid Al Qassimi finished thirteenth overall.

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:33:20.4
2. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +43.2
3. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:12.4
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +4:50.5
5. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:10.2
6. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:27.2
7. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:32.3
8. Juho Hänninen / Tomi Tuominen (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:51.6
9. Nasser Al Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +10:14.7
10. Jari Ketomaa / Kaj Lindtrom (Ford Fiesta R5) +10:36.3
13. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +13:07.6

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier,9 – Jari-Matti Latvala,3 – Dani Sordo, 2, Mads Østberg, Thierry Neuville and Mikko Hirvonen, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2, SS4 to SS6, SS9 to SS17 (finish): Sébastien Ogier
SS3: Dani Sordo
SS7 and SS8: Mikko Hirvonen

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 91 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 62 points
3. Mads Østberg 48 points
4. Mikko Hirvonen and Andreas Mikkelsen 36 points
6. Thierry Neuville 21 points
7. Elfyn Evans 20 points
8. Martin Prokop and Bryan Bouffier 18 points
10. Kris Meeke 17 points…

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 144 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 75 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 60 points
4. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 45 points
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 40 points
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 20 points
7. RK M-Sport World Rally Team 4 points

14-04-06 Kubica´s misfortune continues in Portugal
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s misfortune continued at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal yesterday as Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak were forced to retire their Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The Poles had returned under Rally 2 regulations following Friday’s disappointment and were determined to make the most of their time behind the wheel. Enjoying the gravel speed tests, the Formula One race winner was eager to make the most of his return – learning the stages and gaining further experience of the loose-surface terrain.

Unfortunately, the pairing fell foul of the tricky stages. Carrying too much speed into a corner over a crest, the duo went wide and slid off the road. With his Fiesta half on the stage, Kubica made every effort to stay in the rally, but unfortunately his efforts damaged the clutch and caused internal damage to the transmission. With the damage too severe, Robert and Maciej will not restart today.

With just over a month until the next event in Argentina, Kubica will now look to end his string of bad luck and will be keen to turn his season around with a solid performance in South America.

Robert Kubica (DNF) said:
“It had been a short and tough day. From the very beginning we were driving at a very steady pace, but still it did not stop me from making another mistake.
“Going into a turn over a crest I was convinced it was much faster. I thought it was five but in the pacenotes it was three. We were going too fast even though a few kilometres before I had slowed down because we had some understeer into the right-hand corners. Still though, we were going too fast for that part of the stage.

“We almost made it back to the stage. Half of the car was on the road, but since I could not downshift, the revs went down too much and we lost the momentum. I went back down the embankment and tried to find another way back to the stage, but because of my attempts the clutch gave up and it was over.

“Right now I am going through a difficult period of my life, even though I've had worse times. I think I must somehow reset myself and try to approach rallies the way I did at the very beginning, twelve months ago. I really hope we will have a much better rally in Argentina.”
14-04-06 Hirvonen still in the fight in Portugal
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are still in the fight at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Despite losing their lead to a resurgent Sebastien Ogier, the Finns hold a strong second place going into tomorrow’s final day.

Consistency was the name of the game, and Hirvonen set the second fastest time on all but one of the day’s six speed tests. Determined to the last, the Finn pushed hard throughout the day on what were well-used soft compound tyres. Despite the disadvantage, Michelin’s rubber held up to the challenge, and the popular Finn edged out close to a 50 second advantage over third-placed man Mads Østberg.

With just 38.1 seconds separating Hirvonen from the top-step of the podium, the Finn will be ready to pounce should any drama arise. With 43.87 kilometres of tricky stages left to run, there remains all to play for and the M-Sport man will be keen to bring his Ford Fiesta RS WRC home for what looks set to be a season-best result.

Returning under Rally 2 regulations following a mistake on yesterday’s first pass of Almodôvar (SS4), Elfyn Evans was straight back on the pace. The Welshman praised his mechanics for putting in an ‘all-nighter’ to provide him with a perfect Fiesta RS WRC for the penultimate day of rallying. Working until four in the morning, M-Sport’s expert team did a fantastic job to ensure that the youngster could continue his development in the WRC’s highest league.

The team's faith was rewarded, and even despite being disadvantaged as the first car on the road, Evans continued to reduce the gap to the leaders. Consistently less than half a second per kilometre adrift of the top drivers, he also posted the fourth fastest time through the second pass of Santana de Serra (SS12).

The youngster’s pace has really progressed this weekend and he and co-driver Daniel Barritt will be looking for more of the same through tomorrow’s final stages.

Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I used all my soft tyres yesterday so we had to go with used tyres today. It was still the right choice and we made up a lot of time on Mads [Østberg], but Sebastien [Ogier] just ran off into the distance and there was nothing we could do to catch him.

“Even if we give it all that we’ve got tomorrow, we’re not going to catch Sebastien on pace alone. I just hope that we can show the same good pace that we had today – secure this second place and maybe steal a few points from the Power Stage too.”

Elfyn Evans (27th) said:
“We’ve really enjoyed today and we’re really grateful to the mechanics who worked through the night to give us a perfect car. After the mess we left it in yesterday, I really wasn’t expecting it to be perfect so they did a fantastic job.

“We’ve learnt a lot today. There were some very different conditions with different tyres, so it’s been a great day from a learning perspective. I’m also pleased with the pace we were able to set. After an accident you’re always a little weary in the mornings, but I’m happy with the progress we’ve made and it’s another step in the right direction.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“After we lost Ott [Tänak], it was important that Mikko [Hirvonen] consolidated his second place and he has certainly done that today. We were able to take advantage of the tyres yesterday, but unfortunately that put us at a bit of a disadvantage today. Still, Mikko did a great job and has managed to put a big gap between himself and Mads [Østberg, in third].

“We’ll certainly look to keep the pressure on tomorrow, but if we come away with this second place, it will still be a fantastic result for the team and Mikko’s best of the year – a great platform to build on at future events.

“I was also really pleased with Elfyn’s [Evans] pace today. We decided that he would continue at the same speed as yesterday as we didn’t want him to suffer as a result of the accident. The mechanics did a brilliant job to get the car fixed last night, and Elfyn did them proud with some very encouraging progress. We’ll be looking for him to continue in the same vein tomorrow.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Ott Tänak put in a sensational performance through the first half of the event – challenging for the lead in an epic battle with fellow M-Sport driver Mikko Hirvonen and reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier. Unfortunately, the Estonian became another victim of the rally’s unforgiving speed tests on SS10.

Having to give up what would have been a podium position, the youngster clipped a bank which forced his Ford Fiesta RS WRC into a high-speed roll. With too much damage to the rollcage, Tänak will unfortunately not restart tomorrow.

Piloting a similar Fiesta RS WRC, Henning Solberg sits in fifth place overall. As always, the charismatic Norwegian put maximum effort into the technically challenging stages. Having his wits about him, Solberg is set for a top-five result as the rally resumes tomorrow.

In the WRC 2 category, the Ford Fiesta continued to dominate with an all M-Sport top-ten at the end of Day 3. Being run by the M-Sport team, Pontus Tidemand – who is taking to the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time this weekend – maintained his third place behind Nasser Al-Attiyah’s Ford Fiesta RRC and Jari Ketomaa in a similar Fiesta R5. Karl Kruuda had a good day behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta S2000, and now lies just 4.4 seconds adrift of the young Swede in fourth place overall.

Henning Solberg (5th) said:
“We were struggling a bit in the mud because we took the hard tyres, then on the last stage [SS13] there was something not quite right with the handbrake. But still I am very satisfied with what we have done today and we will still be flat-out until the end!”

Pontus Tidemand (3rd in WRC 2) said:

“I’ve really enjoyed today and the team have done a really good job with the car. It’s all feeling really comfortable and tomorrow we’ll just continue to keep focussed on our own rally and our own progress. Karl [Kruuda] isn’t too far behind now, so we might have to keep an eye on him and see what we can do tomorrow.”

Ott Tänak (DNF) said:
“It was in quite a tricky place – a section with lots of fast corners and crests leading up to a slower bend. We were a bit too late and couldn’t kill the speed. We hit the bank, and the car rolled about three or four times.

“It’s a big disappointment for me because until then everything was going really well. I was really happy with our performance and the speed that we were consistently able to set. We need to remember that my partnership with Raigo [Molder] is still very new, but we need to learn.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It was a real shame that we lost Ott [Tanak] today, he was doing a fantastic job and was consistently on the pace of the front runners. Unfortunately, this is a very technical and challenging rally, and he became one of many to be caught out on the stages.

“In the WRC 2 category we have also seen another very strong day. To see the [Ford] Fiesta RRC, R5 and S2000 all performing at the top of the category only goes to show what a competitive product range we have been able to put together with the Ford Motor Company.”
14-04-06 Mads Østberg sets his sights on podium spot
Third overall ahead of tomorrow’s short final leg of Rally de Portugal, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson will be aiming to secure another podium finish with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson moved up the overall standings on day two. They lie fourteenth overall after SS13.

The first day finished very late for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Having arrived back at service after midnight with a damaged roll cage, the Citroën DS3 WRC of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle was not allowed to rejoin under Rally 2 rules.

Eleventh on the road, Mads Østberg produced a series of top-four performances on the day’s stages. Consistent throughout, he profited from Ott Tanak’s off on SS10 to grab third place in the overall standings. By opting for a tyre strategy that enables him to fit soft tyres on tomorrow’s stages, the Norwegian currently holds a podium spot and is very much looking forward to the last three tests.

Taking advantage of the work done on the set-up of his car since the start of the rally, Khalid Al Qassimi moved up the standings. Despite the fact that conditions remained difficult, the Abu Dhabi ended the day fourteenth overall.

Sunday’s short final leg will consist of three stages. Crews will set off at 7.45am from Faro to tackle 43km of timed sections. The Power Stage, broadcast live on television, is due to start at 11am local time. The rally is scheduled to finish at 12.15pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “It was a fairly similar day to yesterday, really. We keep making progress. This afternoon, we chose to fit hard tyres. It wasn’t the most effective option but we hope it will pay dividends in the rest of the rally. We have kept a set of soft tyres for tomorrow. The aim is to finish on the podium and score a few bonus points in the Power Stage.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “Apart from on the long stage, conditions were much better today. I tried to adapt my driving style. It worked out in some sections. We worked on the set-up again to try and improve the handling and balance of the car. The second loop went much better than the first. We’ll try to keep driving without taking any risks.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Mads set some good times again today. We asked him to maintain a bit of a safety margin, to make sure of his third position. He therefore drove with hard tyres this afternoon to keep the soft tyres for tomorrow. If he manages to do well in the Power Stage, he could end up with the same points as if he’d finished second.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS8 – Santa Clara 1 (19.09 km) – Fastest time for Sébastien Ogier who closed the gap to the leader, Mikko Hirvonen. Mads Østberg was fourth fastest, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi held onto sixteenth position.

SS9 – Santana da Serra 2 (31.90km) – Another stage win for Sébastien Ogier, meaning he reclaimed the lead in the overall standings. Mads Østberg set the third fastest time.

SS10 – Malhao 1 (22.15km) – Having rejoined today under Rally 2 rules, Jari-Matti Latvala took the stage win. Mads Østberg finished third on the stage. Ott Tanak went off, blocking the stage. Mikko Hirvonen was given a notional time (same as Ogier).

SS11 – Santa Clara 2 (19.09km) – Just like on the first pass, Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time on Santa Clara. Mads Østberg was third, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi finished fifteenth.

SS12 – Santana da Serra 2 (31.90km) – Sébastien Ogier extended his overall lead in the rally. Mads Østberg consolidated his position with the fifth best time on this stage. Khalid Al Qassimi moved up a place into fourteenth overall.

SS13 – Malhao 2 (22.15km) – The day’s final stage was won by Sébastien Ogier. Mads Østberg held firm in third and likewise, Khalid Al Qassimi remained fourteenth.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:03:39.8
2. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +38.1
3. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:26.7
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:46.7
5. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:29.9
6. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +4:44.8
7. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7:21.4
8. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +7:21.5
9. Juho Hänninen / Tomi Tuominen (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7:30.6
10. Nasser Al Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +9:24.7
14. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +13:07.6

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 7 – Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala, 2 – Thierry Neuville and Mikko Hirvonen, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2, SS4 to SS6, SS9 to SS13: Sébastien Ogier
SS3: Dani Sordo
SS7 and SS8: Mikko Hirvonen

JUNIOR WRC
After leading the class since SS2, Alastair Fisher went off on the day’s final stage. Still getting to grips with the Citroën DS3 R3, Stéphane Lefebvre moved up into first place in the overall standings. Martin Koci and Christian Riedemann currently round off the top three.
14-04-05 Rally de Portugal, Midday Quotes, Day 3
Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“It’s been an OK morning. Sebastien [Ogier] was really fast on the long stage [SS9] but other than that, it’s still really close.

“We were ready to take some time back through the final stage [SS10], but unfortunately Ott [Tänak] had an issue and blocked the road. It’s a shame, but there’s still a long way to go and we’re certainly not going to give up on chasing him down.

“We’re going to have a hard decision to make about tyres now, b4ut whatever we opt for and whatever the conditions, we will fight.”

Elfyn Evans (42nd) said:
“It’s been an OK morning. We felt the biggest disadvantage running as the first car on the road in that last stage [SS10]. There was more loose gravel for the first quarter or so, but on the whole it’s not been a massive disadvantage.

“I think we made a big step up yesterday and it’s good to see that we’ve been able to get back in the car and continue with that today. If you look at Jari-Matti [Latvala] who’s running in a similar position on the road, we’re consistently about half a second a kilometre behind him which is a big improvement from where we were on the previous rallies. There is always room for improvement, but you need to take steps.
14-04-04 Misfortune strikes for Kubica in Portugal
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak suffered cruel misfortune on the first full day of competition at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal today. Caught out by the technically challenging stages, the Poles were forced to retire their Ford Fiesta RS WRC through the first pass of Almodovar (SS4).

In what has been one of the most demanding recces the FIA World Rally Championship has seen for several years, crews had to contend with treacherous conditions as they made their notes for the upcoming event. Torrential rain saw sections of the stages transformed into fast flowing rivers – making the production of accurate pacenotes, on an event that demands perfection, an exceptionally difficult task.

The Pole made a consistent start to his rally. Setting a string of top-ten stage times and keeping in touch with the leaders, Kubica was running in eighth place overall – just over 20 seconds adrift of the lead. But as the Algarve sun showed its face for the first full day of rallying, experience proved pivotal.

Those with limited knowledge of the stages found themselves at a disadvantage as they ventured into the unknown. Unsighted rocks and unpredictable grip levels were the order of the day and, unfortunately for Robert and Maciej, they became one of the stages’ numerous victims.

Clipping a tree some 10km from the end of SS4, the Poles damaged the suspension of their Fiesta and were forced to bring their day to an untimely end.

Thanks to the expertise of the M-Sport’s experienced team of mechanics, Kubica will be back under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

Robert Kubica (62nd) said:
“My day began very nicely – I was driving cautiously and was taking no risks. I had zero moments before we came to SS4, but then we made a mistake coming out of a right-left-right turn sequence.

“I noticed that the experienced WRC drivers cut the turns more than I thought was possible on the recce, so I followed those lines. At the end of the right turn we hit the limb of a tree. I was very surprised. I saw a tree there but I was sure it was far from the edge of the road, and when I realised that it was growing at a very steep angle, it was too late and that's why we hit the bottom of it.

“The right-hand-side of the car went up and we hit something with the left-front and destroyed the suspension. I am very upset because for the first time I really had a lot of fun driving on gravel. Even though I was taking it easy, the confidence was good. I was really looking forward to the second loop, but unfortunately our day had to end in unfortunate circumstances. I hope for better luck tomorrow.”
14-04-04 Hirvonen leads at Rally de Portugal
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen was back on form as Rally de Portugal embarked on the first full day of competition today. Engrossed in an epic battle with fellow M-Sport driver Ott Tänak and reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier, Hirvonen took the lead on the final test of the day – holding a 3.7 lead over Tänak and a 6.5 second advantage over Ogier going into tomorrow’s penultimate day.

Growing in confidence with each new kilometre, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen looked at one behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Proving to have lost none of their drive or determination to win, the M-Sport pairing put in a highly competitive and consistent performance to come out on top at the end of the day.

Conditions were far from easy, and crews had to contend with a journey into the unknown as deceptively changing grip levels and tricky blind crests were the order of the day. Hirvonen adapted to the conditions brilliantly – setting a string of top-three times including a fastest time through the final 26.48 kilometre stage (SS7).

Rewarded with running as the final World Rally Car on the road for tomorrow’s 146.28 kilometres, the Finn will be aiming to defend his position and bring home a strong result for the M-Sport team.

Unfortunately, there was less good fortune for Hirvonen’s teammate Elfyn Evans. Carrying too much speed into a right-hand corner through the first pass of Almodovar (SS4), the youngster slid wide, forcing his Fiesta RS WRC into a roll and becoming stranded down a steep embankment.

Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will hopefully restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow, determined to continue their development at the WRC’s highest league. Before being claimed by the unforgiving nature of the Portuguese stages, the Britons had reduced the gap to the leaders to less than half a second per kilometre, and they will be looking to continue that trend tomorrow.

Mikko Hirvonen (1st) said:
“It’s been a really enjoyable day with a great fight at the front; to be leading at the end of it, it’s a really good feeling. It’s not been an easy day by all means, but everything has been working well and I think that the times and the position that we find ourselves in now is proof of that.

“We opted for the soft tyres for the afternoon, and on the long stage [SS7] I think it probably did help us. When I left service, I was sure we had made the right choice, but after the first stage [of the afternoon, SS5] I was a little nervous. It was a tricky one to get right, but I think we managed it well.

“There are still two difficult days to go, and I am sure that Sebastien [Ogier] and Ott [Tänak] will not give up without a fight, but neither will we!”

Elfyn Evans (63rd) said:
“It was in a very fast section of SS4. Basically we just misjudged our braking into a corner. We were carrying too much speed and ran wide on the outside.

“This stage was actually one of the better in terms of conditions during the recce. It was just very compact and a little damp under the trees into the corner. That, combined with the late braking on my part and my assuming that there was perhaps a little more grip than reality was the reason for the mistake.

“Of course it’s disappointing because I was really pleased with the progress we were making up until that point. This is still a development year for us, so we’ll come back tomorrow and try to pick up where we left off. There are a lot of really tricky stages on the cards so it’s likely that we’ll use the first pass to find our way, but we’ll still be aiming to reduce that gap to the leaders.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been an absolutely stunning performance from Mikko [Hirvonen] today. To see him back where he belongs is fantastic. He and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] have proved that they are still a formidable pairing and that the Fiesta RS WRC remains a highly competitive contender – a brilliant day from him and from the team today.

“Hopefully Elfyn [Evans] will be back on the stages tomorrow to gain more experience and continue the progress we’re looking for. He put in a good performance before the mistake. He admitted that he needed to be neater in places, and he seemed to be doing that. It was a real shame that he was caught out by what have been some very difficult stages today.”


ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Following a close fought battle for victory at last weekend’s warm-up at the Fafe Rally Sprint, Estonian Ott Tänak was straight on the pace as Rally de Portugal kicked off with the first full day of competition today.

Despite admitting that his pacenotes were less than perfect – too slow given the demanding conditions for the recce earlier in the week – the 26-year-old was fighting at the sharp end of the field. Amassing a string of top-three stage times, the M-Sport driver currently holds second place, just 3.7 seconds adrift of the lead.

Also going strongly, Henning Solberg was entertaining the crowds. The Norwegian last tackled a WRC stage in anger during Rally Sweden earlier this year, but he was not going to let a lack of seat time stand in his way. Despite suffering a puncture through SS3, the charismatic Norwegian challenged the front-runners and currently holds seventh place overall.

In the WRC2 category, M-Sport’s range of award-winning Ford Fiesta rally cars are once again dominating the field with the top-11 cars all designed and built by the Cumbrian firm. Being run by the M-Sport team this weekend, Pontus Tidemand and co-driver Ola Fløene piloted their Ford Fiesta R5 to third position – just over a minute adrift of a battling Jari Ketomaa in a similar Fiesta R5 and Nasser Al-Attiyah behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RRC.

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:
“It’s good for us to be in this position. It wasn’t easy because I haven’t driven a world rally car on gravel for a long time, but I think we made the most of it.

“We had a really good feeling with the car. We were struggling with the pacenotes during the morning, but we worked really hard during service to make sure they were right, and this afternoon was perfect. I had the confidence and I was able to push for the good times.

“Tomorrow won’t be an easy day, but if we can keep the same pace as today, hopefully we won’t be too far away. We just need to keep our focus and continue with what we did today.”

Henning Solberg (7th said):
“It’s been a good run for us all day. OK, it was a bit disappointing to have the puncture on SS3, but this is something that can happen to anyone.

“I am on it all the time – the throttle is stuck to the bottom of my foot! I promise you that throttle pedal will be planted to the floor again tomorrow!”

Pontus Tidemand (3rd in WRC 2) said:
“We’ve had a really good feeling today and it’s getting better and better. The car is so comfortable to drive and even though this is not the easiest event to start with a new car, I think we can be pleased with the job we have done today.

“We’ll try to improve as the weekend goes on, but Jari [Ketomaa] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] are pushing really hard at the front. For us, we just need to focus on our own rally and continuing our own development at this level.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“Like Mikko [Hirvonen], Ott [Tänak] has been sensational today. Even despite struggling with his pacenotes through the opening loop, he and Raigo [Molder, co-driver] put in the work during the midday service break and are thoroughly deserving of their second place today. A great drive from the pair of them.

“It’s also fantastic to see our cars dominating the WRC 2 category once again. Jari [Ketomaa] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] are locked into what looks set to be a very exciting battle, and I have been very impressed with the mature way in which Pontus [Tidemand] has tackled such a difficult event on what is his first time behind the wheel of the [Ford] Fiesta R5.”

14-04-04 Mads Østberg mixing it with the leaders
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended day one of Rally de Portugal in fourth place in the overall standings.
At their first appearance in the Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were running in the top ten when they went off on the final stage of the day.
In the third Citroën DS3 WRC entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson headed back to Faro in sixteenth place.

A few days after the hugely popular Fafe Rally Sprint organised in the north of the country and which thrilled around a hundred thousand spectators, the crews were in the Algarve for the start of Rally de Portugal.

After recce was severely hampered by heavy rain and flash floods, the WRC drivers set off from Estoril before taking part in the first super special stage held in the streets of Lisbon. Three hundred kilometres further south, the rally proper got underway this morning on roads which remained damp in most places.

Former winner Mads Østberg managed the difficulties presented by the road conditions to finish among the leaders on each stage. At the end of the first leg, a day during which he grew in confidence and was able to adjust the set-up of his Citroën DS3 WRC, he stood in fourth position.

Like in Sweden and in Mexico, Kris Meeke was tackling the specific features of Rally de Portugal for the first time. The conditions during recce hadn’t made it easy for him to learn about the roads at World Championship pace. The Briton was concentrating on trying to add to his experience. However, he went off the road on the day’s final stage when running in the top ten. The technical team is currently assessing whether he’ll be able to rejoin under Rally 2 rules tomorrow.

Khalid Al Qassimi worked extensively with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team on his car’s set-up to try and find the right feeling. Held up on SS4 after another car went off the road, he ended the day in sixteenth overall.

Saturday’s leg features seven stages. Crews will set off at 8.30am from Faro, covering a total of 470 kilometres, with 146km of timed sections. After SS13, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme at 8.05pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “It was a good day. We managed to stay with the leaders. We lost a bit of time on the first stage of the second loop. I don’t think we made the right tyre choice. We went for hard tyres but the roads were still pretty damp. But it wasn’t an easy call to make. I’m pleased with how the day went and it looks good for tomorrow.”

