WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018

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18-06-11 Hyundai Motorsport tar säsongens tredje WRC-seger i Rally Italia Sardegna
Hyundai Motorsport segrade efter en dramatisk avslutning på helgens Rally Italia Sardegna, den sjunde omgången av 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Thierry Neuville och Nicolas Gilsoul stal förstaplatsen med minsta möjliga marginal efter enastående körning under söndagsmorgonen.

Den belgiska duon startade den avslutande dagen med 3.9 sekunders underläge till ledande M-Sport Fords Sébastien Ogier, men en perfekt söndagsmorgon med fyra etappsegrar, inklusive Power Stage gjorde att de sakta men säkert hann ikapp och om fransmannen. Efter 313.46 km av tävlingsträckor skrev de in sig i WRCs historieböcker med en segermarginal på ringa 0.7 sekunder. En tid som matchar samma lucka Neuville skapade till Elfyn Evans i Rally Argentina 2017. Resultatet är Hyundai Motorsports tredje seger för säsongen och teamets tionde i WRC. Det är också deras andra seger i Rally Italia Sardegna som uppföljning på Neuvilles triumf 2016 och teamets fjärde raka pallplats på Sardinien.

Söndagens avslutande fyra etapper gav ingen vila för någon av Hyundais bilar. Medan Neuville kämpade om segern mot Ogier lyckades Paddon att försvara sin fjärdeplats från Mads Østberg och säkra sitt bästa resultat hittills under säsongen. Mikkelsen som initialt ledde rallyt kammade som en tröst hem två poäng i den täta striden om Power Stage. Genom helgens seger utökar Hyundai Motorsport sin ledning i Konstruktörsmästerskapet och ligger nu på 212 poäng, 28 poäng före M-Sport Ford på andra plats. Neuvilles ytterligare fem poäng i Power Stage gav maximal utdelning från helgen och därmed stärkte han sin ledning i Förarmästerskapet med 27 poäng före Ogier.

Neuville berättar om helgen: “Jag kan inte tro att det är sant! Vi visste att vi behövde ge allt vi hade på söndagsmorgonen och det var en fantastisk kamp med Sébastien. Luckan mot slutet var väldigt liten och vi körde på så fort vi kunde utan att riskera att göra något dumt. Att tävla mot Seb är en av de svåraste saker man kan göra så det här är en extra speciell seger. Nicolas och jag är väldigt tacksamma för hela teamet i Hyundai Motorsport som gjort allt för att den här helgen kunde bli så framgångsrik. Utan dem hade vi inte vunnit. Att ta sommarpaus samtidigt som vi leder båda mästerskapen är precis all den motivation vi behöver för resten av året.”

Säsongen har nu nått halvvägs och teamet tar sommarledigt samtidigt som de får chansen att reflektera över en framgångsrik inledning på 2018 WRC. Nästa rally går av stapeln den 26-29 juli i Finland och blir den sista av fyra raka omgångar på grus för att sedan återgå till asfalt.

Slutresultat – Rally Italia Sardegna
1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:29:18.7
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +0.7
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:56.3
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:55.2
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +3:10.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +4:31.7
7 J.M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +11:22.1
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +12:38.2
9 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +13:14.6
10 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +15:30.4

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Föraremästerskapet
Efter omgång 7
1 T. Neuville 149
2 S. Ogier 122
3 O. Tanak 79
4 E. Lappi 70
5 D. Sordo 60
6 A. Mikkelsen 56
7 E. Evans 46
8 K. Meeke 43
9 J.M Latvala 37
10 C. Breen 34
11 M. Østberg 26
12 T. Suninen 24
13 H. Paddon 22

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Konstruktörsmästerskapet
Efter omgång 7
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 212
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 184
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 161
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 129
18-06-11 Neuville basks in epic comeback win to extend title gap on Ogier
Belgian has wider advantage than anybody over champion in last five years. Sébastien Ogier celebrated a two-tenth of a second victory in Jordan by smiling down on everybody in 2011.

Marcus Gronholm pulled a most out-of-character face as he celebrated from the top of his Ford Focus RS WRC when he edged Sébastien Loeb by 0.3 seconds in New Zealand 11 years ago.

So, the wild delight Thierry Neuville showed moments after his seven-tenths of a second Sunday success in Sardinia was confirmed is understandable.

That he’d beaten the master, the five-time champ, was just cause for that face full of delight. But this was more than a single winning round of the championship.

This was the moment he further extended a lead already bigger than any advantage anybody has opened over Ogier in the last five years. Psychologically as well as physically, this was a huge step towards the ultimate dream.

The headline number is the 27-point advantage Neuville holds after round seven, but what about the finer details? Here is all you need to know:

- Of the 128 stages run in total so far this season, Thierry has won 29 compared to 19 for his main title rival (incidentally, neither has the most stage wins – that’s Toyota driver Ott Tänak on 31).

- While Sébastien is 10 short of his rival in terms of individual stage wins, he’s led for 20 more of those 128 2018 World Rally Championship stages than Thierry. Ogier’s 54 plays 34.

