45TH WALES RALLY GB. 3 – 6 OCTOBER
CITROËN AND OGIER TAKE BRONZE IN WALES GB
Wales Rally GB lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest events on the WRC calendar as Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia negotiated the unpredictable Welsh weather and muddy conditions to finish third overall. Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm gathered considerable experience, making it to the end of the rally, after having been forced to re-join under Rally 2 rules.
RALLY WALES SUMMARY
Despite a difficult weekend, Citroën Total World Rally Team secured its eleventh podium in twelve rounds this weekend in Wales and Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s eighth top-three finish. This impressive result has allowed the French crew to remain in second position in the championship, 28 points behind the leaders. With Sunday’s final leg only covering 38.42km, and held on stages well known to all of the crews, it was a tough challenge for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia to make up the deficit to the top two crews. Matters were only made worse when the Great Orme stage (4.74km), was cancelled this year for safety reasons. At that point, the French pair focused on keeping clear of trouble in the countless tricky sections, before really going for it in the Power Stage. They were second fastest on the final stage, and as a result added four bonus points to finish third overall.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia moved into the top three after the rally’s first proper stage, before driving aggressively in the C3 WRC on Friday afternoon, claiming two stage wins and confirming their intention to try and secure a sixth win at this round. They ended the opening leg just 3.4 seconds off the lead. Determined to pursue their push on Saturday, not only the longest leg of the weekend but also contested without a mid-leg service, the six-time World Champions once again pushed as hard as they could in an exciting and closely-fought fight at the front. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite able to match the pace of the other two championship contenders, beginning Sunday’s final leg in third place, 17.3 seconds behind the leaders and 6.3 seconds off second place. After driving somewhat cautiously on the first proper stage as they got to grips with the handling of the C3 WRC on the greasy Welsh roads, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm immediately upped their pace with a fourth fastest time, 4.0 seconds off the pace on the following stage (Penmachno, 16.19km). A third fastest time, just 1.0 second off the leading pace on Aberhirnant (SS5, 10.26km) meant they made it to the mid-leg service on day one just 7.8 seconds off the podium.
However, the Finnish duo were then caught out by one of the stages’ unexpected changes in grip, overestimating the grip available on a braking point at the start of the second loop, ending their chances of a top-three finish. Having re-joined the action under Rally 2 rules on Saturday, they focused on improving their knowledge of the intricacies of the event and learning what it is like to start first in the running order on muddy, slippery roads, sometimes flooded with standing water. They nonetheless showed impressive speed at certain points, scoring a third fastest time on the Power Stage, within a second of the stage-winning time.