Kris Meeke: “We braked a bit late into a right-hand corner. It was a spot where there wasn’t much grip and where Elfyn Evans went off this morning. The notes just weren’t accurate enough.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “We worked on the set-up of the Citroën DS3 WRC throughout the day. I had a better feeling and was more comfortable in the afternoon. We made some changes to the springs, the clicks and adjusted the ride height. I was able to push more in the quick sections and remain cautious in the narrower, more technical sections. I know I can go more quickly but I don’t want to put myself under pressure. We’re going to keep working on the car to prepare for tomorrow.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Recce suggested that the rally was going to be particularly difficult. And the first leg proved to be just that, with several WRC crews going off today. Mads managed to be consistent whilst setting times close to those of the leaders. He is well placed for the rest of the rally. He must be cautious to ensure he makes it to the end, but we’re convinced he has what it takes to finish on the podium. Kris had more trouble. He had to learn about the stages as he went and had been cautious through the day but then got caught out on the last stage. We hope he’ll be able to rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – SSS Lisboa (3.27km) – After setting off from Estoril, the crews tackled a super special stage through the streets of Lisbon that has become something of a classic. Sébastien Ogier claimed the stage win. Kris Meeke finished fifth, whilst Mads Østberg was ninth and Khalid Al Qassimi was twelfth.

SS2 – Silves 1 (21.50km) – Back in the Algarve, the crews attacked the first of the gravel stages. Twelfth on the road, Dani Sordo went quickest. Fifth fastest, Mads Østberg moved up the standings. Kris Meeke ended the stage in thirteenth position and Khalid Al Qassimi finished in nineteenth.

SS3 – Ourique 1 (25.04km) – Dani Sordo grabbed the overall lead with another stage win. Mads Østberg picked up another fifth fastest time. Kris Meeke moved closer to the top 10 whilst Khalid Al Qassimi ended the stage twentieth overall.

SS4 – Almodôvar 1 (26.48km) – Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time. Sébastien Ogier reclaimed the overall lead. Mads Østberg grabbed the fourth fastest time, whilst Kris Meeke was tenth. Khalid Al Qassimi was given a notional time after being blocked on the stage following Robert Kubica’s off.

SS5 – Silves 2 (21.50km) – Jari-Matti Latvala rolled his car and was forced to retire. Sébastien Ogier extended his lead as he grabbed the stage win. Mads Østberg moved into fifth place in the overall standings and Kris Meeke sneaked into the top 10. Eighteenth fastest time for Khalid Al Qassimi.

SS6 – Ourique 2 (25.04km) – Thierry Neuville set the fastest time. Sixth and tenth respectively, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke held onto their positions. Khalid Al Qassimi set the eighteenth fastest time.

SS7 – Almodôvar 2 (26.48km) – Mikko Hirvonen won the final stage of the day, taking him into the overall lead, ahead of Tanak and Ogier. Mads Østberg moved up into fourth position. Kris Meeke was forced to retire after going off on the stage. Khalid Al Qassimi moved up a place into sixteenth overall.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 1:25:05.6
2. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder(Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3.7
3. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6.5
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +25.6
5. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.7
6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +42.0
7. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:42.3
8. Juho Hänninen / Tomi Tuominen (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:58.2
9. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:16.2
10. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:59.2
16. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +5:48.3

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier and Dani Sordo, 2 – Jari-Matti Latvala, Thierry Neuville and Mikko Hirvonen, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 to SS2, SS4 to SS6: Sébastien Ogier
SS3: Dani Sordo
SS7: Mikko Hirvonen
14-04-04 Pontus Tidemand trea efter Rally de Portugals andra dag
Andra dagen av Rally de Portugal är avslutad och efter sju av de totalt 16 specialsträckorna har Pontus Tidemand grepp om tredjeplatsen i WRC 2-klassen.

Rally de Portugal startade med en superspecial i Lissabon på torsdagskvällen där Pontus fick till fjärde snabbaste tid, endast 1,4 sekunder efter de delade ledarna Yuriy Protasov och Bernardo Sousa.

På lördagsmorgonen började den riktiga utmaningen. Sex sträckor väntade under dagen, alla över två mil långa, och det massiva regnet tidigare i veckan gjorde väglaget i huvudsak lerigt och halt. Pontus, som kör sin första tävling i en Ford Fiesta R5, plockade tidigt upp ett bra tempo och höll sig i toppskiktet på resultatlistan dagen igenom. Dock hann han inte köra rallyts fjärde sträcka som ströks efter att

Kubica hade en incident inne på sträckan och blockerade vägen för mer än halva startfältet.
- Dagen har varit helt okej, säger Pontus. Det finns mycket att jobba på eftersom jag inte har vant mig vid bilen än, men den funkar riktigt bra och jag är glad att vi hänger med i konkurrensen som vi gör. Det är fortfarande två dagar kvar av tävlingen så det är ingen idé att ta risker redan nu utan vi fokuserar på att ha en uppåtgående utvecklingskurva så får vi se vad som händer de kommande dagarna.

Imorgon ska ytterligare sex längre sträckor bemästras med start klockan 10:55 svensk tid.

Rally de Portugal WRC 2 - topp 5 fredag kväll:
1. Jari Ketomaa 1:28:38.7
2. Nasser Al-Aiiiyah +4,7
3. Pontus Tidemand +1:22.2
4. Karl Kruuda +1:29.8
5. Bernardo Sousa +1:46.0
www.pontustidemand.se
14-04-04 Rally de Portugal, Midday Quotes, Day 2
Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“It was really slippery and tricky for us out there, but I have a really good feeling with the car and the pace has been good. The more time I have behind the wheel, the better it’s getting. I don’t have to think so much about the driving any more, it just works.

“The most difficult thing from this morning was that although the surface looks similar from one corner to the next, the grip level is changing all the time. It’s really tricky to find a consistent rhythm.

“Now, we just need to continue with the good job we’ve done so far – continue to match the pace of the Volkswagens and stay in the fight.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Ott Tänak (4th) said:
“The recce was very wet and it was difficult to make the notes – especially as we didn’t do this event last year. We had to make new notes, in the rain, so they were far too slow in places and we have had to make a lot of corrections after this first pass.

“I think we have to be happy with the job we have done this morning. I wasn’t very confident in SS4 but generally I have been really pleased with our times. We are here, and everything is working really well at the moment.”

Henning Solberg (8th) said:
“I think this could be quite a good weekend for us. Everything is working well – Ilka’s [Minor, co-driver] working well, the car is working well, and if we can keep out of trouble I think it will be good. We had a puncture on SS3 which set us back a bit. We had to drive eight kilometres with the flat and I can tell you that that was not so easy!”
14-04-02 M-Sport diminate Rally De Portugal Entry
M-Sport achieved another boost this week as the team’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars make up an impressive 49 per cent of the Rally de Portugal entry.

Working together with Ford, M-Sport has created an effective ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ that allows drivers to progress within the sport; graduating from grass-root to top-level rallying alongside the Blue Oval.

Drivers representing 22 different countries will line-up for tomorrow’s start behind the wheel of six Ford Fiesta RS WRCs, five Ford Fiesta RRCs, two Ford Fiesta S2000s, 14 Ford Fiesta R5s and 15 Ford Fiesta R2s.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s extremely satisfying to see so many of our cars here this weekend. In 2005, Ford tasked us with developing a ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ which would allow drivers to progress from grass-root to top-level rallying with a range of Ford rally cars. To see this initiative going from strength to strength, and culminating with such an impressive entry here in Portugal, is fantastic.

“Today, we have close to 1,000 Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus rally cars competing around the globe, and we will continue to work closely with our valued partners and customers to ensure this success – as well as success on the stages – can only continue.”
14-04-02 Ett Safariäventyr väntar på Fredrik Åhlin
Nästa VM deltävling för Fredrik Åhlin och Morten Abrahamsen är Vodafon Rally De Portugal med sina 16 sträckor fördelat på 34 mil specialsträckor.

1973 kördes rallyt för första gången med WRC status. Rallyt är mest känt för sin snabba vägkaraktär men även för de stundtals utmanande partierna som är både smala och krokiga. Många blinda krön med vägförflyttningar som gör sträckorna mycket utmanande och krävande för förarna. Arrangörens egen beskrivning är att om det regnar blir det halt, "mycket halt!".

Förare och kartläsare är nu ute på sin rekognoscering för att göra sina vägbeskrivningar, noter.
- "Det har regnat, och så regnar det bara ännu mera, det har stundtals nästan varit omöjligt att köra över specialsträckorna, vilket gör att arrangören kommer tvingas stryka vissa vägavsnitt. Kanske inte som Safari rallyt, men för mig känns det lite som det" berättar Fredrik.

Fredrik och Morten som startade sin första WRC2 tävling i samband med Rally Sweden med support av Dmack är mer än glada över att få möjligheten att vara med på startlinjen i Portugal.
- "Efter tre körda deltävlingar finns vi med på en sjunde plats totalt efter vår pallplats i Rally Sweden, bara 3 poäng efter vår teamkollega Jari Ketomaa" summerar Fredrik.
- "Ny dag, nytt rally och nya förutsättningar för alla, vi kommer att hålla oss till vår och teamets plan och försöka förvalta det förtroende som Dmack gett oss på bästa möjliga sätt" säger Fredrik.

Rallyt startar på torsdag med en klassisk "Mickey Mouse-sträcka" i Lissabon, och sedan drar rallyt ner tillbaka mot Algarve.
- "Alla goda ting är tre, och detta kommer bli min tredje start här, hoppas på att det blir ett bra rally för oss och teamet" avslutar Fredrik.


För mer info; www.rallydeportugal.pt

14-04-01 Grovt grus och skymd sikt väntar i Rally Portugal
Rally Portugal är en av WRC-kalenderns mest krävande och utmanande tävlingar. De tre fabriksteamen från Volkswagen kommer att möta hårda vägbanor täckta med grovt, vasst grus och svåra partier med dålig sikt på grund av otaliga krön och tvära kurvor. Rally inleds på onsdag den 2:a april med en så kallad skakedown. Första start är på torsdag den 3:e och rallyt avslutas på lördag.

Som ledare i världsmästerskapet och försvarare av förra årets VM-titel kommer enligt de nya reglerna Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia att få äran att starta först. De följs av team-kamraterna Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila i den andra WRC-bilen. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula startar som fjärde bil i den tredje av Volkswagens Polo R WRC.
-Rally Portugal är den första verkliga värdemätaren inför säsongen, säger Volkswagen Motorsports chef Jost Capito.
-Det är det första grusrallyt för året som hålls i vårlika temperaturer och strax över havsnivån. På så sätt liknar den de kommande tävlingarna i Argentina, Italien och Polen. Här kan vi verkligen jämföra oss med konkurrenterna. Jag tror inte att vi behöver vara rädda för den jämförelsen. Vi vann här förra året och har varit i topp de tre första tävlingarna den här säsongen. Men vi vet också att vi måste göra ett felfritt jobb för att kompensera för nackdelarna med startordningen och få ut mesta möjliga av det här rallyt.

Allt annat än enkelt
Efter det oförutsägbara Rally Monte Carlo och det enda snörallyt i Sverige och de svindlande höjderna i Mexico, är rallyteamen i världsmästerskapet tillbaka i mer normala förhållanden. Men Rally Portugal är långt ifrån något enkelt rally. Det sätter både människor och bilar på svårare prov än något annat rally i WRC-kalendern. De smala vägarna gör att varje misstag obönhörligen bestraffas, det grova gruset skakar om ekipagen från den första till den sista av de 339,46 km långa specialsträckorna.

Rally Portugal spelade en viktig roll i den fortsatta utvecklingen av Polo R WRC förra säsongen. Det kunnande som Volkswagens tekniker fick här, mer än någon annanstans, togs med i dimensionering och utformning av den modifierade hjupphängningen inför 2014. De extrema krav som Rally Portugal ställer är till stor del det som gör att Polo R WRC kommer till Portugal ännu starkare än de var för ett år sedan.

Fem testdagar i södra Portugal
Volkswagen har förberett sig för de speciella förhållanden de kommer att möta i Rally Portugal med fem dagars tester. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila och Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia testade intensivt två dagar vardera med sina Polo R WRC i trakten runt Aldomóvar i södra Portugal medan Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula har funnits till hands för ytterligare en dags tester. Efter Rally Mexico har Volkswagen använt testerna för att underlätta vägen tillbaka till mer "normala" förhållanden nära havsnivån och temperaturer omkring 20-gradersstrecket. De tre Polo R WRC-bilar som används i Portugal måste fortfarande anpassas. Senaste de användes var i Rally Sweden - i minusgrader och i snö och slask.

Citat inför rallyt
Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
-Portugal är definitivt ett av mina favoritrallyn i tävlingskalendern. Det var här jag tog min första seger i WRC 2010 och Julien har vunnit här tre gånger de senaste fyra åren. Med det i bagaget kommer vi till den fjärde omgången i världsmästerskapet fulla av självförtroende.
-Rally Portugal har definitivt två sidor; när det är torrt är vägbanan mycket hård och ger väldigt gott väggrepp. När det regnar däremot, blir vägbanorna mycket mjuka och leriga och ger väldigt dåligt fäste. Normalt föredrar jag att det är torrt. Men vi startar först den här gången så litet regn första dagen skulle inte vara så illa för oss.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Jag har aldrig fått en så bra start på säsongen - 60 poäng efter tre rallyn och bara tre poäng bakom VM-ledaren, min stallkamrat Sébastien Ogier. Förra året slutade jag trea i Rally Portugal och tog min första pallplats för Volkswagen. Tidigare har det varit ett svårt rally för mig men resultatet 2013 har gett mig gott självförtroende. Jag ser fram emot tävlingen och har en bra känsla inför den. Vi tillbringade två dagar med tester nära specialsträckorna i Portugal. Förhållandena var typiska för Portugal, torrt, omkring 20 grader och grusvägar med dålig sikt genom kurvorna. Jag hoppas att det fortsätter på samma sätt under rallyt. Det är oftast torrt i Portugal men vi har också haft några regniga tävlingar.
-Jag har en helt annan känsla för Polo R WRC i år. Vi har en väl fungerade basinställning på bilen och det handlar bara om att göra detaljförbättringar. Som så ofta har varit fallet de senaste tio åren fyller jag år under rallyhelgen. Därför är jag van vid att inte fira för mycket. I stället handlar det om att jobba hårt. Hur som helst ser jag fram emot det och jag skulle vilja ge mig själv en present i form av en placering bland de tre bästa.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Förra året var Portugal mitt första rally i Polo R WRC och sjätteplatsen var ett bra resultat för Mikko och mig. Det är trevligt att vara tillbaka här med Volkswagen. Rally Portugal är känt för sina tvära kurvor som är svåra att se. Dessutom är det hela tiden uppför och nedför. Det gör det till ett mycket sevärt rally men också mycket svårt för förarna. Därför kommer rekognosceringen att bli mycket viktig för att man ska vänja sig vid sträckningen. Jämfört med förra året har en helt ny specialsträcka kommit till. Andra sträckor har ändrats litet eller körs i motsatt riktning jämfört med 2013.
-Vi har tagit ett steg framåt sedan förra året. Nu har vi farten att kunna hänga med de snabbaste. Men för mig är det viktigt att jobba på att vara jämn och uthållig. Målet för de kommande tävlingarna är att ta fler pallplatser.

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställning
Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 63
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 60
3. Mads Østberg 32
4. Andreas Mikkelsen 24
5. Elfyn Evans 20
6. Bryan Bouffier 18
7. Mikko Hirvonen 18
8. Kris Meeke 17
9. Thierry Neuville 15
10. Ott Tänak 10
11. Martin Prokop 10
12. Benito Guerra 8
13. Henning Solberg 6
14. Chris Atkinson 6
15. Jaroslav Melichárek 4
16. Pontus Tidemand 4
17. Matteo Gamba 2
18. Craig Breen 2
19. Yuriy Protasov 2
Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng

1. Volkswagen Motorsport 115
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 60
3. M-Sport 40
4. Hyundai Motorsport 31
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 28
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 10
7. RK M-Sport WRT 4
14-03-31 Pontus Tidemand debuterar i Fiesta R5 i Rally de Portugal
Regerande juniorvärldsmästaren Pontus Tidemand finns på plats för att börja sin internationella säsong när VM-serien fortsätter med Rally de Portugal denna vecka. Utveckling är i fokus och Pontus ser fram emot premiären med Ford Fiesta R5 i det tekniskt krävande grusrallyt.

Förra året satsade en målmedveten Pontus allt på att ta hem segern i Junior-VM - en plan som gick i lås efter hårt arbete och strategiska beslut. Nu är det dags att avancera till den näst högsta klassen i VM, WRC 2, och med finansieringsstödet från EVEN Management och Tätab finns en plan för att Pontus ska kunna skaffa ytterliga rutin från VM-tävlingar runt om i Europa under 2014.
- Jag har sett fram emot nästa utmaning sedan vi avslutade Junior-VM, säger Pontus. WRC 2 är ett naturligt steg i utvecklingen och vi planerar sex-sju event under året, med målsättningen att framförallt fortsätta samla erfarenhet inför framtiden.

Brittiska M-Sport blev den första tillverkaren att ta fram en R5-modell och den tävlingsdebuterade förra året. R5:an ingår i WRC 2-klassen, där även Super 2000-bilar ingår, är utrustad med en 1,6 liters turboladdad motor med en 32 mm restriktor och är femväxlad. Pontus har fått känna på bilen vid två tillfällen, men har tyvärr inte haft möjlighet till en ordentlig test inför Rally Portugal.
- Vi får helt enkelt göra det bästa av förutsättningarna vi har just nu och se det här lite som ett test inför resten av säsongen, berättar Pontus. Det är ett stort startfält i WRC 2 med tufft motstånd och jag hoppas att vi kan ha en bra progression under tävlingens gång.

Detta blir tredje gången Pontus deltar i Rally de Portugal och båda gångerna innan har han kört till sig pallplats i juniorklassen, varav förra året en förstaplats. Tävlingen är en av de mest tekniskt krävande i serien och mixen av smala sektioner, öppna vägar och gömda svårigheter gör det problematiskt att hitta rytmen. Vägarna tar också hårt på däcken och har dessutom på många ställen en yta av lera som snabbt blir väldigt hal vid regn.
- Rally Portugal är ett rally där man måste ha huvudet med sig, inte bara farten, förklarar Pontus. De steniga vägarna gör det lätt att dra på sig punkteringar samtidigt som det finns många dolda krön och svängar. Är inte noterna helt korrekta kan man snabbt få stora problem.

Rally de Portugal körs i huvudsak i Algarve-regionen vid sydkusten men startar med en superspecial i Lissabon på torsdag kväll. På fredag och lördag körs sex sträckor vardera dag innan de avslutande tre sträckorna på söndagen. Totalt handlar det alltså om 16 specialsträckor och sammanlagt uppmäter de 339,46 km.

Hela 20 ekipage är anmälda till WRC 2 i Portugal och nio av dem rattar Ford Fiesta R5, inklusive serieledande ukrainaren Yuriy Protasov.
www.pontustidemand.se

14-03-30 A Familiar fixture Kubica poised for Portugal
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak will be on more familiar ground next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to Europe for the Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

The loose-surface stages through the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeirão hills north of Faro are the first that the Pole has already driven as part of the WRC and Kubica will be looking for a turn of fortune as he tackles the more familiar speed tests.

Based in the popular Algarve region, the rally has become a firm favourite amongst competitors and spectators alike, but the gravel tracks offer no easy task. Renowned as one of the championship’s most technical events, the unpredictable weather brings a constant risk of rain and the unforgiving stages are littered with obstacles that make precision pacenotes a must.

Incorporating a mix of open roads, hidden crests and narrow, more technically challenging sections, crews have to have their wits about them and the Polish pairing will have experience on their side for the first time this year

Robert is determined to make the most of his return to Portugal and will be looking to secure a strong result on what is only his fifth WRC appearance behind the wheel of a world rally car.

In an impressive rise to the WRC’s highest league, Kubica made his championship debut during last season’s Rally de Portugal. One year on, he returns with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC - determined to secure more valuable experience whilst translating his proven speed into a solid points haul.

Robert Kubica said:
“Since my return to professional motorsport, this is the first event that I have contested before so I know more or less what to expect. Of course there are some different stages and some changes of direction compared to last year. In fact close to 50 per cent of the rally will again be new to me, but we know what to expect in terms of the nature and character of the stages.


“A lot has changed in the past 12 months. Last year Portugal was my first rally on gravel – with zero experience of the surface – in a different, smaller RRC [Regional Rally Car]. To be honest, I think next week will be a bit easier as I have a better idea of what to expect – both from the stages and from the car.

“From what I remember, Rally de Portugal is a very demanding and difficult event and I do not expect it to be any different this year. We need to approach it as if it were another new rally.

“All of the WRC events are tricky for me, especially gravel rallies where my experience is limited and I am discovering everything from zero. I remember from last year that this event is especially tricky as there are many crests which are quite demanding. Of course it is a relatively short rally [when compared to the previous outing in Mexico] so it may be a little easier in that respect.

“After a difficult start to the season, I would like to get through this event without any mistakes. As I said, it will not be easy and it will be another new lesson for me. We will have to wait and see if past experience will help, but the goal is definitely to stay on the road and drive a nice smooth rally.”
14-03-29 M-Sport look to progress in Portugal
As the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to Europe, the M-Sport World Rally Team will be looking to make further progress at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal. With both Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans growing in confidence, the team will be chasing a strong result.

Based in the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeirão hills north of Faro, Rally de Portugal is renowned as one of the most unpredictable and technically challenging events of the year.

The stages may not be as long as in previous years, but they are no less demanding. The gravel tracks incorporate everything from wide, open roads to narrow, twisty sections and the route is littered with hidden crests which make accurate pacenotes of vital importance.

Finding a consistent rhythm is paramount and the stages hide a multitude of hazards – concealed corners, tricky tree-lined bends and a constant risk of showers given the Algarve’s changeable weather.

The event is a challenge for any driver, but that has never stood in the way of Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen securing a good result. Having contested the event on seven previous occasions, the Finns have never finished outside of the top-five – with the exception of 2012 when their winning car was excluded on technical grounds.

At the previous outing in Mexico, Hirvonen looked at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC – fighting for the top positions before a technical issue put paid to his efforts – and is determined to come back fighting.

Following some forward steps with the gravel set-up and a week-long research and development test in the UK, the M-Sport driver is full of confidence and will be aiming to fight for the podium on what has historically been one of his strongest WRC events.

In a change from the norm, next week’s fixture will mark the first familiar event of the year for Hirvonen’s younger teammate. Showcasing Ford and M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ at its best, Evans has contested the event on two previous occasions – with the Ford Fiesta R2 in 2012, the Ford Fiesta RRC in 2013 – and will step-up to the Fiesta RS WRC next week.

Following a career-best fourth place in Mexico, Evans is showing real promise in what is a development year at the WRC’s highest level. Focused on the job in hand, the Welshman is determined to make it through all of the stages unscathed as he and co-driver Daniel Barritt look to reduce the gap to the leaders with another strong performance.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“I would say that this is an event that I enjoy. It’s quite similar to Mexico in places. The route is really technical and there are a lot of corners over crests so precise pacenotes are really important. Of course a good note system is important everywhere, but it is even more so in Portugal. The stages are very unforgiving. The smallest of mistakes can be extremely costly so your lines have to be absolutely perfect.

“The weather can also play a big role here. Some years it is dry and dusty and really hard on the tyres, and other years it can be the muddiest event of the year! Personally, I hope it stays relatively dry so that we can make the most of our road position and really attack through the first day.