- As well as his stunning stage-win record, Estonian Tänak is the only other driver to have won a round of the World Rally Championship this season – Thierry and Sébastien have shared the other six between them. Three from seven is not, however, too spectacular for Ogier. His record is nine victories from 13 starts in the 2013 season, while Thierry managed four from a similar number last year.

- In terms of first-half WRC wins, Ogier outshines Neuville, with the former bagging five from seven in 2014, while the Hyundai man did two from seven in 2017.

- Ogier’s failure to pick up a single point in Portugal last month hit and really hurt the Frenchman. That no-score slashes his average points take per round – Sébastien’s mean tally per rally is 17.42 while Thierry’s is a healthier 21.28 from a possible 30.

- Neuville has scored on every rally and picked up five podiums compared to Ogier’s four.

- On event points alone (discounting the bonus points from the Power Stage) Neuville can afford to finish second to Ogier on the next three rallies and still be ahead.

- Talking about the Power Stage bonus points, Neuville has averaged 3.28 from a possible five, while Ogier has only picked up 2.28 (although that figure would have been 2.85 had he not lost his Rally Mexico bonus four for clipping the chicane in the Power Stage).

- Looking at the events still to come – and this is the bit where Ogier fans will take heart, the defending champ outscores his rival by 14 wins to two in Finland, Germany, Turkey, Britain, Spain and Australia.
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18-06-11 A respectable team result
After quickly finding themselves having to defend their positions, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews showed reliability and consistency to secure fifth and sixth places overall.

Having a good opening leg is invariably critical on gravel. Anything less, with the standings reversed to define the running order for the next two days, and you end up spending the rest of the rally sweeping the roads clear of dust and loose gravel for your rivals. With heavy showers making an unexpected appearance in Sardinia on Friday, where usually very little rain is seen at this time of year, things were suddenly more complicated for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. In wet conditions, it's never an advantage to start quite far down the running order on gravel (8th for Craig Breen and 10th for Mads Østberg), as the roads become increasingly greasy and muddy as more cars come through the stages. However, the team refused to be beaten, as particularly demonstrated by the two second fastest times set by Mads (SS2 and SS9) amidst the almighty scrap at the front, evidence that the Norwegian is improving in his handling of the C3 WRC. A series of minor incidents for Mads (an impact with a rock on SS4) and Craig (an overshoot on SS2, three stalls on SS6 and an overshoot on SS7), combined with an ill-judged choice of tyres for both runs on Tergu – Osilo, prevented the pair from ending Friday's leg any higher than fifth and seventh overall. Fine weather returned on Saturday and began to dry out the ground, meaning both crews spent the final two legs acting as road sweepers for the rest of the field. They therefore concentrated on holding onto their positions, playing it safe by taking two spares on Saturday afternoon, for example, where the stages are known for being hard on the tyres. Despite road position being against him, Mads Østberg made a stubborn attempt to put the fourth-placed driver under pressure, before eventually accepting that he could not catch him. The Norwegian ended up finishing fifth overall, his best result with the C3 WRC, after two sixth-place finishes in Sweden and Portugal. Meanwhile, Craig Breen rounded off a respectable overall result by claiming sixth place, having also improved his understanding of an event where he previously had considerably less experience than his rivals.

QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
How do you assess the team's performance at this rally, contested very shortly after your change in "driver" policy?

In the context of our current situation, I think you have to say we met our new targets. Both cars made it to the finish intact – and in the points – and they had no reliability issues. Although our position down the running order on the opening leg was by no means an advantage with the rain, we made a few minor mistakes on Friday. They proved costly in terms of time and also meant that our crews were forced to open the road for the next two days, so from that point onwards, we couldn't really have hoped for a better outcome. Our only remaining target was to pick up a few manufacturers' points and acquire some data so that we can come back even better prepared next year.

How is the team dealing with the current situation?
Although they are all real competitors, and are therefore desperate to achieve better results, they have also understood that we're in a rebuilding process. We're trying to establish new, solid foundations in order to move forwards, setting our sights on 2019, and this might take some time. During the transitional phase that we are going through at the moment, all the members of the team remain united and focused on their respective jobs. We know that we have a good car. The C3 WRC is competitive on all surfaces and we are determined to constantly keep improving it a little bit more. As soon as all the ingredients come together, we'll be back amongst the leaders again.
18-06-11 The C3 R5 racks up the stage wins in Sardinia
With four stage wins claimed by Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau, who were leading one of the toughest rounds of the year when they were forced to retire, the Citroën C3 R5 once again showed its array of qualities on the Mediterranean island.

Rally Sardinia presented crews and cars alike with a tough challenge this weekend, in much the same way that the final warm-up matches for this summers’s football world cup provide players with a real test as the tournament approaches!High temperatures and incredibly demanding, dusty stages provide the drivers and cars with a very serious examination, and are usually especially hard on the tyres. This year, the level of difficulty was racked up even further by the localised storms that hit the island on the first day. However, building on a promising maiden outing on gravel in Portugal, Stéphane Lefebvre grabbed first place in the WRC2 class on the first proper stage (SS2). Although he then briefly relinquished the lead, a first stage win on Monte Baranta 1 (SS5) enabled him to close to within five seconds of the category leader, and he then moved to the top of the leaderboard at the start of Friday afternoon's loop (SS6). The Citroën Racing works driver then drove home his advantage with two further stage wins (SS7 and SS9) to end the opening leg as class leader, 14.0s ahead of his nearest challenger. As sunny conditions returned on Saturday, Stéphane made a strong start, vigorously defending his lead when unfortunately he broke a suspension arm on the second stage of the day. He was forced to retire for the rest of the leg. After rejoining under Rally 2 rules on Sunday, he confirmed that he clearly has what it takes to win this event as he grabbed another stage win, his fourth of the weekend, amidst the intensive fight for the podium places. His first win in the C3 R5 is surely just around the corner! Equally competing on behalf of Citroën after winning the 2017 Ultimate Challenge, Simone Tempestini had a tough time in Sardinia.
Unfortunately, he rolled on SS6 when running in ninth place in the WRC2, having earlier held sixth place in this highly competitive feeder category to the WRC.

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"With the top speed shown on these incredibly rough stages, Stéphane showed just how much the C3 R5 has already improved and how the set-up has been fine-tuned since its debut outing on gravel in Portugal. We are now going to analyse in detail the issue with the suspension arm so that we can turn this undeniable potential into a maiden win in the WRC2 class, which seems very much in our grasp."

Stéphane Lefebvre
"Our weekend had got off to a pretty good start, despite the difficult weather conditions, something we hadn't encountered at all in testing. We were leading and driving intelligently since we were able to hold off the second-placed crews without taking too many risks, and then we had our problem. After rejoining under Rally 2 rules, I bagged another stage win on the only test where I really went for it. That gave me a total of four fastest times out of fourteen stages, which is a pretty useful return. I can't wait to secure the C3 R5's first win in the WRC2."
18-06-11 Third smallest winning margin in 45 years as Neuville pips Ogier in Italy
Belgian snatches Rally Italia Sardegna victory after thrilling final speed test. Thierry Neuville trailed Sébastien Ogier by 0.8sec ahead of the 6.96km test, but delivered a daredevil drive in his Hyundai i20 to overhaul the Frenchman and claim his third win of the season by 0.7sec. Neuville extended his championship lead over Ogier to 27 points.

It was the third smallest winning margin in the WRC’s 45-year history, matching Neuville’s dramatic success in Argentina last year when he performed a similar snatch and grab on Elfyn Evans.

The Belgian started the sun-kissed short final leg along Sardinia’s north-west coast 3.9sec adrift of Ogier. He won the opening three tests before both drivers threw caution to the wind in the finale.

Both made mistakes on the dusty, rocky tracks but Neuville emerged on top.

“I gave it everything, it was a really great fight and such a small difference at the end,” he said. “We needed to make a decision at the start of the last stage and our decision was to go for the win. We believed strongly and pushed hard.”

Ogier was far from downhearted. “We lost one battle but definitely not the war. It’s not the time to panic. I tried everything I could today but I was always losing a few tenths here and there,” he said.

The results remain provisional after a bizarre incident at the finish of the penultimate stage when Ogier hurriedly departed in his Ford Fiesta without collecting his time card. It was later delivered to him by Ott Tänak and news is awaited on whether Ogier will receive a penalty.

Esapekka Lappi eased through the final leg’s 42.04km of action to claim third in a Toyota Yaris. With big time gaps in front and behind, the Finn took no risks to secure his first podium of the season.

Hayden Paddon shrugged off lingering back pain from an accident at the previous round in Portugal to finish fourth in an i20. After restarting with a 2.1sec advantage over Mads Østberg’s Citroen C3, he distanced the Norwegian to finish 15.7sec clear.

Craig Breen completed the top six after a ‘niggly’ weekend in another C3.

The championship pauses for a mid-season break before resuming on the blisteringly fast gravel roads of Neste Rally Finland, which is based in Jyväskylä on 26 - 29 July.

Leading positions:
1. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 3hr 29min 18.7sec
2. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta + 0.7sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 1min 56.3sec
4. H Paddon / S Marshall NZL Hyundai i20 + 2min 55.2sec
5. M Østberg / T Eriksen NOR Citroën C3 + 3min 10.9sec
6. C Breen / S Martin IRE Citroën C3 + 4min 31.7sec

Championship positions (after round 7 of 13)
1. T Neuville 149pts
2. S Ogier 122pts
3. O Tänak 79pts

18-06-11 Group finish for Cotroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT
With their hopes of a better outcome today somewhat compromised by being among the early runners, Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen and Craig Breen – Scott Martin finished fifth and sixth overall respectively, thus securing an honourable result for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

Since both of the stages contested on today's final leg, Cala Flumini (14.06km) and Sassari – Argentiera (6.96km), were very narrow and sandy, especially the latter test, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT expected a tough day with Craig Breen and Mads Østberg running second and third on the road.