“The feeling with the Fiesta [RS WRC] is getting better and better so I hope that we can have a clean run and continue where we left off in Mexico. We want to be in the fight for the top positions, and that’s what we’ll be aiming for next week.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This is the first familiar event of the year for me which definitely helps. We have a good proportion of the notes from previous years, and although there will still be some new sections, the majority of the recce will involve amending the existing notes which have evolved in the past 12 months.

“Some of the stages vary in character and are quite technical in places so accurate pacenotes are extremely important. There are a lot of corners on crests which can be really tricky, so it is encouraging to know that we go there with two years’ experience under our belts.

“I think our approach will remain largely unchanged. We’ll certainly be a lot more comfortable on the stages and our familiarity of the event will make things easier, but we need to remember that this year is all about developing our skills at this level.

“Our main goal will be to get consistently closer to the guys at the head of the field. We’ve made good progress so far this year, and Portugal will provide us with the perfect opportunity to work on reducing that gap further.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta rally cars make up 49 per cent of this year’s Rally de Portugal. Forty-two Fiestas have been entered including six Ford Fiesta RS WRCs, five Ford Fiesta RRCs, two Ford Fiesta S2000s, 14 Ford Fiesta R5s and 15 Ford Fiesta R2s. M-Sport cars also make up 40 per cent of the WRC field and an impressive 80 per cent of the WRC 2 category.

Ott Tänak is back behind the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC. This will be the Estonian’s fourth outing at the event, and he will be one to watch on what has been an impressive comeback to the WRC’s highest league. Also making a welcome return is Henning Solberg in a similar Fiesta RS WRC.

Following in Evans’ footsteps, Pontus Tidemand joins the M-Sport fold as he claims his prize for winning the 2013 FIA Junior World Rally Championship. Taking to the wheel of a Fiesta R5 for the first time in competition, the young Swede has good form in Portugal. Having contested the rally as part of the FIA WRC Academy and Junior WRC for the previous two years, Tidemand can boast a third and first place finish in the WRC support category and will be looking to challenge at the top of the WRC 2 rankings.

WRC 2 leader, Yuriy Protasov, is also back behind the wheel of the Fiesta R5. Following two victories in Monte-Carlo and Mexico, the Ukrainian has a strong lead in the championship standings and will be looking to hold onto that next week.

Also making a welcome return to the WRC 2 category – in M-Sport prepared Fiesta RRCs – are Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Subhan Aksa.
14-03-28 Østberg, Meeke and Al Qussimi all in DS3 WRCs at Portugal
Like in Sweden, three Citroën DS3 WRCs have been entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team for Rally de Portugal.

Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson, winners here in 2012, and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will be eligible to score points towards the Manufacturers’ standings.

Currently second in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson will be taking part in the second of the four WRC rounds that make up their 2014 programme.

CITROËN AND RALLY DE PORTUGAL: FROM THE DS21 TO THE DS3 WRC…
In 1969, the World Rally Championship had yet to be formed. However, the top drivers of the time were already competing in Portugal. In a Citroën DS21, Francisco Romaozinho and ‘Jocames’ were the first of five local crews to win on home soil.

Since 2003, Citroën has racked up six wins. Initially, success came in the national championship with Armindo Araujo and Miguel Ramalho (Saxo kit car) and then in the WRC, with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (C4 WRC) and Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (DS3 WRC).

Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson, at the time rivals of the Citroën crews, also won in Portugal in 2012. They prevailed after Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were disqualified in their Citroën DS3 WRC, despite leading from the first stage to the last.

THE CHALLENGE OF FLAWLESS OPERATING
In 2007, Rally de Portugal returned to the World Championship calendar. Relocated to the Algarve, it is now one of the most controlled events for the various teams.

Over the years, the route has changed very little. Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs, explained: “It’s pretty standard for the gravel rallies in the championship. A car that is quick on gravel will inevitably be competitive in Portugal.”

However, one specific factor can change everything, the weather: “Depending on the conditions, the level of grip can go from one extreme to the other. If it rains, the gravel turns to mud and the surface becomes very slippery. Being first on the road then becomes an advantage. If it stays dry, it is very hard on the tyres because wear is a very important aspect. And in that case, it is preferable to set off last.”

The new rules mean that the running order is fixed for the first leg. Mads Østberg will be running in third position and Kris Meeke will be seventh on the road.

“We can no longer choose our strategy like we could before with the qualifying stage,” added Didier. “We will therefore need to make the most of the data provided so that our drivers can express themselves fully. If you make a mistake on tyre choice, it’s not unusual to lose a full minute on a loop. If there is heavy rain or hot sunshine, it can be all over very quickly. But when conditions lie somewhere between these two extremes, it’s a lot more complicated.”

“Each part of the ground reacts differently to any water. And as the road surface is not uniform, you have to be able to adapt. We’ll use all our experience, and that of the drivers, the recce in which the engineers take part, information from Michelin and the weather data that we have when choosing the tyres. It’s a real team effort, which should ensure our drivers enjoy the best solution on the stages.”

MADS ØSTBERG, FORMER WINNER…
In 2012, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson won their first WRC rally in Portugal. The Faro-based event is therefore somewhat special for the Norwegian and the Swede. “There are many events I like in the WRC, but Portugal is one of my favourites,” confirmed Mads. “In 2012, we were awarded the win after the finish. To be honest, it was a little disappointing to be declared as the winner of a rally after the podium. Now I really want to win so that, finally, I can climb onto the top step.”

“I always have a good feeling on these roads. Last year, I was leading at the start of the rally before going off. I feel capable of fighting at the front. But the conditions are often very difficult here. You have to think about a lot of factors. It is one of the roughest gravel rallies now that the Acropolis Rally is no longer on the calendar. You have to look after the car and monitor tyre wear. The type of roads here also provides difficulties with plenty of blind corners, lots of changes in ground level and very few visual landmarks. You need to take very accurate pace notes.”

Third in the World Championship standings and having won five stages in Mexico, Mads Østberg is setting his sights high: “We have shown that we are quick in the Citroën DS3 WRC. That was confirmed in our recent tests. Mentally, I’m ready to fight at the front.”

ANOTHER NEW RALLY FOR KRIS MEEKE
Although he has already taken part in 43 World Championship events, Kris Meeke will be making his first appearance at Rally de Portugal. Like in Sweden and Mexico, the Northern Irishman is aiming to add to his experience.

“Yet more new stages for me!” smiled Kris. “It looks like it will be a very interesting rally. After Mexico, driving the Citroën DS3 WRC in testing helped to boost my confidence. At sea level, the car has significantly more power and there is a lot more grip on this type of road surface.”

Quick in Mexico, Kris Meeke showed he was capable of matching the pace of the leaders on gravel: “After speaking with the team, I know that this rally can be particularly complicated. For my first appearance here, it won’t be easy. I feel a little bit frustrated after Mexico. I need to rack up more miles in the car and that will be my main objective in Portugal. If I can keep out of trouble then inevitably, the result will look after itself. What I need is to be consistent. Our last test sessions went really very well and I felt very comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC.”

KHALID AL QASSIMI RETURNS IN THE THIRD CITROËN DS3 WRC
Having finished on the podium in the first two rounds of the Middle East Rally Championship, Khalid Al Qassimi is back in the Citroën DS3 WRC in Portugal. The Abu Dhabi driver has already competed at this event four times, finishing in the top 10 on three occasions.

“I can’t wait to start my first gravel rally in the WRC this season,” emphasized Sheikh Khalid. “We’ll have to try and keep out of trouble throughout the rally, whilst also paying particular attention to the tyres. I feel good in the Citroën DS3 WRC. I hope that our pre-rally tests will enable us to find the right set-up so that we can set some good times.”

FAFE RALLY SPRINT: THE PERFECT APPETIZER
A few days before recce starts, many of the leading contenders in the World Championship will be taking part in a separate event. The Fafe Rally Sprint, held on roads formerly used to stage Rally de Portugal, will give many tens of thousands of spectators the chance to see the WRCs in action in the north of the country. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke will share a Citroën DS3 WRC this Saturday, 29 March during this non-championship event.

FROM ESTORIL TO FARO
Estoril returns this year to the route of Rally de Portugal. The city, the starting point of the rally 39 years ago and equally a former F1 Grand Prix venue, will this year host the start of the rally on Thursday, 3 April at 3pm.

After the ceremonial start, the crews will travel the twenty kilometres or so to reach the capital, Lisbon, where a 3.27 kilometre super special stage will be held in the evening. A long 288 kilometre road section is then scheduled before the cars enter parc ferme at Algarve Stadium.

On Friday morning, the drivers will set off in the same order as the World Championship standings for a loop of three stages, each run twice, split by a thirty-minute service period starting at 1.30pm.

The stages are already familiar to the majority of the drivers. Silves (21.50km), Ourique (25.04km) and Almodovar (26.48km) will determine the standings on day one.

On Saturday, the WRC crews will run in reverse order, according to their position in the overall standings. Like the day before, the crews will complete two runs on the three stages, with a pause for the midday service.

After Santa Clara (19.09km), the longest stage of the rally, Santana da Serra (31.90km) will be run in the opposite direction to previous years. The loop will conclude with Malhao (22.15km) before the cars head back to Algarve Stadium.

The final leg will be made up of three stages, covering only 43.87 kilometres of timed sections. At 8.50am, the crews will set off from Loulé (13.83km), then tackle Sao Bras de Alportel (16.21km) before the final test on Loulé which will also serve as the Power Stage.

The rally is scheduled to finish on Sunday, 6 April at Algarve Stadium from 12.25pm local time.

14-03-27 Hyundai Motorsport startar med tre bilar i Rally Portugal
•Hyundai startar med tre Hyundai i20 WRC i Rally Portugal nästa vecka, vilket är första gången någonsin som Hyundai ställer upp med tre bilar från start i ett WRC-sammanhang
•Thierry Neuville och Juho Hänninen tävlar för Hyundai Motorsport, medan Dani Sordo sätter sig bakom ratten och tävlar för Hyundai Motorsport N
•Teamet har testkört bilarna i Algarve-regionen för att förbereda sig på den andra grusbanan av totalt sex stycken i följd i WRC-kalendern
•Förhoppningar om goda resultat i samband med pallplatsen i Rally Mexiko
27 mars 2014 – Efter att ha tagit sin första pallplats under det mexikanska rallyt tidigare i månaden förbereder sig Hyundai Shell Rally Team för den fjärde deltävlingen i WRC i Portugal som går av stapeln nästa vecka. För mer information om Hyundais framgångar i WRC, besök www.hyundai.se/wrc.

I samband med att tävlingen kommer tillbaka till Europa efter deltävlingen i Mexiko kommer Hyundai Motorsport att ställa upp med tre i20 WRC, där målet för det unga teamet är att få ut så mycket värdefull information som möjligt.

Thierry Neuville och Nicolas Gilsoul, som säkrade en pallplats under rallyt i Mexiko, är först ut av de tre Hyundai-bilarna i bil 7, medan den finska duon Juho Hänninen och Tomi Tuominen återigen sätter sig bakom ratten i bil 8 för första gången sedan Svenska Rallyt i början av februari i år.

Den tredje bilen körs av spanjoren Dani Sordo och andreföraren Marc Marti som tävlar för det nyligen utannonserade teamet ”Hyundai Motorsport N”. Teamet med Sordo i spetsen medverkar också i Fafe Rally Sprint i helgen, en spektakulär försmak till nästa veckas rally som hålls på Fafe-Lameirinha-banan nära Porto i Portugal.

Rally Portugal körs i Algarve-regionen i den södra delen av landet och är säsongens andra grustävling och utgörs av en skrovlig vägyta kombinerat med snabba och breda vägar med många kurvor, smala sektioner och många olika underlag. Förutsättningarna kräver en rigorös förberedelse för att kunna starta i den absolut bästa formen, och samtliga tre huvudförare med team har deltagit i två separata testkörningar i regionen.

Trots det ökade självförtroendet för hela teamet i samband med pallplatsen i Mexiko, är målet med Rally Portugal detsamma som för de tidigare tre WRC-deltävlingarna: att fortsätta utveckla Hyundai i20 WRC och få en bredare erfarenhet av WRC som världens främsta rallytävling.

Teamets ledare Michel Nandan säger: "Vår pallplats i Mexiko var oväntad och en härlig belöning för alla i teamet som har jobbat så hart de senaste månaderna. Men nu har vi fötterna på jorden igen och är redo för utmaningarna i Rally Portugal. För första gången någonsin ställer vi upp med tre Hyundai i20 WRC, där vi kommer få ännu mer feedback från förarna och addera fler körda mil till teamet som helhet. Teamet har jobbat hårt och har återigen gjort sitt yttersta för att förbereda sig inför det här rallyt. Det var viktigt för oss att få bilen byggd för Portugal då vi annars hade fått vänta tills det var dags för det italienska rallyt när vi är tillbaka i Europa nästa gång, vilket hade inneburit en hel del förlorad tid. Vi har en bra kombination av förare i Portugal med Thierry, Juho och Dani, som alla tar med sina egna expertkunskaper för att hjälpas åt att utveckla Hyundai i20 WRC. Portugal är inte en enkel deltävling men vi har förberett oss flitigt med bra tester i regionen och sett att Hyundai i20 WRC funkar bra under rådande förhållanden. Vi är redo för den här nya utmaningen även om vädret är osäkert, men ändå mycket viktigt att ta med i beräkningen".

Förare och arbetslag för de tre bilarna i Hyundai Shell World Rally Team är ivriga att ge sig ut i den portugisiska deltävlingen i WRC med sina sikten inställda på att ta sig i mål med samtliga bilar söndagen den 6 april.

Neuville säger: "I samband med pallplatsen i Mexiko fick vi lite extra självförtroende när vi nu ger oss in i Rally Portugal. Vi vet dock att detta är en helt annan utmaning. Vi måste behålla fokus hela tiden och hjälpa teamet genom att ta oss över mållinjen utan problem nästa söndag. Vi vill självklart pressa på så mycket vi kan, men högsta prioritet är att hålla oss på vägen så vi kan ge teamet så mycket information som möjligt, precis samma målsättning som vi hade när säsongen drog igång".

Hänninen säger: "Jag ser verkligen fram mot Rally Portugal, det är mitt första grusrally med Hyundai i20 WRC. Efter att jag gjort en hel del tester med teamet förra året och några specifika förberedelser inför den här tävlingen, har jag fått en bra känsla för bilen. Självklart är ligger fokus på att gå i mål utan några problem, men vi skulle bli väldigt glada om vi kan sätta ett par bra etapp-tider och kanske till och med sluta på en bra placering".

Sordo säger: "Det känns kul att kunna tävla i Rally Portugal, det är en väldigt speciell tävling där jag har gjort bra resultat. Det är också en väldigt viktig tävling för teamet då det körs tre Hyundai i20 för första gången. Vi har testkört i två dagar men vi har också ytterligare en möjlighet för tester i helgen, i samband med Fafe Rally Sprint".

Rally Portugal drar igång torsdagen den 3 april med start från Casino Gardens i Estoril. Innan förarna stannar för natten på Algarve Stadium Service Park, kommer de köra etappen Super Special i landets huvudstad Lissabon. Helgens färdplan innefattar också grusetapperna i Algarve och Alentejo.

Hyundai Motorsport går tillbaka till två bilar för Rally Argentina i maj där Neuville återigen kör Hyundai i20 WRC bil 7. Teamet kan också bekräfta att Hänninen kommer köra Hyundai i20 WRC bil 8 i deltävlingen i Argentina.

Besök www.hyundai.se/wrc eller www.motorsport.hyundai.com för mer information om tävlingarna och resultaten.
14-03-11 Fredrik Åhlin kör WRC 2 i Rally VM Portugal
Landslagsföraren Fredrik Åhlin med kartläsare Morten Erik Abrahamsen infriade sin målsättning i Rally Sweden med en pallplats i WRC 2 klassen.
- ”Jag är så glad över att vi höll oss till både vår och teamets plan under rallyt. Vi var så nöjda med vår support från Dmack, känns kanon med ett sådant proffsigt team” säger Fredrik.

Teamets ingenjör var mer än nöjd med Fredriks prestation och den relationen är självklart viktig för framtiden. Fredriks och Mortens arbete i bilen belönades med flera sträckvinster och det är klart att Fredrik jämfördes med sin teamkollega Ketomaa som känner både bil och däck bättre.
- ”Direkt efter målgång i Rally Sweden åkte jag upp till Åre för att arbeta som instruktör, men samtidigt har arbetet pågått för att kunna realisera en start i nästa Rally VM deltävling, Vodafone Rally de Portugal som körs 3-6 april” berättar Fredrik.
- ”Det är en skön känsla att nu få berätta att anmälan är skickad och att vi kommer att köra” säger en överlycklig Fredrik.
- ”Jag har sagt det förut och jag säger det igen; - det kommer inte vara lätt, men det kommer att vara värt det” fortsätter han.

För många år sedan fick Fredrik rådet att inte bara ha en mentor utan att ta hjälp av flera personer och det är något som visar sig vara rätt beslut. ”Jag och Morten har verkligen upplevt höga och djupa dalar tillsammans vilket självklart många av våra partners även har gjort. Vi är så glada över att få det stöd och support som nu börjar betala sig tillbaka” säger Fredrik.
- ”Nu väntar ytterligare några veckors instruktörsarbete som kombineras med fysisk träning för att komma till start både stark & klok” avslutar Fredrik med ett stort leende.
14-03-10 Points for Mads Østberg and Citroên
After leading at the start of the Rally Guanajuato Corona, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended up taking the points awarded for ninth place. Unfortunately, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle didn’t make it to the finish.
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team stays in second place in the Manufacturers’ World Rally Championship after the Mexican round.
The WRC returns to Europe for the next event in Portugal on 3-6 April.

Impressive in the early stages of the rally, Mads Østberg headed the overall standings between SS3 and SS6 on Friday.

However on day two, the crew ran into difficulties when they broke part of the suspension on their car. Despite their attempts to repair the damage, they failed to arrive on time for the start of the next stage.

After rejoining this morning under Rally 2 rules, the Norwegian continued to drive at a strong pace, securing two stage wins today, firstly on the longest stage of the rally, the 56 kilometre-long Guanajuatito, and then on Derramadero.

Having moved back into the top 10, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended up scoring two points. They therefore remain in third place in the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships.

Ninth overall this morning, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ran into trouble after hitting a rock on the Power Stage and were unable to complete the rally.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “There are many positives we can take from the rally. We clearly have the speed. We showed that we are able to match the pace of the best crews. Today’s final leg has given us the opportunity to work on preparations for the upcoming events. Apart from one unfortunate corner, it was a very good rally. I’m really pleased to finish the rally with a couple of stage wins. I am convinced that we have improved this week. We know a lot more now than we did at the start of the rally. We have some very solid foundations we can build on in our tests for the Rally de Portugal.”

Kris Meeke: “I feel like I have made a huge amount of progress in terms of understanding the Citroën DS3 WRC and the pace to adopt in the stages. It’s very disappointing not to finish the rally. On the Power Stage, I had good pace notes and I was on the right line, but I hit a rock on the inside of a corner. I was first on the road, so I couldn’t avoid it. Not making it to the finish is very frustrating even if there are lot of positives that we can take away from this rally.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Obviously, it’s a disappointing result when you know the potential of our team, the Citroën DS3 WRCs and our crews. Once again Mads showed, however, that he was capable of matching the best drivers. He was one of the quickest drivers throughout the weekend. He is improving consistently and quickly, which is highly encouraging for the next few events. As regards Kris, obviously it was tough for him competing in such a difficult rally for the first time. We knew our crews were relatively inexperienced. We’ve probably paid the price for that today, but that takes nothing away from their potential.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS19 – Super Special Stage 5 (4.42km) – Fastest time for Sébastien Ogier on the fifth running of the super special stage. Mads Østberg grabbed the third fastest time whilst Kris Meeke finished eighth.

SS20 – Guanajuatito (55.92km) – On the longest rally of the season thus far, Mads Østberg produced a superb performance. His fastest time moved him closer to the top 10 whilst Kris Meeke finished sixth.

SS21 – Derramadero (11.63km) – Another stage win for Mads Østberg, who grabbed tenth position in the overall standings. Fifth fastest, Kris Meeke remained in ninth position.

SS22 – El Brinco 2 Power Stage (8.25km) – On the Power Stage, Kris Meeke hit a rock and had to stop. Fifth fastest in the rain, Mads Østberg moved up into ninth position. The top three on this stage were Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen.

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 4:27:41.8
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:12.6
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:28.6
4. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:49.3
5. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +9:54.4
6. Benito Guerra / Borja Rozada (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +12:57.6
7. Chris Atkinson / Stéphane Prévot (Hyundai i20 WRC) +15:15.4
8. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +17:06.8
9. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +25:41.6
10. Yuriy Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta R5) +28:18.2

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 14 – Mads Østberg, 5 – Jari-Matti Latvala, 2 – Kris Meeke, 1

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2, SS7 to SS22 (finish): Sébastien Ogier
SS3 to SS6: Mads Østberg

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 63 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 60 points
3. Mads Østberg 32 points
4. Andreas Mikkelsen 24 points
5. Elfyn Evans 20 points
6. Mikko Hirvonen and Bryan Bouffier 18 points
8. Kris Meeke 17 points
9. Thierry Neuville 15 points
10. Ott Tanak and Martin Prokop 10 points
12. Benito Guerra 8 points
13. Henning Solberg and Chris Atkinson 6 points
15. Jaroslav Melicharek and Pontus Tidemand 4 points
17. Matteo Gamba, Craig Breen and Yuriy Protasov 2 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 115 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 60 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 40 points
4. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 31 points
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 28 points
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 10 points
7. RK M-Sport World Rally Team 4 points


14-03-10 Evans secures career-best fourth in Mexico
It was a job well done for the M-Sport World Rally Team today as Elfyn Evans secured a career-best fourth place at Rally Mexico. Mikko Hirvonen also fought back to eighth place – demonstrating his potential to challenge for the top positions through the loose-surface terrain.

Following an inspired drive on his first venture to the Mexican event, Evans was one of the success stories of the weekend. Having been in the fight for the podium positions, the youngster showed real maturity with flashes of speed on what is only his fourth event behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

With his mind firmly fixed on developing his skills as a world-class driver, the Welshman refused to be drawn into any unnecessary risks. Despite having the upper-hand over rival Thierry Neuville through the opening speed tests, experience played its card and the rookie opted for the sensible approach – unfazed by the tempting prospect of a maiden FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) podium.

This weekend’s event marks a landmark for both Evans and his co-driver Daniel Barritt – each surpassing their previous ‘bests’ of sixth and fifth respectively. Learning with each new kilometre, the British duo are creating the foundations for what is set to be a very impressive development year.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen came back strongly following their earlier disappointment. Having been forced to accept Rally 2 regulations with a high temperature reading on the IDU (driver injector unit) through Friday’s second pass of ‘Las Minas’ (SS8), the Finns refused to give up the fight.

Testing a number of set-up configurations for the up-coming loose-surface events, Hirvonen looked at one behind the wheel of his Fiesta. After setting a string of top-three stage times on Saturday’s tricky leg through the Sierra de Lobos mountains, the Finn continued his strong showing today.

Saving his tyres over the opening speed tests, the popular driver went on the attack for the points-paying Power Stage. Despite running first on the road, he set the third fastest time to add an additional point to those secured in his creditable comeback to eighth place overall.

Come the end of an encouraging event, the M-Sport World Rally Team will be full of confidence as the WRC returns to Europe for the gravel tracks of Rally de Portugal in three weeks’ time.

Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“I certainly didn’t come here expecting to finish fourth – simply to finish would have been an achievement given how little experience we have on these kinds of stages and how many of the top drivers were caught out!

“We put in some strong performances on some individual stages and identified a few areas for improvement as the weekend went on. It’s all part of the learning curve and we’re really looking forward to Portugal.”

Mikko Hirvonen (8th) said:
“It was a real shame that we had the problem on Friday, but that is part of the game sometimes. We would certainly have been fighting for the podium – maybe even the second place as well – but there are still a lot of positives to take from this event.
“I believe we can definitely fight as the season goes on. We were able to try a few things with the car over the last couple of days, and I am feeling really happy with what we have learnt. We have a few ideas on how we can make further improvements and with more testing coming up I think we can develop even more and be a real threat on all of the rallies.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been a very encouraging weekend for us. Elfyn [Evans] is progressing really well and his fourth place – his best ever finish in the WRC – is thoroughly well deserved. He wasn’t drawn into any unnecessary battles and did exactly what was asked of him – all in all a very mature drive from a driver who has the potential to do extremely well in the future.

“It was also good to see Mikko [Hirvonen] get his spark back. The problem on Friday was a real disappointment for the team, but the way he fought back proves that he has lost none of his ambition or his determination to win. He goes to Portugal with his confidence high and the potential to be a real contender for the top positions.”

WIN NUMBER TWO – IN WRC 2 – FOR PROTASOV
Yuriy Protasov and Pavlo Cherepin secured a second victory in the WRC 2 category today, to take a clear lead in the championship standings.
Matching the speed of their rivals, the Ukrainian pairing – who pilot an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R5 – adopted a tactical drive through Mexico’s challenging stages to finish inside the overall top-ten for the second time this season.

With close to a 25 minute lead going into the final day, not even a broken driveshaft – incurred after a heavy landing on SS19 – could halt the youngster on what has been a very mature and impressive drive.

Making it though all 22 stages, the Ukrainian finished 23 minutes ahead of his nearest rival to affect a clean-sweep of WRC 2 victories for M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars so far this season.

Yuriy Protasov (1st in WRC 2 / 10th overall) said:
“We are happier than we could have ever imaged to be at the end of this rally. It was a very good result for us and to have won by such a margin – against so many strong drivers – is a very good feeling.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“With so much drama this weekend, Yuriy [Protasov] didn’t put a foot wrong, and even when he developed a small issue on the final day, he had established such a strong lead that he was able to manage the issue and take the Fiesta home for another thoroughly deserved victory.

“It is very satisfying indeed to see our cars performing so well in the WRC’s premier support series. Thanks to Yuriy’s victory this weekend, a Fiesta has won every single round of the series so far this year and that is a big boost for the teams both on- and off-event who put a vast amount of work into each and every one of our Fiesta models.”
14-03-10 Ny dubbelseger för Volkswagen i Mexico
Volkswagen vann dubbelt i Rally Mexico. Vinnarna Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) och tvåorna Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) överlistade både de svårigheter som startordningen innebar och de extrema förhållandena i årets tredje WRC-rally. Segern var Volkswagens sjunde i rad.

De två ledarna i världsmästerskapet lade grunden för dubbelsegern under rallyts första dag. De hade nackdelen av att starta som första och andra bil. Det innebar att de fick sopa undan lösgruset för dem som startade senare. Trots det hade de lyckats kämpa sig till en första- och en tredjeplacering när den första tredjedelen av rallyt var körd.

Den fina öppningen följdes av en felfri andra dag då Ogier och Latvala gick upp till en klar ledning som de bara utökade. Under den avslutande tredje dagen kunde de enkelt kontrollera rallyt för att slutligen ta den fjärde dubbelsegern i sina Polo R WRC på 16 starter i världsmästerskapet. Det blev också Volkswagens sjunde seger i rad. I mål var Ogier/Ingrassia hela 5:28,6 minuter före trean.

Imponerande insats av VW-förarna
WRC-reglementet innebar att Volkswagens förare drabbades av ett lyxproblem på rallyts öppningsdag. Eftersom de låg etta, tvåa och fyra totalt i världsmästerskapet hade de den tveksamma äran att starta först. I få andra rallyn innebär det en så stor nackdel som i Rally Mexico.

Mer och mer av lösgruset sveptes bort för varje WRC-bil som passerade. Nackdelen kan beräknas till en tidsförlust på 0,1 sekunder per kilometer och tävlande. Men Ogier/Ingrassia och Latvala/Anttila gjorde en stark insats och klarade det hindret. Volkswagen vann åtta av de elva specialsträckorna dag ett.

I och med segern i Mexico gick Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia upp i ledningen totalt i världsmästerskapet - omedelbart före teamkamraterna Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Ogier och Ingrassia leder både förar-och kartläsarklassen med 63 poäng före Latvala och Anttila på 60 poäng. Tillsammans utökade de ledningen rejält i konstruktörsmästerskapet. Volkswagen har nu 115 poäng - 55 poäng fler än närmaste rivalen Citroën. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula ligger fyra totalt med 24 poäng.

Mekanikerna i huvudroll
Rallyt tog slut i förtid vid två tillfällen för Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN). På fredagen slog de i en sten vid utgången av en kurva på specialsträckan "El Chocolate." Fjädringen till höger bakhjul skadades och de tvingades bryta efter att ha legat tvåa.

På lördagen gjorde ett misstag i noterna att de rullade sedan de genat för mycket i en kurva. Tack vare ett imponerande jobb av mekanikerna var deras Polo R WRC så gott som ny igen i tid för söndagens specialsträckor. De hade lyckats återställa bilen i toppskick inom den tretimmarsgräns som reglerna tillåter. Mikkelsen/Markkula använde söndagen till att få så mycket erfarenhet som möjligt och kom bland de tre bästa på fyra specialsträckor.

Höjd, hetta och hemläxa
Helt tillförlitlig och utrustad med intelligent styrenhet var Volkswagen Polo R WRC det teknologiska riktmärket i Rally Mexico. Specialsträckorna gick från 1 800 meters höjd över havet till över 2 800 meter. Ju högre upp man kommer desto lägre lufttryck, lägre syrehalt i luften och sämre kylning av motorn. Med temperaturer omkring 30 grader var målet att minimera förlusten av motoreffekt. Volkswagens tekniker hade kontroll över mjukvaran i rallybilarna långt i förväg inför rallyt i Centralamerika. Motorns styrenhet används utan modifieringar allt ifrån det inledande Monte Carlorallyt till och med den avslutande omgången i Storbrittanien.

Fysisk och mental styrka
Precis som rallybilarna kom Volkswagens förare och kartläsare till Rally Mexico så väl förberedda fysiskt som möjligt. God kondition var nyckeln till framgång, framförallt på den över 30 km långa sjunde specialsträckan som körs på hög höjd och i stekande hetta. Inte heller här lämnade Volkswagen något åt slumpen. Personalen på sportkliniken i Bad Nauheim har haft som uppgift att se till teamets fysiska kondition. Konditions- och dietprogram, återkommande tester under hela säsongen och vårdpersonal på plats under tävlingarna tillhör rallyvardagen för Volkswagen.

Volkswagen bland de bästa
Rally Mexico blev Volkswagens sjunde seger i rad. Förra årets segrar i Australien, Frankrike, Spanien och Storbrittanien följdes av framgångarna i Monte Carlo, Sverige och Mexico i år. Det är den näst längsta segerraden i WRC-historien. Sébastien Ogier tog sin 18 seger i världsmästerskapet varav elva för Volkswagen.

Citat efter dag tre i Rally Mexico
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
- Mexico är ett fantastiskt land för oss. Jag gillar rallyt och det verkar gilla mig. Jag vann för första gången som junior här 2008 och tog totalsegern för Volkswagen här förra året. Och nu är jag här igen överst på pallen. Det är en fantastisk känsla. Hela vårt team har gjort ett sensationellt jobb hela helgen. Och Polo R WRC var än en gång helt tillförlitlig och supersnabb under svåra förhållanden. Jag var sugen på att vinna efter misstaget i Sverige! Därför tog jag och Julien inga risker sista dagen. Vi ville verkligen ta hem den här segern. Och det behöver inte sägas att jag ville lägga beslag på Power Stage-poängen. Trots att vi nu måste agera gatsopare för konkurrenterna nästa omgång i Portugal är VM-poängen viktigare än allt annat.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
-Jag är verkligen mycket nöjd med andraplatsen. Efter att ha kört först dag ett, vilket betydde att vi låg långt efter de ledande, siktade vi på att ta en pallplats. Rally Mexico var hårt arbete och dessutom mycket krävande för bilarna. Min Polo klarade påfrestningarna med hög höjd och höga temperaturer på ett beundransvärt sätt och teamet gjorde ett perfekt jobb. Tack för det. Det här var det bästa Rally Mexico för Miikka och mig så här långt. Vi klarade oss igenom rallyt utan att göra några misstag. Vi är fortfarande i nivå med våra lagkamrater men nu slipper vi gå ut som första bil i Portugal.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
-Det var ett tufft rally för oss. Att behöva bryta två gånger var inte precis vad vi tänkt oss. Jag gjorde helt enkelt för många misstag. Tack vare ett gott jobb av mekanikerna kunde jag ändå få några kilometers erfarenhet av Rally Mexico på söndagen och det gör det möjligt att satsa hårt nästa år. Sammantaget, vi lärde oss mycket här - tyvärr den svåra vägen. Jag kommer att analysera det i detalj de närmaste dagarna och förbereda så väl som möjligt inför nästa rally i Portugal. Vi kommer tillbaka, förhoppningsvis på pallen där.

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Mexico – slutresultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 4t 27m 41.8s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1m 12.6s
3. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 5m 28.6s
4. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 6m 49.3s
5. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 9m 54.4s
6. Benito Guerra/Borja Rozada (MEX/E), Ford + 12m 57.6s
7. Chris Atkinson/Stéphane Prévot (AUS/B), Hyundai + 15m 15.4s
8. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 17m 06.8s
9. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 25m 41.6s
10. Yuriy Protasov/Pavlo Cherepin (UA/UA), Ford + 28m 18.2s

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Mexico – Power Stage resultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 4m 34.2s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1.8s
3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 4.9s

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), totalställning

Förarmästerskapet poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 63
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 60
3. Mads Østberg 32
4. Andreas Mikkelsen 24
5. Elfyn Evans 20
6. Bryan Bouffier 18
7. Mikko Hirvonen 18
8. Kris Meeke 17
9. Thierry Neuville 15
10. Ott Tänak 10
11. Martin Prokop 10
12. Benito Guerra 8
13. Henning Solberg 6
14. Chris Atkinson 6
15. Jaroslav Melichárek 4
16. Pontus Tidemand 4
17. Matteo Gamba 2
18. Craig Breen 2
19. Yuriy Protasov 2

Konstruktörsmästerskapet poäng
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 115
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 60
3. M-Sport 40
4. Hyundai Motorsport 31
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 28
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 10
7. RK M-Sport WRT 4


14-03-09 It's two for two for Rendina
After a testing event, Max Rendina was delighted to claim his second victory in a row in the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup navigated by long-term co-driver Mario Pizzuti. On only his second WRC outing outside Italy, Rendina again showed determination and focus, which left his Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3 minutes 39 seconds ahead of countryman and second-placed Group N Cup driver Gianluca Linari at the end of Rally Méxcio. To top it off, he finished on the WRC 2 Championship podium, taking a confident third place to finish only 15.9 seconds behind runner-up Lorenzo Bertelli in a Regional Rally Car.

There was a mixture of excitement and relief in the Ralliart Italy service area on Rendina’s return. Confident about Rendina’s ability and endurance, the team was concerned about whether he could hold his position after a new, less powerful engine map was installed at this morning’s service. Rendina’s engine had overheated yesterday after an impact, which damaged the radiator. Following a long service yesterday evening, the Ralliart Italy technicians successfully replaced the Mitsubishi’s radiator and rebuilt the radiator support area. However, it was impossible to reverse the damage done to the engine. The only action, which could be taken to protect the motor and give Rendina the best chance possible of making it to the finish, was to reduce the power of his Mitsubishi’s engine map. Fortunately, this did not seem to have a significant effect on the Italian’s performance.

Rendina is delighted with his victory and his 25 points in the Group N Cup, giving him a maximum 50 points across his two nominated events so far: “I can’t believe it. Mexico was an unknown quantity for me. I always knew I was well prepared and would do my best, but I couldn’t have predicted this result. It’s really fantastic. I had a great car, a great co-driver and a great team. With all this and being cheered on throughout by the Mexican fans who filled the stages – who could ask for more!”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto couldn’t have wanted from Rendina and can’t wait for their next event together, Rally de Portugal: “It was a pleasure working with Max and Mario this week. They’re always focused and they always want to maximise their potential. You can’t really expect more than that from a crew. Mexico is a difficult event at the best of times and they came here without any experience on this terrain or driving at the testing altitudes in the Rally Mexico itinerary – and they won the Group N Cup for the second event in a row. I’m proud and impressed.
14-03-09 More experiencs for Citroén crews
Having started day two of Rally Guanajuato Corona in second position, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson were forced to retire after SS12. They will rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules.
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle enjoyed an error-free day, improving from thirteenth to ninth position by this evening and recording a first stage win.
There are four stages left for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers to score points at this Mexican round of the WRC.

After a very successful first leg, Mads Østberg set off this morning to attack the stages in the Sierra de Lobos. However, on Ibarrilla 1, the Norwegian hit a bank just 200 metres shy of the finish.

It was only after passing the stop control that the crew noticed that part of the suspension was broken. Despite their attempts to repair the damage before the next stage with “a Viking fix”, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended up running out of time. They will be allowed to rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules.

Still learning about the Mexican stages, Kris Meeke nonetheless showed commitment and focus. After improving in the second loop, the Briton managed to record his first stage win on SS18 to move up into ninth position in the overall standings.

The final leg is made up of four stages, including a 56 kilometre-long test. SS22, El Brinco, will serve as the Power Stage in which bonus points will be up for grabs. The rally is scheduled to finish in Leòn at 2.30pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “I was pushing on the first stage. Shortly before the finish, there was a quick section ahead of a braking point for a right-hand bend. My pace notes weren’t right. I didn’t brake hard enough, so we carried too much speed and hit a bank on the outside of the corner as we exited it. We managed to finish the stage but the suspension was too damaged to be able to continue. We worked as hard as possible to carry out repairs but we just didn’t have enough time to make it to the start of the next stage.”

Kris Meeke: “The stages are really complicated when you haven’t experienced them before. You have to find the right rhythm. The roads are slippery with some very narrow, twisty sections. I was struggling to feel confident on the first pass. We are doing everything for the first time, which is part and parcel of the learning process. Once you’re more familiar with the stages, everything is a lot more straightforward. So, the feeling was a lot better this afternoon and I think you can see that in the times.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Mads’ strategy was to drive at a strong pace in order to consolidate his second position. Unfortunately, an ill-judged pace note means his name has been added to the long list of drivers caught out at this Rally Mexico. Although he tried to repair the damage, he was unable to continue. He will rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules to prepare for the next round of the WRC in Portugal. Kris’ goal was to complete all of the stages. He drove at a sensible pace to ensure he built up some more experience. He is improving on a rally where he is competing for the first time.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS12 – Ibarrilla 1 (30.33km) – Rally leader Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time. In the final section of the stage, Mads Østberg ran wide exiting a corner and damaged the suspension on his car. Although he made it to the end of the stage, he retired on the road section leading to Otates. Sixth fastest time for Kris Meeke, who moved up to twelfth overall.

SS13 – Otates (53.69km) – On the day’s longest stage, Sébastien Ogier finished ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. Kris Meeke moved back into the top 10. Andreas Mikkelsen and Robert Kubica retired.

SS14 – Ibarrilla 2 (30.33km) – Sébastien Ogier kept up his series of stage wins. Fourth fastest on this test, Kris Meeke continued to improve.

SS15 – Otatitos (43.06km) – Another fourth fastest time for Kris Meeke on this long stage, lasting over thirty minutes. Meanwhile, Sébastien Ogier extended his lead at the front.

SS16 – El Brinco 1 (8.25km) – Kris Meeke moved up a place in the overall standings during this live televised stage to grab ninth position. Sébastien Ogier went fastest once again, just ahead of Mikko Hirvonen.

SS17 and SS18 – Super Special 3 and 4 (2.21km) – After a spin on the first run, Kris Meeke went on to set the fastest time on the day’s final stage. Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest on SS17.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:36:42.2
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:00.3
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:37.0
4. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:24.0
5. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:02.5
6. Benito Guerra / Borja Rozada (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +10:33.6
7. Chris Atkinson / Stéphane Prévot (Hyundai i20 WRC) +12:18.3
8. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +16:09.4
9. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +17:18.9
10. Yuriy Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta R5) +17:35.0

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 12 – Mads Østberg, 3 – Jari-Matti Latvala, 2 – Kris Meeke, 1

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2, SS7 to 18: Sébastien Ogier
SS3 to SS6: Mads Østberg
14-03-09 Kubica´s misfortune continues in Mexico
RK M-Sport World Rally Team continued to suffer misfortune as Rally Mexico entered its third day of competition today. Having impressed in the early phases, Robert Kubica fell foul of the tricky conditions – rolling his Ford Fiesta RS WRC on SS13 and bringing his event to an untimely end.

Kubica, who is co-driven by fellow Pole Maciej Szczepaniak, had been running as high as fourth overall during yesterday’s challenging speed tests. Impressing on what was his first venture to the Mexican fixture, the Formula One race winner continued to improve his performance through the high-altitude stages and set the third fastest time through the second pass of ‘Parque Gto Bicentenario’ (SS9).

Unfortunately, his good work was undone through the evening’s super specials – a roll relegating him to ninth position. As the action resumed in the Sierra de Lobos mountains north-east of León today, his misfortune continued.

Posting a solid time as he regrouped over the first stage of the day, Kubica looked set to climb the leader-board. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Carrying too much speed into a corner over a crest, the Pole made contact with a small block on the side of the road – forcing his Fiesta RS WRC into a roll.

With damage to the roll cage, Kubica will take no further part in this weekend’s event but will return in Portugal – determined to make the most of what will be a more familiar rally.

Robert Kubica (DNF) said:
“It has been a very disappointing rally for me. Up until the first incident on Friday, I felt that our pace was very good. I was driving well, but we made a small mistake on the super special which set us back. It was a case of low concentration and I was caught out on the slippery Tarmac into the first corner.

“Unfortunately, we made another mistake today. It was a combination of a number of factors that finished our rally. We went slightly too fast into a corner over a crest but I also think that the pacenotes were not as strong as they could have been through that section. Since it was so slippery there was no margin for error, and no possibility to prevent the roll. The road was very narrow and we hit a small block on the side of the stage – rolling the car and ending up on the roof.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It is a real shame that Robert [Kubica] will lose out on what could have been another top result. I’m glad that both he and Maciej [Szczepaniak, co-driver] are OK, but it was a very disappointing end to their rally.

“Robert was especially disappointed which is difficult to see knowing how much he puts into each and every rally he contests. That said, I have no doubt that he will bounce back when we move to some of his more familiar events.”
14-03-09 Evans on coursefor career best
M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans and Mikko Hirvonen were on form as Rally Mexico resumed with seven stages through the Sierra de Lobos mountain range today. Continuing his impressive drive, rookie Evans is on course for a career-best fourth whilst Hirvonen was back to his best after yesterday’s disappointment – climbing four places from 12th to eighth.

With what is arguably one of the most impressive drives of the weekend, Evans found himself battling for a podium position through the day’s opening speed tests – an inspiring performance on what is the Welshman’s first taste of Mexico’s high-altitude stages.

Yet he and co-driver Dan Barritt refused to be distracted from the job in hand. Despite the tempting prospect of a maiden podium, the pairing kept their composure – setting a highly consistent pace without being drawn into any unnecessary risks in pursuit of their rivals.

With 80 competitive kilometres left to run, the 25-year-old remains well and truly in the hunt – ready to pounce just 47 seconds adrift of the sought-after third place. The Mexican fixture is not averse to final-day drama, and there remains all to play for as Evans chases a strong finish behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Following yesterday’s disappointment, Hirvonen was let loose – testing the limits to gain further assurance with the Fiesta RS WRC on gravel. Testing a range of set-up configurations, he and
co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen gained a wealth of knowledge ahead of the upcoming loose-surface events.

Having lost none of his confidence, the Finn upped his pace through the afternoon to affect a vast improvement from the first to second pass of Ibarrilla – his second run some 20 seconds faster than his first attempt.

Setting a constant string of top-three stage times, Hirvonen also secured the second fastest time on what will be tomorrow’s points-paying power stage – just 0.3 seconds adrift of the stage victory.

Climbing from 12th to eighth, the Finn is on course for a solid points haul – not to mention the potential for further gains as the event concludes with a final, challenging stint tomorrow.

Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“On the whole I think we can be pretty happy with what we have done today. The only real disappointment was on the longer stages – we had a couple of little impacts with a few big stones and that made me a little conservative through the rest of the stage. Then as the surface got more sandy and loose, I wasn’t so comfortable with the grip and we lost time.

“For our first time here, I think we can be pleased with the progress we have made today. We know that there is still some work to do, and I don’t think we’ll be able to catch the third position on speed alone, but all in all it’s been a comfortable day and not a bad result at the end.”

Mikko Hirvonen (8th) said:
“We’ve had a good day and a really good rhythm through all of the stages. We’ve tried a few different things with the set-up and I am really happy with the handling of the car so it’s looking good for the next gravel events.

“We also had a really good run through what will be the Power Stage tomorrow. We made a couple of small mistakes, so I believe that we can be fast through there tomorrow. Of course I am sure that the others will be pushing too, but I have a really good feeling at the moment so let’s just wait and see.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen another very mature drive from Elfyn [Evans] today. It was very tempting for him to get drawn into a battle for the podium, but we decided to opt for the safer approach. This is a development year for him so it is important that he gets to the end of the events that he is contesting for the first time – and fourth position will still be an absolutely fantastic result for him.

“It was also great to see Mikko [Hirvonen] follow on with his performance from yesterday. He’s shown good pace through all of the stages, and his strong time through what will be the Power Stage is very encouraging for tomorrow.”
14-03-09 Rendina extends lead in Group N Cup
Day Two at Rally México was a tough test for Ralliart Italy-run Italian pairing Max Rendina and Mario Pizzuti. That said, they were pleased to finish the day promoted to second in the FIA WRC 2 Championship, while extending their lead in the WRC 2 Group N Cup to 3 minutes 17 seconds. They were resolute in their determination to make it through all 170.08 kilometres of today’s competitive stages – and they did.

However, the day wasn’t all plain sailing. Approximately 10 kiloemtres before the end of SS13, the last stage before midday service, Rendina hit a rock damaging the front of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Fortunately, he was close enough to the end of the morning loop that he was able to nurse his Lancer back to service. Rendina didn’t lose time from his impact in the stage. He did take a 30 second penalty for being late out of service. However, this was a small price to pay in order have a car strong enough to survive the rough Mexican terrain in the afternoon.

The second loop was going well until Rendina unfortunately lost just under a minute on SS17, the penultimate 2.21 kilometres test of the day after he fell foul of the ruts left in the road from the WRC cars ahead of him. Losing his line, he had another small impact and picked up a slow puncture. Unable to change his tyre before SS18, the last stage of Day Two, he was careful not to make the same mistake twice, driving conservatively through the final Super Special to make sure he made it to the overnight halt safely.

After an arduous day, Rendina is happy with his achievement and still focused on making it safely to the finish tomorrow: “What a day! It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure, but we made it. When Mario and I set our minds on something, we never give up. I’m really pleased with my position. Our focus is of course on the Group N Cup leader board and taking home a good number of points to add to our 25 from Monte Carlo. However, it feels great to be second in the WRC 2 overnight. It would be a real bonus if we could hold this position until the end of the rally.”

Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is impressed with Rendina’s endurance on his first outing in Mexico: “You can see from the troubles of drivers ahead of Max on the road that Mexico isn’t an easy rally and it’s proving to be a real challenge for everyone. For me, it’s a great achievement for Max and Mario to have come this far without any serious problems, while never letting the pressure get to them. I really hope they can round it off by sealing their second victory in a row in the Group N Cup tomorrow.
14-03-08 Midday quotes, day 3
Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“It was certainly tough out there this morning. There was no margin for error, especially in the middle part of the long stage [SS13] which was very twisty and narrow. It’s so easy to make a small mistake in there which can have big consequences. It’s all about finding a good balance and the right rhythm.

“It’s a bit of a strange feeling to find ourselves fighting for the podium, but to be honest we’re not taking too much notice of it. It is important that we focus on the job that we came here to do which is to get as much experience as possible and learn as much as we can.

“I don’t want to get drawn into any big risks to try and beat Thierry [Neuville] – that’s not what we want to do. But at the same time, it would be nice to beat him and in some circumstances a bit of a battle can only help the learning curve!”

Mikko Hirvonen (9th) said:
“It’s been an OK morning for us and I think that the pace has been good. On the long stage [SS13] I could have been a little bit neater through some sections and when we heard about Andreas [Mikkelsen] we backed off quite a lot, but still, it was not a bad time.

“As we have already seen today, anything can happen so we just need to keep at this pace and see what happens. There is still potential for us to get some solid points on the board this weekend, so that is what we will work towards.”

14-03-08 Mads Østberg grabs second in Mexico
Featuring eleven stages, day one of Rally Guanajuato Corona provided Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson with the opportunity to serve notice of their intentions. In their Citroën DS3 WRC, they lie second overall at the end of the first leg of Mexican round of the World Rally Championship.
Meanwhile, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle saw their challenge brought to a halt on SS8. They will rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules.

Expectations were high in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team camp ahead of today’s leg as the team returned to gravel stages for the first time this season.

As Thursday evening’s brief introduction was contested on tarmac, it wasn’t until the morning loop in the Sierra de Guanajuato that the crews were finally able to get their first taste of competitive action on the most commonly used surface in the WRC. Very quickly, Mads Østberg was on the pace of the leaders. In fact, the Norwegian grabbed first place in the overall standings after the 44 kilometre-long El Chocolate stage (SS3).

He remained the rally leader until the end of SS6, before then losing a few seconds in the afternoon. Mads nonetheless returned to León in second overall, which bodes well for the rest of the rally.

For Kris Meeke, this first leg was above all else the chance to learn about the specific features of the Mexican event. Initially cautious, the Northern Irishman found the right level of pace and managed to move into fourth position without taking any risks.

On Las Minas (SS8), however, he broke part of the suspension on his car after hitting a rock. Like Kris, two other WRC drivers were unable to complete this first leg.

Saturday’s leg features seven stages. Crews will set off at 8.30am from León, covering a total of 323 kilometres, 170 of which will be timed sections. After SS18, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme at 7.48pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Mads Østberg: “To be honest, I’m really pleased with the start I’ve made to this rally. The first loop went particularly well. We tried to adapt the set-up for the changing road conditions in the afternoon. It didn’t really work, but you have to bear in mind that this is our first gravel rally with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. We still need more experience. But overall, it’s been a very encouraging start which augurs well for the rest of the rally!”

Kris Meeke: “My strategy was pretty much the same as in Sweden. I drove at my own pace without worrying too much about the times the other drivers were setting. On some stages, I was fairly comfortable although there was a lot of dust. The roads were also very slippery. On SS8, we hit a rock on a bend. The suspension arm broke. We tried to continue but we decided it was better to stop so that we could rejoin tomorrow in better shape.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Mads made an excellent start to the day. He feels comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC and these are the sorts of conditions in which he is very competitive. He lost some time in the second loop though a lack of experience with the car. But the miles covered will be add to his experience as he learns more and more. As regards Kris, he should be able to rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules. It’s important that he makes the most of each stage to keep learning about this rally.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Monster Street Stage Guanajuato (1.01km) – After a spectacular ceremonial start in the heart of the city of Guanajuato, the event kicked off with a short tarmac stage. Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time, with Kris Meeke finishing fourth and Mads Østberg seventh.

SS2 – Los Mexicanos 1 (9.88km) – After a night spent in León, the crews headed for the Sierras. This first stage was a long hill climb through the dust. On this demanding exercise, Ogier finished ahead of Østberg. Kris Meeke finished in sixth place.

SS3 – El Chocolate 1 (44.03km) – The longest stage of the day provided Mads Østberg with the chance to shine. The Norwegian set the fastest time and grabbed the overall lead. Kris Meeke also moved up the standings with the third fastest time. Andreas Mikkelsen retired.

SS4 – Las Minas 1 (15.59km) – Mads Østberg extended his lead with another fastest time on the televised stage. Kris Meeke set the fifth fastest time.

SS5 – Parque Gto Bicentenario 1 (2.60km) – Sébastien Ogier won the stage to close the gap to Mads Østberg. Kris Meeke grabbed the fourth fastest time ahead of the midday service.

SS6 – Los Mexicanos 2 (9.88km) – 2.1 seconds off the lead time, Mads Østberg saw Sébastien Ogier cut his lead again as Kris Meeke consolidated his fifth position.

SS7 – El Chocolate 2 (44.03km) – The second pass on El Chocolate proved to be more difficult for Mads Østberg. The Norwegian lost the overall lead to Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke produced a superb performance to grab the second fastest time. He moved up to fifth overall.

SS8 – Las Minas 2 (15.59km) – Mads Østberg fought to stay with the leader. 3.9 seconds adrift of the fastest time, he held onto second place. Kris Meeke stopped before the end of the stage, after damaged a suspension arm. Mikko Hirvonen suffered an electrical problem.

SS9 – Parque Gto Bicentenario 2 (2.60km) – Mads Østberg claimed the fifth fastest time to remain second overall. Jari-Matti Latvala was the fastest on this short stage.

SS10 and SS11 – Super Special 1 and 2 (2.21km) – Two runs on the super special stage to round off the day’s action: the fastest times were claimed by Sébastien Ogier and Mads Østberg respectively, the two quickest drivers from the early stages of this rally. Robert Kubica went off.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:46:25.3
2. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +26.1
3. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +42.5
4. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:28.7
5. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:30.2
6. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:31.1
7. Benito Guerra / Borja Rozada (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:06.0
8. Chris Atkinson / Stéphane Prévot (Hyundai i20 WRC) +6:32.8
9. Yuriy Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta R5) +7:39.1
10. Lorenzo Bertelli / Mitia Dotta (Ford Fiesta RRC) +12:00.7

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 7 – Mads Østberg, 3 and Jari-Matti Latvala, 1

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2, SS7 to 11: Sébastien Ogier
SS3 to SS6: Mads Østberg
14-03-08 A day of higts and lows for Kubica in Mexico
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica witnessed a day of highs and lows today as Rally Mexico resumed in the hills north of Guanajuato. Despite running as high as fourth overall, a roll on the penultimate super special put paid to his efforts – relegating the popular Pole to ninth position.

A challenging event for any newcomer, Rally Mexico’s technical stages may appear smooth and hazard-free, but the gravel tracks hide a number of perils. Making it through all but two of the stages unscathed, the Pole was on course for a fantastic result on what is his first long-haul event and only his third rally behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The day did not start without its dramas – the high temperatures resulting in a gearshift issue through the first pass of ‘El Chocolate’. Having to change gear manually, the 44.03 kilometre stage became a real test. Having to keep one hand on the gear-lever at all times, his sixth fastest time was an impressive feat and testament to both his physical and mental strength.

With the M-Sport team rectifying the issue for the afternoon loop, Kubica was free to up his pace without restraint. Growing in confidence, the Formula One race winner was on course for an impressive fourth place – challenging the front-runners with a string of competitive times including a third fastest time through the second pass of ‘Parque Gto Bicentenario’ (SS9).

Unfortunately, the final drama was yet to come and Kubica’s hard work was to be undone through the final super specials. Clipping a concrete bollard in SS10, his Fiesta was forced into a roll, and its driver ultimately forced to accept Rally 2 regulations for the remainder of the rally.

Yet with more than 60 per cent of the event left to run, there remains all to play for and Kubica will come back strongly – determined to make the most of another new challenge.

Robert Kubica (9th) said:
“I was really happy with our driving and we were on course for a really strong result so it is very disappointing that the day had to finish the way that it did.

“We weren’t taking any big risks. We had found a rhythm that we were comfortable with and the plan was to continue like that. We were learning a lot and improving the pace, so it is really disappointing that the day ended as it did.

“Of course there is still a long way to go. Our goal is to gain as much knowledge and experience as we can, and that is what we shall continue to do tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Up until the final couple of stages, we saw a really strong performance from Robert [Kubica]. It was hugely disappointing for him that the day had to end the way that it did, as he was on course for what would have been a fantastic result on his first visit to Mexico.”
14-03-08 Evans Powers to fourth on Mexican Debut
There were mixed fortunes for M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans and Mikko Hirvonen as Rally Mexico embarked on the first full day of competition today. Evans’ measured approach paid dividends as the rookie finished the day in an impressive fourth place. Unfortunately, there was disappointment for his team mate. Having been in the fight for the lead, Hirvonen was forced to retire with an electrical issue on SS8.

Following yesterday’s opening super special, the rally resumed with ten gravel tests in the mountains north of Guanajuato. Making the most of their development year, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt had the better of the tricky Mexican stages. Whereas others faltered, Evans kept his Ford Fiesta RS WRC well clear of the potential dangers.

Adopting a measured approach on what is his first encounter of the high-altitude speed tests, the Welshman improved his technique, and with it his speed. Learning how to best adapt to the unfamiliar conditions, the 25-year-old propelled himself into the top-five – within touching distance of the podium and with the potential for further gains as the event continues.

In the sister Fiesta RS WRC, Hirvonen looked at one behind the wheel. Straight on the pace, the Finn set a string of consistently competitive times over the morning loop to keep the rally lead well within his grasp.

Embarking on the second pass, he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen looked set to challenge further. Having made some positive set-up changes, the Finns had the better of their nearest rivals – reducing the gap between them and second place to just five seconds. Unfortunately it was not to be and after reporting a high temperature on the IDU (injector driver unit), their day came to an end midway through the second pass of ‘Las Minas’ (SS8).

Although Hirvonen now finds himself in a distant 12th position, he has proved that he is more than capable of challenging for rally wins. With more than 250 competitive kilometres left to run, there is still all to play for and the determined Finn will be looking to climb the leader-board when he resumes under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.

Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“It’s been a better afternoon in terms of speed, but there is still work to be done in some areas. The good thing is that we know what we need to work on for the rest of the rally – whilst hopefully not taking too many risks and keeping this position.

“I admit that I hadn’t really looked at any times so it is a bit of a surprise to find myself in fourth position! That said, I don’t think we need to take too much notice of that. For us, it is just a case of concentrating on the job that we need to do tomorrow.”

Mikko Hirvonen (12th) said:
“We were having a really good rally so it is really disappointing that today had to end the way that it did. We had made some changes to the set-up in service and I was very happy with the handling of the car – I think you can see that from the times we were setting as we were beginning to really close in on second place. Unfortunately, it was not to be. We had a high temperature reading on the IDU [injector driver unit] before SS8, and that was where our day came to an end. Tomorrow is another day so we just have to see what that brings.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It was great to see Mikko [Hirvonen] fighting for the lead, so it is obviously very disappointing that the day ended the way that it did for him. He was putting in a really strong performance and it’s a real shame for the whole team.

“We’ve seen a really solid drive from Elfyn [Evans] and he’s ended the day in a really positive position. Hopefully he can maintain the same pace he has shown today and stay clear of trouble on what will be a very difficult day tomorrow.”

14-03-08 Rendina twelfth overall overnight
Max Rendina (ITA) got off to a cracking start at Rally México. He set the fastest times in the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup on last night’s street stage in Guanajuato and on nine of today’s 10 tests, which together total 149.63 competitive kilometres. As many cars fell by the wayside, Rendina took his Ralliart Italy-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X successfully through the dusty Mexican stages on his first outing outside Europe to finish Day One 12th overall.

It was a tough day, but Rendina adapted to the conditions, confidently navigated through the stages by co-driver Mario Pizzuti, to close the day third in the WRC 2 category with a 2 minute 57 second lead in the Group N Cup. His Mitsubishi worked well throughout. His only trouble came on the road section between SS6 and SS7 when he took a 20 second penalty after having to stop to clean out his air filter which had filled with dust on the previous stage.

After an otherwise uneventful day, Rendina was pleased to reach evening service unscathed and is ready to tackle Day Two with the same determination: “It wasn’t an easy day. I set out with a clear vision and one goal – to get to the end of today’s stages without any serious problems. With Mario’s help, I did that, but we had to focus and push on in very testing conditions. Now I have a better idea of the Mexican gravel and what to expect tomorrow, so I hope that if we stay calm and drive like we did today, we’ll make it safely to the end of the rally. To hold our current position and win the Group N Cup on our second event in a row would be a fantastic bonus, but for now we have to concentrate on getting to the finish.”

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto was very pleased with Rendina’s performance: “Of course, it’s great that Max is leading the Group N Cup. Mexico could hardly be more different from Monte Carlo, but he’s managed to get straight to the front of the field on both events, despite not having any previous experience on either. However, even more impressive is for him to be 12th overall at the end of Day One on a difficult rally, in tough conditions with a Group N car. Everyone at Ralliart Italy is very proud of this performance and we hope to see him reach the end of Sunday’s stages on the same form!”

14-03-07 Rally Mexico, Midday Quotes, Day 2
Mikko Hirvonen (3rd) said:
“I think we are in a really good position and in a really good fight. We were really unlucky to get a puncture on the first stage [of the morning, SS2] and then we hit a rock quite hard at the beginning of the long one [SS3] so maybe we were a little too cautious through there.

“In fast places we can push a little bit more, but it is so twisty that if you push too hard and slide too much you end up losing time. We just need to find a good rhythm and have a smooth run. On the recce it always looks really nice and smooth, but once the rally starts and everyone is making cuts there are so many rocks and obstacles that you need to avoid.”

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“It’s been an OK run for us. There is still a lot of work to do with regards to the driving technique – I’m not carrying enough speed into some of the corners – but I think that will come with time.

“To be honest, the lack of power that the altitude brings isn’t too much of an issue. Of course it’s a new experience for me, but once you get used to it, it is what it is. The biggest shock will be going back to Portugal and having all that power to play with!”

Robert Kubica (6th) said:
“It’s been quite a difficult morning with difficult stages and difficult conditions. It’s hard for a newcomer and on the long stage [SS3] I lost the ‘shift’ which meant that I had to change gear manually. I had to keep my hand on the gear lever all the time so it was a very challenging stage. I think the problem is due to overheating.

“Of course it is good that we are here. The second pass will be very demanding with a lot of rocks to avoid. We just need to keep going as we are, learning the rally and gaining as much knowledge and experience as we can.”
14-03-04 Rendina ready for Rally México with Ralliart Italy
With Rally México three days away, Max Rendina did his first test today in a Ralliart Italy-run Mistubishi Lancer Evo X on the Mexican gravel. Normally competing in an R4, Rendina has regular seat time in the R4 version of the Lancer on Tarmac events at home in Italy. Only last week he competed in Rally Valli Arnaresi, finishing first in his class and third overall on the 50km event. However, his last event in the N4 specification car was Rallye Monte Carlo in January this year and his last gravel outing was a full eight months ago. Winning the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup category at in Monte Carlo has left Rendina in a strong position heading into his second nominated event of the season here in Mexico, but he’s very aware of the challenges he’ll face on only his second ever event outside Italy: “For me every WRC event is a new adventure. Before Monte Carlo I’d never competed in another country. Only two months later, I find myself in Mexico – quite a change! I’m ready though – the place is nice, it has a good atmosphere and I like the weather, the food and of course the Service Park.”

Mexico presents unique challenges in terms of altitude. The Service Park is the highest on the WRC calendar at 1,800m and the stages are up to 2,600m above seas level. This altitude means there is less oxygen as the barometric pressure drops. This in turn limits the amount of air the engine can take in and, therefore, the engine power. In these conditions, the amount of fuel in the car must also be reduced to get it going at a decent speed, but the less fuel, the less energy, which limits the horsepower. It’s a tricky compromise for engineers and a strange sensation at first for any driver, but Rendina is unfazed by the task before him: “I’m not worried about the altitude. I’ve been training a lot – I run at least 10km every morning to maintain by overall fitness and my focus is on completely all the stages and successfully finishing the event. I have more experience and am generally stronger on asphalt. However, my additional confidence on Tarmac can lead to me pushing too hard. On gravel, I have a good record of consistency and a high finish rate. I drive in a more measured way and I’m conscious not to overdrive or try to drive beyond my capabilities until I’ve got a feeling for the Mexican roads.”

Today’s test, gave Rendina his first taster of what is to come this weekend. With his first 50km of Mexican stages under his belt he’s found a whole new level of enthusiasm for the event ahead: “I can’t wait to start the event. Ralliart Italy is a very experienced team. They’ve won three Production car world titles, one even with a Mexican driver! The test today was very useful. The team were very professional and helped us a lot. With their help, we found a good feeling quickly, but we worked to find the best possible set-up and tried various options to make sure we feel confident in our Mitsubishi from the first stage!"

Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is pleased with countryman Rendina's progress and looks forward to the event ahead: "Max's attitude is great. He's focused and very positive. I'm sure he will tackle the stages confidently, but sensibly. I know that his focus is on the Group N Cup standings, which means he must drive steadily and not push too hard on his first ever long haul outing. Now we have to wait and see what happens this weekend, but I'm sure he'll do the best job possible."
14-03-03 Rally Mexico en tuff utmaning för Volkswagen
För första gången under årets WRC-säsong kommer Volkswagens tre Polo R WRC att få känna på grus när de startar i Rally Mexico den 6-9 mars. Vintern i Monte Carlo och Sverige byts mot sommartemperaturer i Mexiko. Specialsträckor på höjder från 1 832 m till 2 781 meter över havet gör att motorena tappar upp till 30 procent av effekten. Men svårigheterna slutar inte där.

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland) som leder VM, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (båda från Frankrike) på andra plats och Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (Norge/Finland) på fjärde, kommer att mötas av ett annat problem. Deras placering i världsmästerskapet innebär att de har det tvivelaktiga nöjet att köra ut först. Det betyder att de får ta på sig rollen som gatsopare och rensa specialsträckorna från lösgrus åt de efterföljande bilarna. Volkswagens förare och kartläsare får försöka bemästra svårigheterna första dagen med perfekt körning och väl kalkylerade risker.
– Medan fokus låg på körskicklighet under de två första WRC-tävlingarna i år, i Monte Carlo och i Sverige, kommer materialet att vara mer avgörande i Mexiko, säger Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport.

Capito forsätter:
– Att justera motorstyrningssystemet för den extrema höjden är ett knepigt jobb för teknikerna som måste hitta rätt balans mellan tillförlitlighet och att inte förlora för mycket effekt. Dessutom har förarna och kartläsarna en svår uppgift framför sig. Deras ställning i världsmästerskapet gör att de måste gå ut först på sträckorna. Trots denna nackdel tror jag att Jari-Matti Latvala, Sébastien Ogier och Andreas Mikkelsen kan göra underverk här och där och förhoppningsvis överraska alla.

Reglerna som avgör startordningen i WRC ändrades inför säsongen. Rallyts första dag körs nu alltid i samma ordning som ställningen i VM-tabellen. Ordningen de följande dagarna bestäms av den totala ställningen i slutet av föregående dags körning. Till skillnad från tidigare år körs ingen kvalificering före rallyt.

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila leder förarmästerskapet på 40 poäng och kör därför ut först på specialsträckorna den första dagen. Deras teamkamrater Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, på andra plats i VM-tabellen med 35 poäng, startar två minuter efter. Fyra minuter senare är det dags för Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula, på fjärde plats i mästerskapet med 24 poäng, att ge sig iväg.

Effekten i de 1,6-liter stora turbomotorerna som används i världsmästerskapet begränsas av en luftrestriktor, enligt WRC-reglementet. Resultatet är lite som att andas genom en snorkel när man joggar. På höjder på cirka 2 800 meter över havet i bergen Sierra de Lobos och Sierra de Guanajuato, förstärks den här effekten. Ju högre upp, desto mindre syre i luften och det resulterar i sämre förbränning. Dessutom minskar luftmotståndet i turboaggregatet vilket ökar varvtalet i turbon. Bara genom att justera motorstyrningssystemet är det möjligt att förhindra överbelastning. Motorerna utvecklar därför 28-30 procent lägre effekt än de gjorde i Rally Sweden.
– Den höga höjden i Rally Mexico påverkar motorn mer än någon annan detalj på Polo R WRC, säger Donatus Wichelhaus, chef för motorutveckling i Volkswagen Motorsport.
– Å ena sidan minskar lufttrycket ju högre man kommer vilket i sin tur innebär lägre syrehalt i luften. Å andra sidan minskar luftmotståndet i turbon. Det innebär högre varvtal i turbon än i något annat rally. För att garantera hållfastheten utan att förlora för mycket effekt har vi gjort olika simulationer för att förbereda oss inför Mexiko.

Rally Mexico är ett av de mest omväxlande i WRC-kalendern. Motsatserna gör rallyt till en annorlunda erfarenhet för såväl förare, kartläsare och publik. Känslan av att vara på en popkonsert på “Guanajuato Street Stage” med 80 000 jublande fans står i stark kontrast till ensligheten i bergen. En kort specialsträcka på bara lite mer än en kilometer uppvägs av en mer än 56 kilometer grussträcka.

Tre specialsträckor förtjänar att framhållas, helt enkelt för att de är så långa: "El Chocolate" på fredagen är 44 kilometer, "Otates" på lördagen är 54 kilometer och "Guanajuatito” är 56 kilometer lång. Den mest publikvänliga delen finns på specialsträckan "Derramadero". Den sista specialsträckan (Power Stage) har blixtsnabba kurviga vägar, utförskörningar där vägen sjunker 200 höjdmeter på 2,5 km, och hoppet "El Brinco" där WRC-bilarna gör spektakulära luftfärder.

Volkswagen har siktet inställt på en tredje seger i den tredje deltävlingen i årets World Rally Championship (WRC). Teamet från Wolfsburg kommer till Mexiko som regerande världsmästare och som ledare i alla tre klassificeringarna, förare, kartläsare och konstruktör. Förra året tog Sébastien Ogier inte bara totalsegern i Volkswagens tredje start i WRC utan vann också tre bonuspoäng genom att vara snabbast i Power Stage.

Citat inför Rally Mexico
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
– Jag gillar Rally Mexico. Målet är naturligtvis att upprepa förra säsongens seger. Specialsträckorna, där vissa är mycket långa, är alltid en stor utmaning. Som andra bil ut vet vi att vägförhållandena blir bättre för varje bil som kör. För Jari-Matti Latvala som startar först är det ännu svårare medan de som startar efter oss får bättre förhållanden. Vi måste göra bra ifrån oss första dagen och inte missa chansen till seger i ett tidigt skede. En av våra starka sidor förra året var motorn i Polo R WRC. Vi hade färre problem med tunn luft och effektförluster än konkurrenterna. Men i år startar vi från noll igen.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
– Segern i Sverige var ett speciellt ögonblick för mig och det har förstås gett mig en extra dos självförtroende. Vi har testat i Spanien för att förbereda oss ordentligt för grusrallyt i Mexiko och svårigheterna vi kommer att möta där. Att man slopat kvalificeringen innebär att jag som ledare i mästerskapet måste starta först. Det säger sig självt att det är ett handikapp. Men regler är regler. Det kompenseras mer än väl av glädjen att åka till Mexiko som ledare i världsmästerskapet. Jag kommer att göra mitt bästa oavsett omständigheterna. Om allt går perfekt enligt plan finns chansen att vinna. Vi vill åtminstone sluta på poängplats. Att komma på pallen skulle vara fantastiskt.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
– Sverige var en perfekt helg för mig, vi kämpade om segern i rallyt och andraplatsen var slutligen ett fantastiskt resultat för Mikko och mig. När man en gång stått på pallen vill man naturligtvis göra det igen. Men man får inte förlora verklighetsuppfattningen. Vi ser fram emot Rally Mexico som är ett helt nytt territorium för oss. Det kommer inte att bli lätt eftersom jag aldrig egentligen tävlat där. Jag fick tillfälle att vara med vid rekognosceringen förra året och det gav mig ett första intryck. Mitt mål är att komma bland de fem bästa. Jag är definitivt fysiskt och mentalt i form inför rallyhelgen. Efter Sverige åkte jag hem och umgicks med familj och vänner. Jag åkte också till New York över en helg för att slappna av lite. Men nu är jag beredd att satsa igen.