Just 2.1s behind the fourth-placed driver at the start of the leg, Mads was unfortunately forced to act as road sweeper for those further down the order. His rival moved clear during the morning, but the Norwegian nonetheless secured fifth overall. A result that provided further evidence of his consistency and his gradually improving pace in the C3 WRC, after claiming two sixth positions in Sweden and Portugal.

Craig Breen finished sixth overall, meaning the Red Army could take some satisfaction from seeing both Citroën cars make it to the end of one of the most demanding rallies on the calendar, without having encountered any major issues. As he looks ahead to Finland, where he earned his first WRC podium (3rdin 2016), the Irishman is determined to secure a better finishing position very soon.

WHAT THEY SAID
Craig Breen
"The weekend didn't go especially smoothly for us. Having started quite far down the running order on Friday in the rain, we struggled with the tricky road conditions. We then ended up opening the road for the next two days as the ground dried out. The roads, when dry, are renowned for cleaning a lot, meaning the early runners are at a real disadvantage. I nonetheless managed to improve my knowledge of this specific rally. My focus has already shifted to Finland."

Mads Østberg
"Although we set competitive times on a number of occasions, we quickly found ourselves having to defend our position. We therefore didn't take any unnecessary risks. That was true both on my side, in terms of driving, and also from a technical point of view, in carrying two spares for yesterday afternoon's loop, for example. But I'm pleased to secure this fifth place for the team."
18-06-11 Rå oppvisning av Veiby
Ole Christian Veiby viste virkelig muskler da han kjørte inn til andreplass i WRC2-klassen i Rally Sardinia. 21-åringen vant hele 11 av de 20 fartsetappene, og ville trolig ha vunnet klassen om han ikke fikk tekniske problemer fredag.

Unggutten fra Kongsvinger ledet WRC2-klassen da han fikk problemer med en bærearm og drivaksel, og måtte avslutte med bare bakhjulstrekk fredag ettermiddag. Før dette skjedde på SS6 hadde han nesten halvminutts forsprang på Jan Kopecky, som til slutt vant løpet.
– Da handlet alt om å sette seg nye mål. Gutta i teamet var optimistiske og mente det var mulig å klare tredjeplassen likevel, forteller Ole.

Fabrikkføreren til Skoda Motorsport startet lørdagen med mål om å kjøre det remmer og tøy kunne holde. Han lå da på åttendeplass, over tre minutter bak en pallplass. Men der andre tvilte på at det var mulig å hente inn igjen dette, var Ole Christian og kartleser Stig Rune Skjærmoen villige til å gi det en sjanse.
– Vi hadde i grunnen ikke så mye å tape, og det var flat out. Jeg skal ærlig innrømme at jeg var litt usikker på om det var mulig å klare det. Men i rally kan alt skje, forteller han.

Og det skulle raskt vise seg at de mente alvor. De var raskest på seks av lørdagens sju fartsetapper, og hadde nest beste tid på etappen de ikke vant - og avsluttet dagen med å ligge på tredjeplass. Plutselig var også andreplassen innen rekkevidde. Det skilte 28 sekunder opp til franskmannen Nicolas Ciamin på andreplass, mens Jan Kopecky hadde seieren i lomma med en ledelse på over tre minutter.

– Da satte vi oss et nytt mål om å klare andreplassen. Jeg hadde fin flyt i bilen og ting fungerte veldig bra, forteller han.
Skoda-føreren fra Norge fortsatte der han slapp lørdag, og før den siste etappen var han på andreplass. Han kontrollerte inn på den siste etappen, og kunne til slutt si seg meget godt fornøyd med å ha blitt nummer to etter en vanvittig opphenting. Unggutten vant 9 av de siste 11 fartsetappene - og var nest raskest på de to øvrige. I tillegg vant han to fartsetapper tidligere i løpet.

– Dette føles som en seier. Det er vanskelig å sette løpene opp mot hverandre, men det er helt klart noe av det beste jeg har prestert. Vi vant over halvparten av fartsetappene og var mye raskere enn de andre. Vi har gitt alt og teamet er selvsagt veldig fornøyde med at Skoda ble nummer en og to, sier Ole, som til slutt var drøyt tre minutter bak teamkamerat Kopecky.
18-06-11 Mikkelsen reiser hjem med en god følelse
Andreas Mikkelsen reiser hjem fra Rally Sardinia med en god følelse selv om han måtte bryte fredag. – Det som skjedde fredag var utenfor min kontroll, og bortsett fra det så har vi levert etappetider helt i toppen – og det er en god følelse å ta med seg, sier han.
– Vi har tatt riktige steg med bilen, og den gode følelsen er der. Det må vi ta med oss videre, sier 28-åringen.
2018-sesongen vil ikke bli husket for sesongen hvor Andreas Mikkelsen hadde stang inn – heller tvert i mot. Rally Sardinia ble det tredje løpet på rad han uforskyldt mest sannsynlig ble frarøvet en topplassering. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger åpnet Hyundai-føreren årets sjuende VM-runde på imponerende vis. De ledet løpet med 14 sekunder på teamkamerat Thierry Neuville etter de fem første etappene. Men etter service begynte motgangen. På SS6 mistet han andregiret og ledelsen i løpet. På den påfølgende etappen mistet han resten av girene da bilen låste seg i revers – og løpet var dermed sluttkjørt med tanke på en plassering blant de 10 beste.

Han restartet løpet på lørdag, og fortsatte å levere etappetider helt i toppen, selv om han ikke hadde noe å kjøre for.
– Det er jeg veldig godt fornøyd med, for jeg vet av erfaring at vi alltid har et ekstra gir å sette inn når vi kjemper i toppen, forteller han.

Søndagens etapper handlet om å spare dekkene til den avsluttende powerstage-etappen. Som første WRC-bil på veien ble det en utfordrende affære. Andreas måtte sette sin egen linje, som førerne bak kunne følge. Likevel holdt det til fjerdetid og bonuspoeng i VM-sammendraget.
– Vi har fightet helt i front med de beste tidene, og det viser at vi er der vi skal være når ting fungerer. Powerstage var egentlig en bra etappe for oss, men det var innmari vanskelig når vi ikke hadde noen spor å følge. Jeg gjorde i hvert fall mitt beste, sier Andreas, som i målområdet fulgte thrilleren mellom hans teamkamerat Thierry Neuville og Sebastien Ogier i kampen om seieren. Til slutt var det belgieren som stakk av med den største pokalen, etter å slått med Ogier med 0,7 sekunder etter nesten tre og en halv times bilkjøring. Med det økte også Neuville ledelsen i VM-sammendraget.

Neste VM-runde er i Finland siste helgen i juli.
18-06-11 Mads Østberg now in contention for fourth place
Whilst Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen were engaged in a fiercely contested battle for the minor places, Craig Breen – Scott Martin – hampered by running second on the road – focused on adding to their experience whilst moving up into sixth position.

After yesterday's heavy rain, sunshine was back in the sky in Sardinia today. Although some sections remained damp, normal conditions returned for the most part on the day's seven stages on this, the rally's longest leg. Indeed, significant amounts of dust were kicked up as each car came through the stages, hanging in the air for long periods. This suggested that the roads would clean and that grip levels would gradually improve through the running order.

Running second on the road, Craig Breen had little hope therefore of challenging those further down the order. He nonetheless took advantage of the opportunity to increase his knowledge of an event that he was only contesting for the second time in a WRC. He ended the day having gained a place to move into sixth overall.

Slightly less hampered by his position in the running order (fourth), Mads Østberg was one of the day's frontrunners as he fought for fifth place, with just a few seconds between him and his direct rival. Although he initially extended his advantage over the sixth-placed driver from 3.2s to 5.5s (SS10), he was then overtaken and found himself trailing his rival by 4.9s at the end of the morning loop. However, the Norwegian refused to be beaten and closed to within just 2.1s of his rival by the end of the day. He managed this despite carrying extra weight, having deliberately played it safe by taking two spare tyres in the afternoon, which is invariably more of a hindrance on such narrow, twisty stages. The fact he still managed to close on his rival suggests that he will be a forced to be reckoned with on the final leg, especially as a retirement higher up the standings now means the fight is now for fourth place.
Sunday's final leg will see the crews tackle a competitive distance of just 42.04 kilometres (over four stages) but you can be sure it will be very hotly disputed once again…

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"With his road position, Craig couldn't really hope to move up the standings, but he did his job by getting the C3 WRC back to service this evening intact and collecting useful information and experience for the future. As for Mads, he had an almighty scrap for fifth place and he really hung in there, despite the clear disadvantage of having deliberately taken an extra spare tyre compared with his rival for the second loop."

Craig Breen
"Despite our poor road position, some of our times were fairly encouraging, but we then broke the anti-roll bar mounting and that slowed us down a bit in the ruts on the afternoon's two long stages."

Mads Østberg
"Although we played it safe this afternoon by taking two spares, we managed to stay right in the mix for a good final position, and I really enjoyed today when the conditions were closer to those you expect at this round. Tomorrow looks set to be another exciting and close fight, and I can't wait to get started!"

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:02:16.9
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3.9
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 54.2
Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:01.8
Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:03.9
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:13.6
Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 10:41.4
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 12:27.4
18-06-11 Rivals Ogier and Neuville turn up the heat in Sardinia sun
The title rivals face a thrilling final day showdown at Rally Italia Sardegna. They traded seconds across seven dusty and rocky speed tests in the north of the Mediterranean island before Sébastien Ogier finished with a slender 3.9sec advantage.

Thierry Neuville, who heads Ogier in the WRC championship battle by 19 points, claimed three stage victories in his Hyundai i20, compared to Ogier’s two at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta.

Ogier extended his overnight advantage to almost 20sec before an overly-cautious drive through the famous Monte Lerno stage cut his lead to less than 5sec.