Ställning, FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – efter 2 av 13 deltävlingar
Förarmästerskapet
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen, 40 poäng
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen, 35
Mads Østberg, Citroën, 30
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen, 24
Bryan Bouffier, Ford, 18
Kris Meeke, Citroën, 17
Mikko Hirvonen, Ford, 13
Ott Tänak, Ford, 10
Elfyn Evans, Ford, 8
Henning Solberg, Ford, 6

Konstruktörsmästerskapet
Volkswagen Motorsport, 72 poäng
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 56
Volkswagen Motorsport II, 26
M-Sport, 22
Hyundai Motorsport, 8
RK M-Sport WRT, 4

Mer information
www.wrc.com
www.volkswagen-motorsport.com
www.rallytheworld.com
14-02-28 Back to gravel: Kubica takes on Rally Mexico
Robert Kubica will take on his third new rally in succession with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to gravel for the 2014 edition of Rally Mexico.

Despite some exposed gravel at the previous outing in Sweden, next week’s adventure will be a completely new challenge as crews swap sub-zero temperatures for those as high as 30°C. The blistering heat places huge demands on man and machine alike, as do the high altitudes witnessed nowhere other than the Mexican fixture.

Stages climb over 2,500 meters above sea level which make precision driving paramount. With the oxygen-starved air reducing power by as much as 30 per cent, even the smallest of mistakes are hard to rectify and a considered recce coupled with all-out commitment on the stages are a must.

Thankfully, commitment is something Robert and co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak are not lacking. Determined to make the most of another new challenge, the RK M-Sport World Rally Team pairing will be looking to make it through all 22 stages unscathed – taking maximum knowledge and experience from the first long-haul event of the year.

The gravel tracks offer more consistent grip levels than those witnessed in the championship to date and will provide the perfect opportunity for the Formula One race winner to get more accustomed with the Fiesta RS WRC.

The Pole also has form on gravel. In his WRC 2 championship winning year, he claimed dominant victories on the loose-surface stages of Greece and Sardinia – as well as the mixed surface speed tests of Spain – and will be hoping to carry that momentum forward as he embarks on a new campaign across the Atlantic.

Having contested a full day’s testing in the mountains of Northern Spain, Robert and Maciej are well prepared for the task ahead. Simulating the power and performance expected at next week’s event, the Polish pairing are determined to achieve their goals in Mexico.

Robert Kubica said:
"From what I know, the stages of Rally Mexico are contested at very high attitudes. This means that there is a significant reduction in power which also influences the driving.

“This year there will be a lot of long, very demanding stages and I think it will be a challenging rally for a newcomer. It will be my first time on gravel with the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC and my first time in Mexico so my aim is to finish the event with some good experience – hopefully without mistakes like those in Sweden.

“The approach is exactly the same as always. I will try to gain as much information as I can, but I also need to discover the rally for myself. Hopefully Maciej [Szczepaniak, co-driver] and I can have a smooth recce and enjoy the stages as we look to learn as much as we can.

“From what I can see, some parts of the route are very similar to the stages in Greece. I don't know how hot it will be inside of Fiesta, as I haven't yet had the opportunity to drive in such conditions, but last year I did not have any issues on the longer stages.

“Of course they are more demanding then the short stages, but I am used to being in a car for long periods of time and the races in Formula One are much longer then the stages we’ll encounter next week. The approach and the grip levels are different, but from a physical point of view I have no concerns about driving a 50 kilometre stage.

“I’m really looking forward to this new challenge and discovering these unknown stages for the first time. It’s a great opportunity to discover how the Fiesta performs on gravel.”

12-02-28 M-Sport seek new heights in Mexico
The M-Sport World Rally Team will be seeking new heights as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) makes a return to gravel at next week’s Rally Mexico. As the Ford Fiesta RS WRCs do battle through the region’s mountainous stages, the squad have their sights firmly set on a strong result.

The Mexican fixture is renowned as one of the most vibrant events of the year, but the joie de vivre of the colourful stages mask a daunting challenge. With the route climbing over 2,500 metres through the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, oxygen-starved air can see performance fall by as much as 30 per cent – putting additional pressure on the crews with little room for error.

Given the reduced power, even the smallest of mistakes can be dramatically unforgiving and the M-Sport crews will need to have their wits about them as they tackle a mix of fast flowing roads interspersed with more technical, twisting sections.

The event also plays host to some of the longest stages of the year. A real test of endurance, crews will encounter a mammoth stage on each full day of competition – two passes of the sweetly named ‘El Chocolate’ (44.03 kilometres) on Friday, 53.69 kilometres of ‘Otates’ on Saturday and the longest test of the rally, ‘Guanajuatito’, at 55.92 kilometres, on Sunday’s final leg.

One driver who knows how to deal with any challenge thrown up by the Mexican event is Mikko Hirvonen. The Finn claimed the runner-up spot on his last three appearances and, together with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, can boast more starts than any other crew in the championship – the pairing having contested the rally on eight previous occasions.

Familiarising himself with the characteristics of the proven Fiesta, Hirvonen continues to grow in both confidence and performance. Following a fourth place finish at the previous outing in Sweden, the Finn will be looking to challenge for the podium as he aims to extract further speed and assurance from the loose-surface speed tests.

By comparison, Elfyn Evans will make his Mexican debut next week as he continues his development behind the wheel of the Fiesta RS WRC. The event marks the Welshman’s third new event in succession, but the youngster is relishing the opportunity to learn from each new experience.

Evans may be lacking in familiarity when it comes to Mexico’s specialist stages, but his co-driver Daniel Barritt is something of an old hand. This will be the Lancashire lad’s fifth outing having most recently navigated Toshihiro Arai to second place in the Production World Rally Championship in 2010. Barritt’s knowledge will prove a huge benefit to Evans as he progresses alongside his experienced team mates.

Having each contested a full day’s testing in Northern Spain to rediscover the art of gravel rallying in the expected conditions, both Hirvonen and Evans are ready to face the upcoming challenges. Fully committed to their respective goals, the pairing will be keen to score some strong points for the M-Sport squad.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] and I have done well here in the past so hopefully we can continue that this year. I wouldn’t say that there was necessarily a key to doing well here. Like all events, you just need to avoid mistakes.

“The altitude makes a big difference in terms of performance. You don’t have as much power so you need to consider that and it does inevitably alter your driving. The crucial thing is to carry the speed through the corners as you can’t gain it back so easily on the straights. But as you’re trying to go flat-out through every bend, you need to be careful as sometimes that can take you by surprise.

“We’ll also see some really long stages which I enjoy. It’s a nice change as we don’t see them so often anymore. It’s a good challenge for a driver as you need to be really focused and keep concentrated, but even if you make a small mistake you have the opportunity to make it back.

“Hopefully we’ll be on the pace in Mexico. We had a good event in Sweden, but we weren’t quite there so let’s try again and see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This event offers another new experience. I’m not sure of exactly what to expect, but I have a good idea from the test.

“It’s important to drive a very smooth line and carry good speed into the corners as the lack of power makes it difficult to recover any time loss. For us, we just plan to drive as smoothly and as cleanly as possible – to gain the experience and gradually improve our pace throughout the weekend.

“I’ll also be tackling some of the longest gravel stages of my career. I’ve certainly never had to contend with so many long stages in a single event, but I am looking forward to the challenge. We’ve done a lot of preparation on the physical side, so hopefully that will prove effective and we can concentrate on looking after the car and setting some good splits.

“We’ll also witness some more consistent grip levels to those we have had to contend with so far this season. Our progress rate will be more constant, and it will be easier to build the pace stage by stage without having to adapt to the changing conditions.”


14-02-25 Jari-Matti Latvala: Världsmästare? Jag jobbar på det!
I Rally Sweden firade Volkswagenföraren Jari-Matti Latvala sin första WRC-seger för säsongen i sin Polo R WRC. För första gången i karriären tog han och hans kartläsare Miikka Anttila, båda från Finland, också ledningen totalt i världsmästerskapet. 28-årige Latvala vill gärna försvara sin ledning över teamkamraten, fransmannen Sébastien Ogier, i Rally Mexico (6-9 mars). I den här intervjun talar han om kampen mellan sig och den nuvarande världsmästaren, om sin nya mentala coach, om sin stora idol Henri Toivonen och om sina stora ambitioner.

Jari-Matti Latvala, grattis till din första seger för säsongen. Hur känns det efter den framgången?
– Segern i Sverige var ett speciellt ögonblick för mig. Det är det enda rallyt i WRC som jag vunnit tre gånger. Det var också i Sverige som jag firade min första seger i WRC år 2008. Men det var också några kritiska ögonblick i Rally Sweden. Till exempel på fredagen när jag förlorade tid på specialen "Hagfors Sprint" och Andreas (Mikkelsen) kom farligt nära. Men på lördagen gick allt enligt plan och vi kunde ta hem segern. Jag var helt i extas efter Rally Sweden!

Vet du vad du har gemensamt med Björn Waldegård, Stig Blomqvist, Tommi Mäkinen, Kenneth Eriksson och Marcus Grönholm?
– Låt mig tänka till. Jag tror att vi alla vunnit Rally Sweden mer än två gånger. Det är verkligen ett respektingivande sällskap.

Är det svårt att behärska en WRC-tävling som den i Sverige? Hur gör du då för att lyckas vinna ett så svårt rally?
– Allt handlar om strategi. 2008 var det liknande förhållanden – en massa lösgrus blandat med snöslask och is. Sådana förhållanden verkar passa mig. Om man jämför ett sådant rally med ett asfaltrally är det en enorm skillnad. Man måste hålla sig lugn i Sverige och köra rena spår. Jag hade problem med det i början i Sverige men allteftersom lyckades jag kontrollera det. Jag vill också understryka att Volkswagen ger alla sina förare samma chans. Var och en av oss har möjlighet att slåss om segern – inga teamorder. Det märks på stämningen, teamet har helt enkelt fungerat perfekt.

Det första grusrallyt för säsongen i Mexiko börjar snart. Hur förbereder sig Volkswagen för det?
– Vi har varit i Spanien två dagar för att förbereda oss för Rally Mexico. Jag körde en av dagarna och Sébastien den andra. Séb anpassar sig otroligt snabbt till nya förhållanden. Fortare än jag. Jag behöver lite uppvärmning inför grusrallyn. Det var samma sak under Rally Great Britain förra säsongen. Om jag inte varit på grus på två månader märker jag det direkt.

Vad förväntar du dig av Rally Mexico?
– Segern har naturligtvis gett mig självförtroende. Men samtidigt som man är i ledningen måste man vara realist. Om man gör ett misstag i Mexiko är chansen till seger liten. 2012 åkte jag till Mexiko direkt efter vinsten i Sverige. Då kändes det bra men sedan tvingades jag tyvärr att bryta. Man måste se till att få så många poäng som möjligt. Det är inte ett av mina bästa rallyn, men naturligtvis är en seger möjlig. Men det är inte min huvudsakliga målsättning. Även en pallplats skulle vara super.

Du är den nya ledaren i WRC. Blir det nu en stor kamp mellan dig och Sébastien Ogier?
– Jag hoppas det. Men en sak är klar: Séb kommer att vara förbaskat sugen på att vinna i Mexiko. Jag vill naturligtvis också bli världsmästare. Det är mitt stora mål. För att klara det behöver man ett komplett paket och jag jobbar på det. Men sedan är det andra förare också som har samma dröm, så därför koncentrerar jag mig just nu bara på ett rally i taget. Séb är verkligen stark. Om någon ska slå honom måste de konsekvent prestera som bäst, på alla underlag.

Vad tänkte du under Rally Sweden när Sébastien Ogier gjorde ett misstag?
– Han är också bara en människa. Visst, om man ser tillbaka på förra säsongen får man intrycket att Séb aldrig gör misstag. Jag är övertygad om att alla förare någon gång gör ett misstag under ett rally. Som sagt, vi är bara människor.

Med bra resultat ökar du trycket på din teamkamrat...
– Som förare är det naturligt att följa teamkamratens prestationer. När Séb var så snabb förra året ökade trycket på mig. Trots det tänker jag att vi är professionella och vet hur man hanterar trycket.

Fruktar du Sébastien Ogier?
– Han är en mycket stark förare, också mentalt. Han känner sig hemma på alla slags underlag. Han är utan tvekan svår att slå, men trots det ska man aldrig vara rädd. Om man är rädd lyckas man inte med någonting. Man kan ha respekt för andra förare men aldrig frukta dem. Som jag sade, om man ska vinna världsmästerskapet måste man konsekvent göra bra ifrån sig.

Den här säsongen jobbar du med en mental coach. Vad har förändrats tack vare det?
– Jag lyssnar mer på mina känslor. Förr ville jag vinna vissa rallyn till varje pris. Då blev ofta allt fel och jag ville för mycket. I sådana ögonblick var mitt självförtroende noll. Min mentala coach har lärt mig att man måste lyssna till sina känslor. Om allt inte är idealiskt är det bättre att växla ned. En annan sak är att jag kommunicerar mycket mer med Miikka, min kartläsare. Nu har vi en strategi, en plan. Vårt samarbete kunde inte vara bättre. Han griper in när jag ibland vill för mycket. Så var det inte i början av vår karriär tillsammans. (skratt)

Var det din idé att arbeta med en mental coach?
– Det var teamets idé. Teamet kom till mig och sade att jag kunde bli bättre på det här området. Christopher blev min mentala coach under Rally Great Britain och sedan dess har jag litat på honom till hundra procent. Han har lärt att ha rätt fokus och när jag tappar fokus hur jag ska få tillbaka det. Jag var ibland också för tänd inför ett rally. Han har lärt mig att närma mig rallyt på ett mer avslappnat sätt. Jag vill inte gå in för mycket i detaljer, men jag har för det mesta lyckats med det genom avslappnings- och koncentrationsövningar.

Volkswagen har dominerat de senaste tävlingarna. Tror du att de kan fortsätta att dominera på grus?
– Det är fyra tillverkare i WRC. När jag ser på Hyundai får man säga att de gjort stora framsteg redan men det fattas lite för att nå toppen. Volkswagen kunde samla mycket mer erfarenhet före sin debut. Men jag är säker på att ett eller annat team kommer att lysa den här säsongen.

Din landsman Marcus Grönholm var WRC-mästare 2002. Är det inte dags för ännu en finsk världsmästare?
– Det sätter en del tryck på mig att det gått tolv år sedan en finsk förare var världsmästare. En finne har varit världsmästare till och från under de senaste 20 åren. I Finland har folk redan börjat hoppas på mig även om rally har tappat lite i popularitet. Om jag lyckades vinna titeln skulle sporten absolut vinna i popularitet i Finland.

Du är ett stort fan till Henri Toivonen. Skulle du vilja bli världsmästare till hans ära?
– Det finns några paralleller mellan Henris karriär och min. Han vann sitt första rally när han var ung och sedan fick han mer och mer erfarenhet. 1986, året när han dog, vann han Rally Monte Carlo och ledde länge i Rally Sweden. Han hade fått en superstart på säsongen. Även om han är min idol är det inte så att jag vill bli världsmästare till hans ära. I mina ögon var han den modigaste föraren för sin tid. Ingen kunde köra en Grupp B-bil som han. Ibland ville han bara för mycket.

Ställning, FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – efter 2 av 13 deltävlingar
Förarmästerskapet
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen, 40 poäng
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen, 35
Mads Østberg, Citroën, 30
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen, 24
Bryan Bouffier, Ford, 18
Kris Meeke, Citroën, 17
Mikko Hirvonen, Ford, 13
Ott Tänak, Ford, 10
Elfyn Evans, Ford, 8
Henning Solberg, Ford, 6

Konstruktörsmästerskapet
Volkswagen Motorsport, 72 poäng
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 56
Volkswagen Motorsport II, 26
M-Sport, 22
Hyundai Motorsport, 8
RK M-Sport WRT, 4

Nästa deltävling
Rally Mexico, 6-9 mars

Mer information
www.wrc.com
www.volkswagen-motorsport.com
www.rallytheworld.com
14-02-14 A New era for the FIA Junior WRC
After announcing at the start of the year that Citroën Racing was to become the exclusive supplier of rally cars for its Junior WRC championship, the FIA has just published the rally calendar and sporting regulations for the competition.
The FIA Junior WRC will be contested over six rounds, with the opening round of the season held at Rally de Portugal (3-6 April).
Driving Citroën DS3 R3s, the competitors will fight it out to try and add their name to the list of winners inaugurated by Sébastien Loeb, who won the title in 2001 in a Citroën Saxo Super 1600. The FIA Junior WRC champion will win a WRC2 programme for 2015 in a Citroën DS3 R5.

Since it was first introduced in 2001, the FIA Junior WRC has been seen as an essential stepping stone for young drivers looking to reach the top level of world rallying. The history of this category is closely linked with that of Citroën Racing, as no fewer than five drivers have won the title in the Brand’s customer racing products: Sébastien Loeb (2001), Dani Solà (2002), Dani Sordo (2005), Sébastien Ogier (2008) and Martin Prokop (2009).

After switching to a one-make format in 2011, the FIA Junior WRC is now about to enter a new era with Citroën Racing. One of the leading models in the “two-wheel drive” class, both in terms of performance and reliability, the Citroën DS3 R3 has been chosen to be used by all of the crews taking part in the championship.

In order to ensure the crews enjoy complete sporting fairness, a high quality of service and controlled costs, Citroën Racing has selected several teams that meet its specifications to take part in the championship. These operators will provide the drivers with a “turnkey” programme for a fixed price, including provision of the car, team personnel, spare parts, entry fees and administration, racing insurance, accommodation, etc. All the competitors will use identical Michelin tyres and FIA fuel, which are also included in the service provided by the teams.

From a sporting perspective, the FIA Junior WRC is open to drivers under 28 years old. The calendar is made up of six rallies (Portugal, Poland, Finland, Germany, France and Wales GB), at which crews will complete all of the stages. Points are awarded using the standard FIA scale, and all results count towards the final overall standings. Drivers are also entered in the WRC3 and may therefore also attempt to win this title.

Keen to make it easier for the most promising young drivers to graduate to top-level racing, Citroën Racing and its partners Total and Michelin will reward the champion with a six-round WRC2 programme in 2015 at the wheel of a Citroën DS3 R5. The future champion will therefore follow in the footsteps of Sébastien Chardonnet, winner of the 2013 Citroën Top Driver series, who is enjoying similar support this season.

In addition to the Drivers’ title and the Nations Trophy awarded by the FIA, Citroën Racing will be organising a Teams’ championship. To take part, each team must enter two cars; the points scored by both cars will count towards this competition. Citroën Racing will offer the winning Team the opportunity to run the DS3 R5 awarded to the FIA Junior WRC champion.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager at Citroën Racing: “We are delighted to have been chosen to supply cars to the FIA Junior WRC drivers. The Citroën DS3 R3 is an ideal car for promising young rally drivers. As we showed last year in the Citroën Top Driver series, its performance levels enable drivers to contest the WRC3 title. By taking part in all of the events, the drivers will acquire more experience whilst also enjoying a much higher media profile. In order to ensure there is genuine sporting fairness between the competitors, we selected teams that were capable of meeting the quality requirements of Citroën Racing. Regardless of the team they opt for, the drivers are guaranteed to be able to compete on equal terms.”

Jarmo Mahonen, FIA Rally Director: “It is our intention to establish this pyramid so that drivers wishing to pursue a professional career in our sport have a clear path, learning on all levels as they progress. Now, drivers can compete for a prestigious junior title in the European Championship in a smaller capacity car, at a very reasonable cost, before graduating to the slightly more powerful Citroën DS3 R3T in the Junior WRC. Here, in front of influential manufacturers, they have the chance to make their mark and with a drive in an R5 car for the winner, this really completes the logical path to the full WRC.”

2014 FIA JUNIOR WRC CALENDAR
3-6 April: Rally de Portugal
26-29 June: Rally Poland
31 July – 3 August: Rally Finland
21-24 August: Rallye Deutschland
2-5 October: Rallye de France-Alsace
13-16 November: Wales Rally GB

14-01-19 Drömstart i Monte Carlo för Sébastien Ogier och Volkswagen
Volkswagen började den nya säsongen i rally-VM, World Rally Championship (WRC), med ett drömresultat. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia kunde säkra segern i den första tävlingen på 2014 års säsong efter en fantastisk körning.

Succén i Monte Carlo är deras 17:e seger i WRC och deras tionde med Volkswagen. Segern var deras andra i rallyklassikern. De vann i Monte Carlo 2009 då tävlingen inte ingick i världsmästerskapet.

Bryan Bouffier i Ford, som vann i "Monte" 2011, blev tvåa och Kris Meeke i Citroën kom på tredje plats. Monte Carlo-rallyt, känt som oförutsägbart, bjöd de tävlande på extremt svåra väder- och vägförhållanden med regn i dalgångarna och snö högre upp. Som så ofta tidigare blev däcksvalet avgörande.

Volkswagen fick in alla tre Polo R WRC-bilarna på poängplats. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miiki Anttila, båda från Finland och Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula, från Norge respektive Finland tog viktiga poäng med femte respektive sjunde plats.

Typiskt "Monte"-väder med däckskaos
Starten i Monte Carlo-rallyt överrumplade alla med ett plötsligt vinterväder i de franska Alpes Maritimes och kraftiga regn i dalgångarna. Volkswagen hade med väderleksrapportena som grund, valt däck i princip utan mönster, slicks, för de tre inledande specialsträckorna. När snön oväntat började falla blev körningen en verklig utmaning. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia och deras team-kamrater förlorade massor av tid under de förhållandena. Världsmästarna befann sig plötsligt på nionde plats.

Men de visade sin klass från femte specialsträckan och framåt då de genomgående slutade bland de tre främsta och slutligen vann sju specialsträckor. Halvvägs genom rallyt hade de ledningen som de sedan aldrig släppte ifrån sig.

Väderförhållandena var så extrema att Monte Carlo-rallyts 14:e specialsträcka fick strykas. Det föll så mycket snö över beryktade Col de Turini mellan första och andra varvet att den andra körningen slopades sedan några rallybilar fastnat i snön.

Jari-Matti Latvala - the comeback kid
Sébastien Ogiers team-kamrater Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila gladde sina fans genom en uppseendeväckande come-back. På fredagen kämpade sig "JML" tillbaka från en 18:e plats till sjundeplatsen. På lördagen tog han ännu en placering, innan en punktering gjorde att han föll tillbaka genom fältet.

Latvala/Anttila var bland de tre bästa på åtta av Monte Carlo-rallyts specialsträckor och klockades vid tre tillfällen för den snabbaste tiden.