As temperatures soared this afternoon, in contrast to yesterday’s torrential rain, both had problems. Ogier stalled his engine at the Ittiri stage start while Neuville punctured in the next test. With just one spare tyre onboard, he had no room for error in the final two stages.

“It’s so tight,” said Ogier. “It was a big push for me this afternoon because I was so angry with the last stage this morning. All the time I lost to Thierry was there. There’s pressure but it’s been like that all weekend and if we want to win we’ll have to fight for it.”

Neuville said: “I knew if I had one more puncture I would lose a lot of time but it was our decision to carry on pushing. That was the risk we had to take and we managed it well - there were a couple of stones I had to avoid. The fight is open and tomorrow will be intense.”

There were battles across the leaderboard. Jari-Matti Latvala and Toyota Gazoo team-mate Esapekka Lappi fought tooth and nail for the final podium place. Latvala’s lead never rose above 7.0sec and he ended the final stage with a 5.3sec advantage.

However, his Yaris stopped on the liaison section back to Alghero with an alternator problem, believed to have been caused by an impact with a rock. Despite the efforts of the Finn and co-driver Miikka Anttila, they could not restart the car and retired.

Hayden Paddon and Mads Østberg dueled for what became fourth following Latvala’s exit. Østberg began the day in front in his Citroën C3, but his Kiwi rival moved his i20 ahead and held off the Norwegian’s afternoon pursuit. The gap between them was 2.1sec.

Craig Breen was sixth in another C3 after a frustrating day..

Sunday’s short finale comprises two loops of two stages along the coast north of Alghero. They add up to 42.04km, the action ending with a spectacular Power Stage which runs alongside the beach and offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.

Leading positions:
1. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta 3hr 02min 16.9sec
2. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 + 3.9sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 54.2sec
4. H Paddon / S Marshall NZL Hyundai i20 + 2min 01.8sec
5. M Østberg / T Eriksen NOR Citroën C3 + 2min 03.9sec
6. C Breen / S Martin IRE Citroën C3 + 3min 13.6sec
18-06-11 God dag i bilen for Mikkelsen
Andreas Mikkelsen og hans kartleser Anders Jæger restartet i dag Rally Sardinia etter at de i går måtte bryte med girkassehavari. Selv om de er sjanseløse til en topp 10-plassering, har de likevel klart å levere sterke tider.

Skuffelsen var selvsagt stor da Andreas Mikkelsen fikk trøbbel med girkassen etter å ha ledet Rally Sardinia i går. Til slutt låste bilen seg i revers, og han måtte bryte. Med ny girkasse på plass i sin Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, var han tilbake i løpet i dag – men uten å ha noe å kjempe for.
– Likevel har vi forsøkt å holde trykket oppe, og det føler jeg vi har klart veldig bra. Det har vært en kjempefight i toppen, og vi har holdt samme tempo som de i tet. Det er jeg fornøyd med, for når man ikke har noe å kjøre for, har man et gir til å gå på. Vi har levert noe gode etappetider, og har vært nærme flere etappeseire. Det er selvsagt kult å ta med seg. Dagen har likevel ikke vært perfekt. Vi hadde en punktering, i tillegg gjorde jeg en feil som vi tapte tid på, sier Andreas, som smiler bredt når han snakker om hvor godt han trives med bilen.
– Til tross for det som skjedde i går, har vi hatt det morsomt i dag. Jeg har en god følelse med bilen, og det er utrolig deilig. Nå gleder jeg meg bare til å bli ferdig med dette løpet og komme i gang med neste løp, sier 28-åringen - som riktignok skal gjøre det han kan for å få med seg noen bonuspoeng på power stage før han for alvor retter blikket mot Rally Finland.

Men med en tidlig startposisjon, tror Andreas at det blir vanskelig å få full pott på den siste etappen i morgen.
– Jeg skal i hvert fall gjøre det jeg kan, selv om det ikke er optimalt å være av de første på veien. Men jeg skal gi det et forsøk og prøve så godt det går an, sier han.
18-06-11 Skuffet Mikkelsen måtte bryte etter ledelsen
Motgangen vil ingen ende ta for Andreas Mikkelsen. For tredje løp på rad må han bryte etter å ha kjempet helt i toppen etter at bilen låste seg i revers under Rally Sardinia.
– Utrolig kjedelig. Jeg lå i ledelsen og hadde troen på at vi skulle klare å vinne da problemene oppsto, forteller Andreas Mikkelsen.

Hynundai-føreren og hans kartleser Anders Jæger åpnet Rally Sardinia på meget imponerende vis. De norske guttene ledet med 14 sekunder på teamkamerat Thierry Neuville etter de fem første etappene før service. Men på den første etappen etter service begynte girkassa og krangle. Først mistet han andregiret, og tapte så mange sekunder at han falt ned på andreplass i løpet. På SS7 måtte han til slutt kaste inn håndkleet.
– Det ble bare verre og verre og til slutt sa hele girboksen takk for seg. Bilen låste seg i revers. Vi kunne selvsagt ha rygget i mål, men da ville det ikke gått spesielt fort, sier 28-åringen med en god porsjon galgenhumor.

Nordmannen har alltid opplevd trøbbel på Sardinia, og har en fjerdeplass som beste resultat. Men denne gangen hadde han et håp og en god følelse for at det skulle gå bedre.
– Det var virkelig mye positiv før service. Vi leverte noen gode etappetider og ledet løpet. Bilen fungerte optimalt helt til de tekniske problemene med giret oppsto, forteller Andreas, som stiller til start igjen i morgen med ny girkasse på plass. Men han er selvsagt sjanseløs til en god plass i sammendraget.
– I morgen får vi bare kjøre for å få erfaring fra etappene, men det er selvsagt utrolig kjipt at det gikk sånn, sier han betuttet.
18-06-07 Neuville on the defensive in World Rally's very own Italian job
Thierry Neuville is ready to dig deep to defend his FIA World Rally Championship lead in Italy this weekend. The Belgian stormed to the top of the standings with a sublime victory in Portugal last month. The downside to his success is that, as championship leader, he starts first on Rally Italia Sardegna’s narrow dirt roads in Friday’s opening leg.

His Hyundai i20 will be a high-speed road sweeper, cleaning the surface of loose gravel to create a faster line with more grip for his rivals behind to exploit.

Neuville is resigned to his role, only the second time he has been in this position on gravel in his WRC career, but is set to battle to protect his 19-point lead over reigning champion Sébastien Ogier.

“I know already that it’s going to be a bit of a tough weekend for us,” he said. “I have to keep focused on what my main rivals, Ogier and Ott Tänak, are doing. They are only one and two cars behind me so if they do a small mistake or have a small issue I could benefit from it.

“I need to avoid problems and stay calm, even in the difficult conditions where I know that chances of a good result are very small.”

One glimmer of hope for Neuville lies with the weather forecast for the northern part of Sardinia. Heavy rain is predicted on Thursday which would bind together the gravel and lessen his disadvantage.

“This could help but I think that even if it’s wet, there’s so much loose gravel that it’s going to be tricky. It wouldn’t be as big a handicap then. Times could be pretty close and we could have a chance of a podium,” he explained.

The Italian round marks the midpoint of the season and Neuville already has a plan to derail Ogier’s bid for a sixth consecutive title.

“I try to be consistent, we have a small lead in the points now and we have to keep that and maybe try to increase it.

“At some time we’re going to lose points to him, but if we have a good approach, a competitive car and the team behind us, then we could do something good,” he said.

The rally starts in Alghero on Thursday evening and competitors face 20 speed tests covering 314.36km before Sunday afternoon’s finish in the coastal town.
18-06-07 Unprecedented conditions
Unseasonably wet weather hit this morning's Rally Italia Sardegna shakedown, with rain replacing the typically hot, sunny conditions and significantly reducing the window during which fast times could be realistically set. Unable to get out in this window, Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen, who finished tenth and eleventh respectively, chose instead to focus on preparations for the race.
Tours operators all tend to recommend June as the month to visit Sardinia, not least because the island often has warm, sunny weather by then. So today's rain is highly unusual at this time of year. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT therefore used the 3.34km shakedown, which included part of one of the weekend's stages, to work on set-up of its C3 WRC in these unusual conditions.

With the road surface initially just damp, the C3 WRCs were on the pace on their first two runs. As the rain became heavier, ruining any chance of improving their times, the team decided to use this opportunity to run through various set-up options ahead of the weekend's race. Craig Breen and Mads Østberg ended the morning in tenth (+3.6s) and eleventh (+4.0) places, but with lots of new data.

Although the crews start racing this evening on the two-kilometre Ittiri Arena Show super special stage, the real action gets underway tomorrow with eight stages over a competitive distance 122.86 kilometres. After today's showers, the local roads – which are usually swept clear of a lot of dust and loose gravel by the early runners – may react very differently…

WHAT THEY SAID
Craig Breen
"We were in service when the road was cleaning, and then the rain got heavier and it became very wet so we couldn't really try to set fast times. The feeling in the car was nonetheless very good and that's the most important thing. I'm pleased with the balance of my C3 WRC and I'm now really looking forward to seeing what the race has in store."

Mads Østberg
"The changeable conditions weren't especially easy to get to grips with this morning but we had a positive session. We'll now have to make the right calls tomorrow, depending on the weather and the expected level of grip. In any case, I felt confident behind the wheel of my C3 WRC and that's the key thing."

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:53.9
Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:54.7
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:54.8
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:54.8
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:54.8
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:55.3
Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:56.1
Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:56.7
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:57.1
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:57.5
Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:57.9


18-06-04 Tøff VM-runde venter Mikkelsen
Rally Sardinia har alltid bydd på utfordringer for Andreas Mikkelsen. Han forventer at det også i år vil det bli et vanskelig løp.