Nybörjaren Mikkelsen tog poäng
Andreas Mikkelsen hade gjort läxan ordentligt och tog sex VM-poäng i sin första körning i en World Rally Car. Tillsammans med kartläsaren Mikko Markkula körde han klokt och försiktigt på de 14 specialsträckorna. Men inte ens det räckte. På tionde specialsträckan, på slicks, gled han av den snötäckta vägen i en långsam kurva mellan Sisteron och Thoard. Trots att han förlorade mycket tid kunde han, tack vare hjälpsamma fans, fortsätta och den avslutande dagen gjorde han en rad topptider.

Bonuspoäng till VW-förare
På rallyts avslutande sträcka, Power Stage, fick Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila tre bonuspoäng och två poäng gick till Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia när Volkswagen-förarna blev etta och tvåa på sträckan. Sammanlagt fördelas sex poäng till de tre första bilarna på Power Stage, tre till ettan, två till tvåan och en till trean.

Seger i årets första rally och bonuspoäng på Power Stage-sträckan innebär att regerande världsmästaren Sébastien Ogier är i ledningen efter säsongsstarten 2014. Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia tog med sig 27 poäng från Monte Carlo och Jari-Matti Latvala och Miikka Anttila håller fjärdeplatsen med 13 poäng tack vare segern på Power Stage-sträckan. Volkswagen tar också en tidig ledning i konstruktörsmästerskapet, 37 poäng före Citroën med 33 poäng.
-Vilken perfekt start på säsongen, sade Sébastien Ogier efter segern.
-Teamet gjorde ett fantastiskt jobb. Jag är överlycklig. Det är en fantastisk känsla att vinna Monte Carlo-rallyt under så svåra förhållanden - särskilt nu när "Monte" ingår i världsmästerskapet igen. Av det skälet rankar Julien och jag den här segern högre än vinsten 2009. Och ännu mer när man tänker på de tre sista dagarna, att vi kom tillbaka efter häftiga regn och sedan snökaos i Col de Turini.
- Jag är mycket stolt över hela teamet idag, säger Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. Förarna, kartläsarna, ingenjörerna och mekanikerna gjorde alla ett fantastiskt jobb. Sébastien Ogiers körning var värdig en mästare och även Jari-Matti Latvala och Andreas Mikkelsen var magnifika. Tillsammans med sina tekniker och med information från isspioner och metereologer gjorde de alltid intelligenta däcksval - även om det inte alltid blev prefekt. Men det är typiskt för "Monte" som alltid är oförutsägbart. Att ha alla tre Polo R WRC-bilarna på poängplats och att vinna Monte Carlo-rallyt för första gången som ett team är en enastående framgång.

Monte Carlo-rallyt – slutresultat
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3h 55m 14.4s
2. Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (F/F), Ford + 1m 18.9s
3. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 1m 54.3s
4. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 3m 53.9s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), VW + 6m 08.3s
6. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 8m 37.4s
7. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), VW + 11m 42.3s
8. Jaroslav Melichárek/Erik Melichárek (SK/SK), Ford + 21m 56.2s
9. Matteo Gamba/Nicola Arena (I/I), Peugeot + 23m 50.7s
10. Yuriy Protasov/Pavlo Cherepin (UA/UA), Ford + 25m 43.1s

Ställningen världsmästerskapet, poäng
1. Sébastien Ogier 27
2. Bryan Bouffier 18
3. Kris Meeke 16
4. Jari-Matti Latvala 13
5. Mads Østberg 12
6. Elfyn Evans 8
7. Andreas Mikkelsen 6
8. Jaroslav Melichárek 4
9. Matteo Gamba 2
10. Yuriy Protasov 1
14-01-19 Mixed emotions for M-Sport in Monte
There were mixed emotions for M-Sport as Rallye Monte-Carlo came to a close today. Bryan Bouffier secured a sensational second place behind the wheel of an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC and Elfyn Evans got his FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) campaign off to a flying start with sixth place on his Monte debut. Elsewhere however, there was disappointment for Mikko Hirvonen as his Ford Fiesta RS WRC developed an electrical issue on the final stage – relegating the Finn from the overall results.

This year’s event has seen some challenging conditions, and as the crews ventured south to Monaco, the final day was to be no different. As one of the WRC’s most legendary stages, ‘Col de Turini’ is one which rarely fails to excite, and this year’s offering certainly achieved that.

With full snow over ‘the Col’ for ‘La Bollene Vesubie – Moulinet’ and streams of running water for the high-speed ‘Sospel – Breil sur Roya’, the final loop of stages were amongst the event’s most daunting. But that was not to faze Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt as the British duo equalled their best performance on what was their maiden outing at the season’s traditional opener.

Taking to the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Welshman was one of the event’s most impressive contenders. Keeping his head where the more experienced faltered, Evans showed the determination which will see him go far in years to come. Gaining a wealth of invaluable experience through the treacherous speed tests, the 25-year-old also demonstrated flashes of brilliance – with a fourth fastest time on SS11 and being just 0.5 seconds shy of a WRC stage win on SS3.

Unfortunately, there was less good fortune for the sister M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC of Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. In what had been a difficult transition back to their former team, the Finns had to adapt in less than ideal circumstances. Upping the pace as the event ensued, the Finn was on course for a strong sixth place before an untimely electrical issue put pains to his efforts on the final stage.

He and the team made every effort to get the Fiesta back to service. Determined to the last, Hirvonen even removed the windscreen to improve visibility in the lashing rain having lost power to the wipers. Regrettably, it was not to be. As his hard work went unrewarded, Hirvonen had to accept some good mileage in difficult conditions as his only consolation.

The Finn now focusses his attention on a successful Rally Sweden – an event on which he has previous good form having claimed victory with the team in 2011.

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“I’m absolutely delighted to have made it to the finish in such a strong position. Obviously it is very disappointing for Mikko [Hirvonen], he and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] helped us a lot this weekend and sixth place should have gone to them.

“We managed to keep our noses clean all event – no moments, no dramas, no big slides. To drive round a tricky event like this, like we did, it is a big achievement for us and it fulfils everything we wanted from the weekend.

“There are a lot of people who made it all possible – the ice note crew being one, the team being another. It was a big step to come into a squad like this, and with a top car for my first outing on the Monte, so a big thanks to Malcolm [Wilson] and the team for the opportunity.”

Mikko Hirvonen (DNF) said:
“It’s been a frustrating weekend. We struggled to get back to grips with the Fiesta [RS WRC] in the early stages, but the pace was coming so it is a real shame that it had to end the way that it did. Now, I just need to focus on the next event. Sweden is a rally that I enjoy, so hopefully we’ll be able turn it around and really show our potential.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a fantastic start to Elfyn’s [Evans] WRC campaign and he richly deserved this sixth place finish. He has coped well in one of the most difficult Montes for number of years and it sends out a strong message that he has a great career ahead of him.

“Obviously it was a huge disappointment to lose Mikko [Hirvonen] with an electrical problem on the final stage. He and the team tried hard to get the car back home, but unfortunately it was not to be.

“On the positive side, he managed to get a lot of mileage in what were far from easy circumstances. Hopefully he will be to put this weekend behind him and prove his true pace at Rally Sweden next month.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri secured a well-deserved second place behind the wheel of an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC today. Constantly challenging the front-runners throughout the event, Bouffier set a string of competitive times – including two stage wins – and proved the performance of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta.

Bryan Bouffier (2nd) said:
“I have to say that before the start of the rally, it was my dream to finish on the podium. To have actually achieved it is a fantastic feeling and truly surpassed my expectations.

“It was a pleasure to battle for the lead. On some stages were really pushed and it was great to see that our pace was strong enough to challenge.

“This is my first WRC podium on my first time with the Fiesta [RS WRC]. I need to thank my co-driver and my entire team because without them, this result would not have been possible.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been an absolutely superb drive from Bryan [Bouffier] from start to finish. To finish in second place at Monte – on his first time with the Fiesta [RS WRC] – shows that he has real potential and I hope that we can find a way to get him back behind the wheel as the season continues.”

WRC2
There was a clean-sweep of the podium for the Ford Fiesta R5 in the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series today as Yurri Protasov, Lorenzo Bertelli and Robert Barrable piloted their M-Sport machinery to the WRC2 podium.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“A fantastic weekend for M-Sport, with second in the rally overall, was topped off with a one-, two-, three- for the Fiesta R5 in WRC2. It’s been a great week of results and more proof that the [Fiesta] R5 is a top performer.

“A big congratulations to Yurii [Protasov] on his first WRC2 victory and for securing his first overall top-ten result. Congratulations must also go to Lorenzo [Bertelli] and Robert [Barrable]. All three of them put in a fantastic performance and the result is very satisfying indeed.
14-01-19 Firsta WRC podium finish for Kris Meeke
After a Rallye Monte-Carlo contested in extreme conditions, the two DS3 WRCs of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team finished third and fourth overall. For the first time in their career, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle secured a podium finish at a World Rally Championship event. Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson finished in fourth position on their first rally in a Citroën DS3 WRC, which should give them plenty of confidence heading into the next round, held in Sweden and Norway on 5-8 February.

Only four stages remained on today’s leg before the competitors reached the end of this 82nd running of the Rallye Monte-Carlo. But they weren’t just any old stages: two successive runs, at day and then at night, on La Bollène Vésubie – Moulinet, via the Col de Turini, and Sospel – Breil sur Roya!

With a huge amount of water on the roads and plenty of snow at the top of the Col de Turini, the first run provided the drivers with a genuine test of guts and bravery. Third and fourth respectively, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg consolidated their positions.

After dark and with the snowfall getting heavier, the organisers decided to cancel the second run on the Col de Turini. The Power Stage, held in heavy rain and fairly dense fog, enabled Kris Meeke to pick up an extra point. Kris finished third overall in the final standings to become the first British driver since 2003 to finish on the podium at the Rallye Monte-Carlo… Colin McRae and Derek Ringer had finished second back then, also in a Citroën! Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson made a successful debut in their Citroën DS3 WRC, ending the rally in fourth position.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “I’ve never witnessed conditions like these at a rally. It was incredibly difficult, but we achieved our goal. I had a very good feeling in the Citroën DS3 WRC. Monte-Carlo is always a tough rally. It’s not really a tarmac rally and it’s a snow rally either. It’s got a bit of everything! I’m very pleased for those who put their faith in me. It’s really nice to be able to pay back the team for their support with this result.”

Mads Østberg: “This fourth position feels like a small victory! I must thank the fantastic team that helped us achieve this result. We made some minor mistakes but the conditions were especially difficult. I know we could have been quicker on some of the stages, but we had to make sure of our position so we didn’t take any unnecessary risks. Bring on the snow at Rally Sweden!”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “We asked our crews not to take any risks when the conditions were difficult… and we pretty much only had difficult conditions! They raced sensibly and followed the instructions we gave them, pushing when they felt confident. This performance is a great way to start the season, and highly motivating for the entire team. We all know about Kris’s speed. This weekend, he showed his maturity and his ability to manage a result. It’s an important stage in building the foundations of the rest of the season. Mads is not really a tarmac driver. However, he felt confident in the Citroën DS3 WRC straightaway. During the shakedown, he said that he had really enjoyed driving on this surface for the first time. He then went on to set some very good times.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS12 – La Bollène Vésubie – Moulinet 1 (23.40km) – First run on the Col du Turini with four studded tyres for everyone. Sébastien Ogier claimed the stage win. Kris Meeke was fourth fastest and Mads Østberg finished sixth.

SS13 – Sospel – Breil sur Roya 1 (16.55km) – Kris Meeke almost won his first stage of the season, but Sébastien Ogier proved to be quicker. In the rain, Mads Østberg held his position with another sixth fastest time.

SS14 – La Bollène Vésubie – Moulinet 2 (23,40 km) – First on the road, Jaroslav Melicharek went off on a snow-covered section and blocked the road for the other competitors. In the time it took to get him away again, the organisers decided to cancel this stage.

SS15 – Sospel – Breil sur Roya 2 (16.55km) – Mikko Hirvonen retired on the Power Stage. Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time to pick up the three bonus points. Second on the final stage, Sébastien Ogier won the rally ahead of Bryan Bouffier. Kris Meeke collected the final Power Stage bonus point and secured his first-ever podium finish in the WRC. Mads Østberg finished this final stage in sixth position.

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:55:14.4
2. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:18.9
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:54.3
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:53.9
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6:08.3
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:37.4
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +11:42.3
8. Jaroslav Melicharek / Erik Melicharek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +21:56.2
9. Matteo Gamba / Nicola Arena (Peugeot 207 Super 2000) +23:50.7
10. Yuriy Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta R5) +25:43.1

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 7 – Jari-Matti Latvala, 3 – Robert Kubica and Bryan Bouffier, 2. 1 SS cancelled.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2: Robert Kubica
SS3 to SS8: Bryan Bouffier
SS9 to SS15 (finish): Sébastien Ogier

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Sébastien Ogier 27 points
2. Bryan Bouffier 18 points
3. Kris Meeke 16 points
4. Jari-Matti Latvala 13 points
5. Mads Østberg 12 points
6. Elfyn Evans 8 points
7. Andreas Mikkelsen 6 points
8. Jaroslav Melicharek 4 points
9. Matteo Gamba 2 points
10. Yuriy Protasov 1 point

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 37 points
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 33 points
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 10 points
4. Volkswagen Motorsport II 8 points
14-01-18 Rallye Monte-Carlo, Midday quotes, day 3
Mikko Hirvonen (6th) said:
“It’s tricky out there. There was a lot of loose snow and slush going up Turini. Then once we passed the Col [on SS12] there was a lot of standing water. It was the same for the next stage – with so much running water the car was aquaplaning even on snow tyres. OK, it’s not quite as bad as last year, but it’s still difficult. It’s so fast, and if you move off the line even slightly, it’s not nice. I’m not sure of the others, but I’m certainly not a massive fan of these conditions!”

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“It’s been difficult and I was definitely too cautious. Perhaps not on the snow because everyone else had slowed down, but certainly up until then I could have pushed a lot harder. Let’s wait and see what happens this afternoon. We’ve still got the goal of finishing the rally very much in mind and we don’t want to make a mistake at this late stage. There’s still two hard stages to go and I think we need to keep that attitude for the remainder of the rally.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT CREWS
Bryan Bouffier (2nd) said:
“If we manage to finish like this I think it would be perfect. The Turini was really great for spectators. OK, it’s maybe not as easy for us to find a good feeling in conditions like that, but I think those watching had a really good feeling!
“We made a small mistake on the last stage – I was surprised by the amount of water going into one corner, slid wide and hit something – but it wasn’t a big drama. Now, we just need to stay focussed and concentrated for the final loop. It might not seem like many kilometres, but on these fast stages with challenging conditions there is still a long way to go.”
14-01-18 Kubica proves pace, but Monte bites back
Encompassing some of the world’s most challenging and unpredictable conditions, Rallye Monte-Carlo is renowned as one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) most difficult events. Unfortunately the RK M-Sport World Rally Team pairing of Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak will take no further part having fallen foul of the rally’s unforgiving nature through the second pass of ‘Vitrolles – Faye’ (SS9)

The Polish driver had a sensational start to his ‘Monte’ debut with the Cumbrian outfit. Surpassing all expectations, the Formula One race winner claimed an early lead – fastest times on the opening two speed tests amassing a 36.8 second advantage over reigning champion Sebastien Ogier. Despite losing time with an unfavourable tyre choice for the snow-covered descent at the end of SS3, he regrouped brilliantly – holding third place come the end of Day 1.

Gaining a wealth of experience, the Pole continued to impress throughout today’s opening stages. Matching the times of the front runners, Kubica consolidated his position and had become a firm favourite for the podium.

But as the ‘Monte’ bit back, it was not to be. Caught out under braking on what was a rain-soaked first stage after service (SS9), the Pole collided with a bridge 32 kilometres from the start line. With his Ford Fiesta RS WRC stricken down a steep embankment, there was no hope of rejoining the stage and his maiden outing with the M-Sport team came to an untimely end.

With no Rally 2 regulations, Kubica will not restart as the rally ventures south to Monte-Carlo this evening. That said, the popular Pole has gained a wealth of experience and clearly demonstrated that both he and the Fiesta have the pace to challenge at the top of the field.

Robert Kubica (DNF) said:
“There was a sudden change of grip. We knew to be cautious because we had it marked in our pacenotes from the ice note crew, but unfortunately I misjudged how big the change would be. Just before [the incident] the grip was really good, but there was also a lot of mud on the stage. We went into the corner, the front went straight, we hit a bridge and unfortunately that was the end of our rally.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I can understand how Robert [Kubica] feels tonight. Having spoken with him, he is hugely disappointed and feels as though he has let the team down, but that is certainly not the case. We are absolutely delighted with his performance and the entire team is now 100 per cent behind him.”
14-01-18 M-Sport makes it to Monaco
Rallye Monte-Carlo never fails to offer a challenge, and as the M-Sport World Rally Team made their way from the Alpine town of Gap to the glamorous principality of Monte-Carlo, it would seem that today would be no different. Keeping their Ford Fiesta RS WRC’s well out of trouble, Elfyn Evans and Mikko Hirvonen made it to Monaco with all to play for in sixth and seventh places respectively.

Consistency was the name of the game for Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt. Taking a sensible approach given their unfamiliarity of the stages, the British duo had their wits about them. Regularly posting top-ten times to rival some of their more experienced adversaries, the pairing were amongst the day’s most reliable contenders.

Where others faltered in the treacherous conditions, Evans kept his head: knowing that experience of Monte’s specialist stages could make all the difference in years to come. With his Fiesta firmly planted to the black-top stages, the youngster did exactly what was asked of him, and more by setting an impressive fourth fastest time through the final stage of the day – ‘Clumanc -Lambruisse’ (SS11).

For Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, their transition back to the proven Fiesta was far from easy. Having no previous experience of M-Sport’s up-dated challenger in such difficult conditions, the Finns aired on the side of caution.

Compromised tyre choices often meant that he had a less than favourable set-up for the rain-soaked stages, but the Finn is well aware that the phrase ‘to finish highly, first you have to finish’ is perhaps best suited to the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) traditional opener.

Hirvonen has a wealth of Monte experience under his belt, and as he gets back to grips with his former machinery, will be keen to avoid the pitfalls and gain positions over tomorrow’s legendary ‘Col du Turini.’

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“The last stage [SS11] was good, but overall the day has just been about conserving what we have and making sure we get the car to the end. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and the knowledge we’ve gained so far is pretty invaluable. I don’t think you could experience conditions like this anywhere else, and now we just need to ensure that we make the most of it.”

Mikko Hirvonen (7th) said:
“It’s been tricky. There are so many things about the car and about the set-up that you need to know for Tarmac. Now that I get more mileage, I am started to understand what I need to change to make it more comfortable for me to drive.

“It’s not easy and, driving with a compromised tyre choice all the time, it’s tough. We have to be happy that we are here. I think everyone knows that Monte is never over until it’s over and there are still some very difficult stages to come tomorrow. We just need to wait and see what happens.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We know from the top of the field that the [Ford] Fiesta [RS WRC] is a competitive package, but both Elfyn [Evans] and Mikko [Hirvonen] have rightly decided to take a cautious approach. It’s important for them both to get the mileage and make it to the end of the event with some points on the board.”

ADDITONAL M-SPORT CREWS
A spin through the second pass of ‘Vitrolles – Faye’ (SS9) may have cost Bryan Bouffier the lead of the rally, but the Frenchman is still on course for a fantastic result. Currently holding second place behind the wheel of their M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC, he and co-driver Xavier Panseri were never far from the top of the time sheets. With all to play for, Bouffier goes into tomorrow’s final leg with less than a minute separating him from the top step of the podium.

Bryan Bouffier (2nd) said:
“I am really pleased with the way our rally has gone. Considering the conditions and the spin that we had [on SS9] we have to be happy to still be here in such a strong position.

“Looking at where we are now, I think it would be interesting to see some snow tomorrow. The [Day 3] stages are very narrow and when you complicate them with an added challenge like that, anything can happen. We have already seen how positions can change. But overall, our target will be to maintain this position – not to do anything stupid, and to get to the end of the rally with a good result.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Bryan [Bouffier] has had another great day. I think it’s fair to say that we were maybe a little ambitious with the tyre choice this afternoon as the conditions were a lot worse than we had expected, but there were a lot of moments for a lot of drivers out there.

“Sadly, Bryan’s cost him the lead, but he remains in a really strong position. Looking at his times from today, we know what he is capable of. But perhaps more importantly, we all know that anything can happen on ‘Col de Turini.’ It’s certainly all to play for.”
14-01-17 Both Citroën crew rech Monaco among the leads
There may have been precious little snow, but there was certainly plenty of water for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews on day two of Rallye Monte-Carlo, between Gap and Monaco.

Third overall this evening, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle are well-placed to claim their first-ever podium finish in the World Rally Championship.

Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson grabbed fourth position in the overall standings ahead of tomorrow’s two runs on the Col de Turini.

The headaches caused by the weather during this year’s Monte-Carlo continued today. What with intermittent showers, standing water, mud and the threat of snow, tyre choice was invariably far from straightforward. However, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team went for the right option on each occasion. In such conditions, the proposed route from Gap to Monaco, with a remote service in Digne-les-Bains, gave the competitors precious little time to relax.

With the tarmac roads especially slippery on all the stages, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg had to negotiate some very tricky conditions throughout the day, conditions which ended the challenge of several of their rivals. In the second half of the day, by which time the gaps were clearly established, the two Citroën DS3 WRC crews were able to start to manage their respective positions.

There are four stages left to contest tomorrow, including two runs over the Col du Turini, before the race finishes late on Saturday evening in Monaco…

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “If I had to choose between the snow and the changes in grip that we had to manage today, I think I’d have to say I prefer the snow! There was absolutely no grip on the worn tarmac roads. When the conditions are like that, it’s so easy to make a mistake. I preferred to control my pace in some sections. This rally is still very tough. We are progressing in line with the plan we drew up before the start. We need to concentrate on the job in hand – we now have a position to defend.”

Mads Østberg: “Perhaps I was too cautious this morning when the roads were very slippery. But I avoided making any mistakes. I feel that we improved a lot between the first and second runs. On Sisteron – Thoard, I really wanted to push. I had to force myself to stay calm. In any case, it’s Kris that is just in front of me and there’s no point in me trying to chase him down. Third and fourth would be a good overall result for the entire team.“

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Tyre choice wasn’t easy all day, but we managed to go for the right option on each occasion. The water, mud and smooth tarmac made the stages very tricky. For Kris and Mads, neither of whom has a huge amount of experience at this rally in the WRC, they were especially tough conditions. Their performances are therefore all the more pleasing. Mads has shown a great deal of maturity, because tarmac is not really his favourite surface. And Kris has followed the plan to the letter: he hasn‘t taken too many risks but has set a good pace. They need to continue to build up experience in the Citroën DS3 WRC. Once they feel at ease, they will be able to express themselves fully and show off their talent. Kris is only 47 seconds adrift of second place and a lot can still happen on the Col du Turini!”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS7 – Vitrolles – Faye 1 (49.03km) – Sébastien Ogier won the stage to move into second position overall, behind Bryan Bouffier. Kris Meeke defended his third position by going faster than Robert Kubica. Mads Østberg set the eighth fastest time.

SS8 – Selonnet – Breziers (22.68km) – Like Ogier, Mads Østberg was forced to run into a muddy field after the end of the stage to avoid the other crews at the stop control. Fortunately, there was no damage caused to his Citroën DS3 WRC. Bryan Bouffier went fastest, ahead of Ogier, Kubica and Meeke.

SS9 – Vitrolles – Faye 2 (49.03km) – A minor off for Bryan Bouffier, who relinquished first place to Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke remained third as Robert Kubica was forced to retire after going off the road. With the second fastest time on the rally’s longest stage, Mads Østberg grabbed fourth place in the overall standings.

SS10 – Sisteron – Thoard (36.85km) – Sébastien Ogier extended his lead at the front. Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg held their respective positions before heading for Digne-les-Bains.

SS11 – Clumanc – Lambruisse (20.77km) – The day’s final stage was contested in the dark. Jari-Matti Latvala won the stage. Kris Meeke consolidated his position with the third fastest time. Mads Østberg drove cautiously to claim the seventh fastest time, but ended the day over three minutes ahead of his nearest rival.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:14:51.3
2. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +51.1
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:38.6
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:48.9
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6:04.4
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:14.5
7. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:43.7
8. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +10:16.9
9. Jaroslav Melicharek / Erik Melicharek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +16:00.8
10. Matteo Gamba / Nicola Arena (Peugeot 207 Super 2000) +20:01.4

FASTEST TIMES
Sébastien Ogier, 5 – Robert Kubica, Bryan Bouffier and Jari-Matti Latvala, 2.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2: Robert Kubica
SS3 to SS8: Bryan Bouffier
SS9 to SS11: Sébastien Ogier
14-01-17 Mads Østberg - Rally Monte Carlo – dag 2
Etter totalt 11 kjørte fartsetapper av Rally Monte Carlo, ligger nå Mads og Jonas på en fjerde plass totalt. 5 prøver er kjørt i dag, inkludert to gjennomkjøringer av løpets lengste prøve på hele 49km.
- Det har vært en bra dag, vi har utviklet oss bra, forteller Mads. - Hadde noen fine tider på tredje og fjerde etappen i dag og tok det kanskje litt for mye med ro på siste. Det har blitt litt sånn i dag at når jeg skal ta det med ro og være litt forsiktig så taper jeg veldig mye tid. Jeg tror også bilen krever at du pusher litt, ellers blir den vanskeligere å kjøre. I morgen blir fokus å jobbe sånn som vi har gjort i dag, for å lære bilen mer, og å sikre at vi kommer til mål.

Det er nå Sebastien Ogier som leder rallyet, mens Bryan Bouffier ligger på andre. Kris Meeke har tredje plassen. Robert Kubica måtte bryte etter en avkjøring i dag.

Rally Monte Carlo avsluttes i morgen kveld med 4 fartsetapper.
Resultat totalt etter SS11:
1 Ogier, VW
2 Bouffier, Ford +51,1
3 Meeke, Citroën +1.38,6
4 Mads, Citroën +2.48,9
5 Latvala, VW +6.04,4
6. Evans, Ford +6.14,5
7. Hirvonen, Ford +6.43,7

Tidsplan - lørdag 18 januar
Service (45mins) Monaco
14:48 SS12 La Bollene Vesubie – Moulinet 1 23,40km
15:41 SS13 Sospel – Breil Sur Roya 1 16,55km
Service Monaco
20:12 SS14 La Bollene Vesubie – Moulinet 2 23,40km
21:05 SS15 Sospel – Breil Sur Roya 2 16,55km
Service Monaco
14-01-17 Rallye Monte-Carlo, Midday quotes, day 2
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“It’s been another difficult morning for us with very tricky conditions. We opted for the supersoft tyre for both stages, but certainly on the last stage [SS8], the snow cross would have been the more favourable option. Unfortunately we were too late making the decision and suffered as a consequence of that.”

Mikko Hirvonen (8th) said:
“It’s really frustrating to have a problem like this. There was an issue with the windscreen towards the end of the first stage [SS7] but it didn’t affect me too badly. Then the temperature was so much lower on the next one [SS8] that the windscreen was completely misted for the whole stage.

“We need to look on the positive side. The pace was better at the beginning of the long stage [SS7], so I am a little bit happier with that. We’re still here, and that is the main thing.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT CREWS
Bryan Bouffier (1st) said:
“We had a really good morning. We’ve been able to set some really competitive times and I am really happy with that. Of course Ogier is very quick so we need to keep an eye on him, but I think that we can be very pleased with the job we have done this morning.

“It is great to be in the battle. I’m doing my best and the times have been good. There is a long way to go so we will need to be a little bit clever, but at the moment, everything is perfect.”

Robert Kubica (4th) said:
“We were a bit unlucky on the long stage [SS7] – I think that the tyre pressures we opted for were a bit too low. We thought that the conditions would be drying. We set some really good times in the beginning when the tyre temperature was good, but then there was some really having rain. The surface became really slippery and there was a lot of aquaplaning. We lost a lot of time there, but I still have to be pleased because the pace was very good.

“We’re not taking any risks and when I don’t feel confident I’m backing off quite a lot. Although we did have one moment at a really bumpy corner. We landed awkwardly after the crest and were very lucky not to have any significant damage. But everything is OK and that is the most important.

“To be so close to the world champion, I am of course very happy, but there is still a long way to go. Our primary aim is to be here at the end of the event, and I hope to achieve that.”
14-01-16 Kris Meeke emerges in second position
Rallye Monte-Carlo lived up to its reputation, as the first leg proved particularly difficult to manage. In spite of the testing conditions, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews made a strong start to the 2014 World Rally Championship.

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle chose their tyres well and produced a flawless performance to end day one in second position in the overall standings, 38.8s behind the leader.

On their first day of competitive action in the Citroën DS3 WRC, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson made it back to the service park in fifth overall.
Long before sunrise, each crew tried to predict the conditions they would face on the day’s first three stages in order to choose the best possible tyre set-up. Sixth on the road, Mads Østberg opted for five Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 supersoft tyres, suitable for dry and wet tarmac. Twelve minutes later, armed with new information about the conditions, Kris Meeke set off with four Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 supersoft tyres and two Michelin Pilot Alpin 4 tyres (non-studded for snow and ice) in the boot.

Although the first two stages were mainly wet, the third – and especially the section through the Col de Perty where there was a lot of snow – handed a significant advantage to the crews that had taken winter tyres. Third after SS2, Kris Meeke moved into second after SS3, stealing a march on his rivals by making the right tyre choice. With his supersoft tyres, Mads Østberg managed to stay on the road whilst losing as little time as possible.

In the afternoon, both drivers went for four Michelin Pilot Alpin 4 tyres and two Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 tyres. Kris Meeke won his battle with Robert Kubica to end the first leg in second place. Mads Østberg took advantage of the afternoon loop to add to his experience and move up into fifth position in the overall standings.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE
Kris Meeke: “Clearly, running twelfth on the road was a bit of a disadvantage and I had trouble finding the right pace in the early part of the afternoon, because the racing line was covered in mud. I also felt it was better to be very cautious, even if that cost us some time. On such difficult stages, finishing the day in second place is obviously a good result. I’ll have to make sure I get plenty of sleep tonight, because we’ve a very long ahead of us tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg: “It was a positive day. We learned a lot in the conditions which were especially complicated. We didn’t make the best tyre choice in the morning, but we managed not to lose too much time. And although we made a few mistakes, none of them were serious enough to put us out of the rally. We’ll be able to work with the team now to try and continue to improve tomorrow. We know that we have the potential to go faster, but we have to be careful.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Unusually for us, our two cars set off this morning having made different tyre choices. This decision was due to their starting positions. The option taken by Kris was the better one. And that is the main reason for the gap between the two drivers. They both drove well, very much in line with what we asked them to do. They were not to take any risks when the conditions were tricky and then try and push when things were a little easier. They managed the day well. Kris is second overall, and has a good road position for the rest of the rally; Mads is very close to the podium places.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Orpierre – Saint-André-de-Rosans 1 (25.49km) – Thierry Neuville was the first driver to be caught out by the very slippery conditions. Robert Kubica set the fastest time, despite sections of the stage being covered in snow. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished in fifth and sixth positions.

SS2 – Rosans – Sainte-Marie – La Charce 1 (17.98km) – No snow on this second test. Robert Kubica extended his lead at the front, as Kris Meeke moved up into third overall. Mads Østberg held onto fifth position.

SS3 – Montauban Sur l’Ouvèze – Laborel 1 (19.34km) – The section through the Col de Perty handed a significant advantage to the crews that had opted to take winter tyres. Bryan Bouffier set the fastest time and moved into the overall lead ahead of Kris Meeke, who was also fast on this stage. Mads Østberg did his utmost on his supersoft tyres but slipped back to eighth overall.

SS4 – Orpierre – Saint-André-de-Rosans 2 (25.49km) – Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest as all the crews opted to fit winter tyres. Kris Meeke defended his second position. Mads Østberg clocked the fourth fastest time to move up into sixth overall.

SS5 – Rosans – Sainte-Marie – La Charce 2 (17.98km) – Dani Sordo was forced retire on the road section before the start of the stage. Sébastien Ogier won his first stage of the rally. Kris Meeke lost a place in the overall standings (down to third) whilst Mads Østberg gained one (up to fifth).

SS6 – Montauban Sur l’Ouvèze – Laborel 2 (19.34km) – The conditions were very different compared to the morning loop. The roads were wet and the snow was melting. Sébastien Ogier claimed his second consecutive stage win. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished third and fourth respectively in their Citroën DS3 WRCs. Thanks to this performance, Kris reclaimed second position overall.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 1:25:36.6
2. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +38.8
3. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +39.5
4. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +47.3
5. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:20.7
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:38.6
7. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:20.8
8. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:46.9
9. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +4:06.2
10. Olivier Burri / Fabrice Gordon (Ford Fiesta S2000) +4:47.4

FASTEST TIMES
Robert Kubica and Sébastien Ogier, 2 – Bryan Bouffier and Jari-Matti Latvala, 1.

LEADERS
SS1 and SS2: Robert Kubica
SS3 to SS6: Bryan Bouffier

14-01-16 M-Sport´s faith rewarded as Evans excels on Monte debut
Tyre strategy can make all the difference at Rallye Monte-Carlo and the M-Sport World Rally Team had their wits about them when making their selection for the first day of competition. Thanks to the correct tyre choice through the morning loop, Monte debutant Elfyn Evans holds an impressive sixth place at the end of Day 1.

In one of the most dramatic openers to an FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt got their Monte debut off to a sensational start. Thoroughly enjoying the challenges thrown up by the mountainous stages, the pairing kept their heads in what were treacherously difficult conditions. Having had the better of a number of their more experienced rivals, Evans and Barritt came into their own through the first pass of ‘Monteauban sur l’Ouveze – Laborel’ (SS3).

Opting for a cross configuration of Michelin’s supersoft Pilot Sport and non-studded Pilot Alpin tyres for their Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the pairing set the stage alight. Posting the second fastest time – just 0.5 seconds adrift of a first WRC stage win – Evans was propelled up the leader board. With a time over a minute quicker than reigning champion Sebastien Ogier, the youngster occupied fifth place overall.

Keeping his feet firmly on the ground, Evans conserved his pace through the afternoon loop. Despite slipping back to sixth, the Welshman is on course for a fantastic result on what is a daunting first venture to this notoriously difficult event.

Unfortunately, there was less good fortune for Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen as the pairing had to contend with slick tyres through the morning’s slippery conditions. They were not the only ones to be caught out by the unpredictable snow fall, and despite being disadvantaged running fourth on the road, the duo kept their Fiesta RS WRC planted to the black-top roads.

With his Fiesta clad with snow tyres for the afternoon loop, Hirvonen made ground – climbing from 13th to eighth place overall. As a past Monte winner, the Finn has extensive knowledge of the event’s challenging conditions. Opting for a cautious approach as they get back to grips with the Fiesta’s characteristics, their strategy could yet pay dividends with a further two days of gruelling competition and unpredictable forecasts to come.

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t expect to be sitting in sixth place at the end of Day 1, or to have been just 0.5 seconds off a fastest stage time. If someone had told me that before the event, I would have certainly taken it!

“The tyre choice that we made with the team this morning was essential to where we are now. We had a steady run this afternoon – just to gain as much experience as possible – and we’ve found ourselves in a reasonably strong position over night. Now, we just need to be sensible and keep it together for the remainder of the event.”

Mikko Hirvonen (8th) said:
“We felt a bit more comfortable this afternoon, but we didn’t do so much testing in these sorts of conditions so it is really difficult to find the confidence. But it’s getting better and that is a very good thing.

“Obviously there is still a long way to go, but let’s see what we can do. I hope that we can continue to show the pace that we had in the last stage and try to catch the boys in front. The gaps are pretty big now, but this is Monte-Carlo and we’ve already seen what can happen!”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Mikko [Hirvonen] has had a difficult first day back in the Fiesta, but it all started to come together on the last stage – quickest of all the Fiesta drivers. He’s certainly in a position to make up places and as we all know, anything can happen.

“As for Elfyn [Evans], it’s been a great first day. He‘s been very sensible and done exactly what he needed to do. He made a really good tyre choice this morning, but more than anything, I have been really impressed by the way he has kept his head in what is probably one of the most difficult ‘Montes’ for the past few years.

“This is such a prestigious rally, and it is great to see that there are five M-Sport designed and manufactured Fiestas in the overall top-ten!”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT CREWS
Bryan Bouffier currently leads Rallye Monte-Carlo behind the wheel of an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The Frenchmen was another driver to benefit from the optimum tyre choice through the first pass of ‘Monteauban sur l’Ouveze – Laborel’ (SS3). Cladding their Fiesta with a cross configuration of Michelin’s supersoft Pilot Sport and non-studded Pilot Alpin tyres, Bouffier and co-driver Xavier Panseri claimed the lead through SS3’s treacherous offerings and held position for the reminder of the day. With five stages to run en-route to Monaco tomorrow, the former ‘Monte’ winner goes into Day 2 with a 38.8 second lead.

Bryan Bouffier (1st) said:
“It is fantastic for me to be here – competing with the world’s best and in a really good position at the end of the first day. The conditions have been really difficult, so to come out on top – here at Monte-Carlo – it’s a very good feeling. Although I have to say that I am lucky to be here! On the first corner of the first stage we hit a bridge and I thought that our race was over. Thankfully, the Fiesta is very strong, so thanks to her!

“Of course this will not be an easy position to hold on to as we know that anything can happen. We need to keep concentrated and be aware of the conditions. We’ll just try to keep the same pace, and see what happens tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Bryan [Bouffier] has done a great job today and we are obviously very happy to see one of our privateer drivers leading the rally. He has used all of his past ‘Monte’ experience to great effect – a really mature drive with some excellent tyre selections. It will be difficult to hold onto the lead, but anything can happen and he is in a fantastic
14-01-16 Rallye Monte-Carlo, Midday Quotes, Day 1
Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“It seems we made the right choice with the tyres this morning. It certainly didn’t feel great coming down the hill [on SS3], but we can all see the benefit the snow tyres brought in terms of time. It was a good choice, and just a shame that the first stage caught us by surprise because then it could have been even better! But I don’t think anyone predicted what was in store for us on SS1 – it came at such short notice.

“It’s been a difficult but good start for us. Obviously the conditions are some of the most challenging that I have ever had to contend with, but we’ve had great information from both the ice note crew and the team and I am really enjoying every minute of it!”

Mikko Hirvonen (13th) said:
“Well, this has certainly been one of the most difficult starts to a season that we have ever had! Like everyone, we weren’t expecting the amount of snow that there was this morning, and with slick tyres, it gives you some really tricky conditions.

“Of course I am really happy that we are still here, but we need to look into the weather and make sure that we are well prepared for this afternoon. If there is more slush and snow then it will definitely be easier for the cars behind, but that is just the way it is and we need to make it through.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT CREWS:
Bryan Bouffier (1st) said:
“We hit a wall at the beginning of the first stage and I really thought that my race was finished! Thankfully, the car is very strong. We went through the first stage on slick tyres, which was the same for most of the drivers. I admit that it wasn’t so fun in those conditions, but our time wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t so happy with my driving on the second stage, but for the third we had our snow tyress and were able to set a really good time.

“I was a bit frustrated when I saw the snow in the first stage and knew that I had two snow tyres in the boot, but that is just the way it is and it was the same for everyone. For now, we will just stay cool and try to keep the consistency.

Robert Kubica (4th) said:
“These have been the most challenging stages that I have ever driven! Honestly, Jänner Rally was nothing compared to this! We had slick tyres for all three stages which made it very difficult as there was very little grip. The last stage [SS3] in particular was very demanding and there was heavy snow for the last eight kilometres. I am certainly happy to be here, and to be here in such a good position.”
14-01-13 Volkswagen är redo att försvara WRC-titlarna
Denna vecka startar en ny säsong av FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). 2014 års mästerskap inleds med en riktig klassiker: Monte Carlo-rallyt, 16-19 januari. De regerande världsmästarna Volkswagen är redo att försvara sina titlar och har inför den nya säsongen finslipat sin rallybil Polo R WRC.

Volkswagen Motorsport vann samtliga tre WRC-titlar under i sin debutsäsong 2013; förare (Sébastien Ogier), kartläsare (Julien Ingrassia) och konstruktörsmästerskapet. Teamet ska nu försvara sina titlar med den 315 hästkrafter starka rallybilen, Polo R WRC, som har varit föremål för ständig vidareutveckling sedan den gjorde debut för nästan ett år sedan. Detta fyrhjulsdrivna kraftpaket vann tio av de 13 tävlingarna förra säsongen.
– När det gäller den tekniska utvecklingen har man helt enkelt inte råd slappna av. Även om vi vann alla titlar under 2013 har vi verkligen inte legat på latsidan. Vi har försökt att dra full nytta av de alternativ som varit möjliga och förbättrat ett flertal detaljer. Bilarna har också fått ett uppdaterat utseende inför 2014. Vi ser nu fram emot att ta reda på var vi står i förhållande till den starka konkurrens som vi kommer möta från Citroën, Ford och vår nya motståndare Hyundai, säger Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport.

Monte Carlo-rallyt – på asfalt, is och snö
Volkswagens uppdrag att försvara sina titlar startas med en genuin motorsportklassiker i form av Monte Carlo-rallyt, den äldsta rallytävlingen i världen. På torsdag den 16 januari körs den första specialsträckan och det franska förarparet Sébastien Ogier och Julien Ingrassia startar som regerande världsmästare i förar- och kartläsarmästerskapen.

Tillsammans med lagkamraterna Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (båda från Finland), ska även konstruktörsmästerskapet försvaras. Där kan de också räkna med hjälp från den tredje Polo R WRC-bilen med Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (Norge/Finland).

Monte Carlo-rallyt är första av 13 rallytävlingar under 2014 och en av de största utmaningarna i motorsportens värld. Praktiskt taget oförutsägbara förhållanden och 15 specialsträckor, över 380 mil, på asfalt, is och snö i de franska Alperna – för att inte tala om körning i mörker och temperaturer långt under fryspunkten.

Regn på serviceplatsen, torra förhållanden i början av rallyt, snö i mitten och is i slutet – dessa förhållanden är typiska för Monte Carlo-rallyt. Att välja rätt däck för en slinga som består av tre specialsträckor är en riktig chansning. Vinterdäck med och utan spikar samt mjuka och supermjuka slicks är tillgängliga för teamen. Inte i något annat rally är det så viktigt att ha kunna förutsäga vädret.

Citat inför Rallye Monte Carlo, 16-19 januari
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
– Vårt främsta mål är givetvis att försvara titlarna. Det är aldrig lätt att vinna en titel, men att framgångsrikt försvara den är ännu svårare. Jag är säker på att de andra teamen kommer att sätta oss under press, men vi har gott självförtroende från förra året. Vi har gjort små förbättringar av Polo R WRC, till exempel är den nu ännu mer tillförlitlig. En ny tillverkare, Hyundai, har anslutit sig till serien och detta gör konkurrensen ännu hårdare. Det är därför jag verkligen ser fram emot Monte Carlo-rallyt. Jag är också glad över att årets ”Monte" startar från min hemstad Gap. Det blir en extra sporre för mig att vara den snabbaste i rallyt.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2 – För mig är början på den nya säsongen en helt annan situation än för ett år sedan, då både teamet och bilen var ny för oss. Emellertid är Monte Carlo-rallyt alltid en utmaning. Jag ska försöka att komma bland de fem främsta i "Monte". Däcken spelar en viktig roll eftersom serviceplatsen inte ligger i bergen och du måste spekulera i hur vädret kommer att se ut där uppe. Rallyt innehåller 30 kilometer långa specialsträckor där du kör på torr asfalt i 20 km och på is resterande tio. 20 kilometer asfalt på spikar är lika avigt som 10 kilometer av is på slicks. Att välja rätt däck är den största utmaningen. Väljer du vinterdäck med spikar, vinterdäck utan spikar, supermjuka slicks eller mjuka slicks? Du måste hitta den perfekta kompromissen mellan dessa fyra alternativ.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
– Det huvudsakliga målet är att göra anspråk på pallplatser under 2014. Det här är bara mitt andra Monte Carlo-rally. Jag ställde upp där under 2011 och kraschade på den första specialsträckan. Detta innebär att en helt ny upplevelse för mig. Därför kommer jag inte lägga alla mina ägg i en korg, utan ha en ganska försiktig hållning. Mitt mål är att slutföra rallyt och ta VM-poäng. Jag skulle bli nöjd om jag slutförde rallyt utan några misstag.

Jost Capito, chef Volkswagen Motorsport
– Vi ställer upp i Monte Carlo-rallyt med startnummer 1 på en av våra Polo R WRC för första gången. Denna ära är reserverad för världsmästare och är något som vi är mycket stolta över. Men detta betyder inte att vi kommer att vara arroganta eller självbelåtna den här säsongen – i synnerhet inte på den klassiska "Monte". Vi kommer att ha största respekt, maximal koncentration och fullständigt engagemang. Det är lättare att vinna en VM-titel än det är att försvara den. Och det är vårt mål – att försvara VM-titlarna. Årets första tävling kommer att ge oss en första indikation på var vi står i förhållande till våra konkurrenter. Vi ser fram emot det!

Så här körs FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) 2014
Rallye Monte Carlo, 16-19 januari
Rally Sweden, 5-8 februari
Rally Guanajuato Mexico, 6-9 mars
Vodafone Rally de Portugal, 3-6 april
Rally Argentina, 8-11 maj
Rally d'Italia Sardegna, 6-8 juni
Lotos Rally Poland, 27-29 juni
Neste Oil Rally Finland, 1-3 augusti
ADAC Rallye Deutschland, 22-24 augusti
Coates Hire Rally Australia, 12-14 september
Rallye de France-Alsace, 3-5 oktober
RallyRACC-Rally de Espana, 24-26 oktober
Wales Rally GB, 14-16 november

Mer information
www.volkswagen-motorsport.com
www.rallytheworld.com
www.wrc.com
14-01-13 Follow Mikko Hirvonen on his new app!
New season, new challenges with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, it’s the year of changes for the four times vice World Rally Champion Mikko Hirvonen. It is also the opportunity for the Finnish driver to launch a new application. See bellow what this new App is all about.

THE NAME OF THE APP?
Mikko Hirvonen

WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN THIS APP?
The calendar of the 2014 World Rally Championship with information and tips but also the possibility to comment and post pictures for each event.
An interactive zone for the fans who wants to communicate with Mikko or leave a message.
YouTube page and new videos for 2014 !
Possibility to post pictures on live.
Direct access to Mikko’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Team and crew information.
You can’t find you car ? Use the « Car Finder ».
Updates and new sections will appear during the 2014 season.

NOTIFICATION "PUSH"
Activate your notification push and receive message from Mikko and comments on live during the rallies.

WHAT IS THE COST OF THIS APP?
It’s free of charge!

AND WHERE IT’S POSSIBLE TO DOWNLOAD THE APP?
For Iphone and Ipad : On the App Store
For Androïd : On Google Play or vwq.r.mailjet.com/redirect/mqfjh5txxs8rkg907mqhlz/filedir.com/download/mikko%20hirvonen:412/
For all other devices: vwq.r.mailjet.com/redirect/c35mhlkcb8q0mwg38kyr65/login.app2you.co/html5/?appcode=A4T204
Find all download options here: vwq.r.mailjet.com/redirect/xh9btj9s861tzpd778oxd1/www.apps4tablet.com/A4T204.html