Nordmannen har fjerdeplassen fra 2014 som sin bestenotering på Sardinia. Dette har han og kartleser Anders Jæger selvsagt lyst til å forbedre i år, men Andreas Mikkelsen advarer mot at det er et utfordrende løp.
– Jeg kan vel ikke akkurat si at Sardinia har vært det beste løpet for oss. I hvert fall ikke resultatmessig. Selv om vi har holdt et greit tempo der, så har det alltid skjedd ett eller annet som har gjort at vi ikke har endt helt i toppen. Det er et tøft rally på mange måter. Det er utrolig varmt og røffe forhold, noe som gjør at dekkvalg blir veldig viktig, sier han.

Hyundai-føreren ligger på sjetteplass så langt i VM etter seks runder. På Sardinia starter han som bil nummer fem, i og med at Dani Sordi som ligger på fjerdeplass i VM, ikke skal delta i Rally Sardinia.
– Jeg har en god startposisjon, og kommer til å gi gass fra start. Samtidig er det svært viktig å finne den rette balansen, for det er fort gjort å gjøre en feil på disse veiene, påpeker han.

Hyundai har tidligere gjort det bra på Sardinia, og det gjør 28-åringen optimistisk med tanke på målet om å komme på pallen.
– Jeg tror det er et løp som passer bilen bra, og klarer vi å unngå feil eller uhell, så er seierspallen innen rekkevidde. Vi ligger litt etter poengmessig i VM etter null poeng i Portugal. Det var ikke helt etter planen, men dessverre utenfor vår kontroll. Vi får bare prøve å ta igjen det tapte med et godt resultat i Rally Sardinia, sier han.

Tidsplan Rally Sardinia 2018
Torsdag 7. juni
18:00 SS1 Ittiri Arena Show (2,00km)

Fredag 8. juni
06:30 Alghero Service
08:30 SS2 Tula 1 (22,12km)
09:49 SS3 Castelsardo 1 (14,37km)
10:38 SS4 Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14km)
11:48 SS5 Monte Baranta 1 (11,46km)
12:43 Alghero Service
15:01 SS6 Tula 2 (22,12km)
16:17 SS7 Castelsardo 2 (14,37km)
17:06 SS8 Tergu- Osilo 2 (14,14km)
18:25 SS9 Monte Baranta 2 (11,46km)
19:00 Alghero Flexi Service

Lørdag 9. juni
05:50 Alghero Service
08:38 SS10 Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,95km)
09:32 SS11 Monti Di Ala‘ 1 (28,52km)
10:11 SS12 Monte Lerno 1 (28,89km)
13:02 Alghero Service
14:10 SS13 Citta‘ Di Ittiri – Coros (1,42km)
16:08 SS14 Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,95km)
17:02 SS15 Monti Di Ala‘ 2 (28,52km)
17:41 SS16 Monte Lerno 2 (28,89km)
20:12 Alghero Flexi Service

Søndag 10. juni
07:45 Alghero Service
08:445SS17 Cala Flumini 1 (14,06km)
09:38 SS18 Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,96km)
10:25 Porto Torres Regroup
11:12 SS19 Cala Flumini 2 (14,06km)
11:34 La Pedraia Regroup
12:18 SS20 Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,96km)
13:15 Alghero Service
14:15 Podium
18-05-24 Statment: Terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC
Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety, and given that the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play, Citroën Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC.

The decision becomes effective from the 2018 Rally Italia Sardegna and we will shortly be announcing the team’s line-up of crews for the remainder of the 2018 season. The entries of C3 WRCs for Craig Breen / Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg /Torstein Eriksen still stand for Sardinia.

Pierre Budar: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it effects a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.”
18-05-21 Hyundai Motorsport segrar i Rally de Portugal
Hyundai Motorsport dominerade i helgens Rally de Portugal, den sjätte omgången av 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Thierry Neuville med kartläsare Nicolas Gilsoul segrade med en marginal på hela 40 sekunder över M-Sport Fords Elfyn Evans.

Det var ett dramatiskt rally där många tävlande stötte på problem men Neuville höll en klar ledning vilket gav honom karriärens åttonde och hans andra WRC-seger för säsongen. Det är Hyundai Motorsports nionde seger totalt och tack vare den behåller teamet ledningen i Konstruktörsmästerskapet. Neuvilles resultat gör även att kan nu toppar Förarmästerskapet med 119 poäng, före Ogier som inte tog några poäng det här rallyt på 100.
Dani Sordo slutade på femma efter att länge kämpat om tredjeplatsen men föll bak ett par placeringar efter en 10 sekunders bestraffning under fredagskvällens etapp inne i Porto.

Andreas Mikkelsen återanslöt i Rally 2-klassen på lördagen efter att tekniska problem tvingat honom att bryta redan under fredag eftermiddag. Norrmannen med kartläsare lyckades ändå plocka hem värdefulla mästerskapspoäng för teamet.
Neuville berättar: ”Vilken helg och vilket resultat! Vi försökte vara smarta under det här rallyt genom att trycka på när vi kunde och kontrollera farten när vi behövde. Bilen fungerade fantastiskt hela helgen och teamet har verkligen stöttat oss hela vägen. Jag har aldrig känt mig så bekväm trots utmanande förhållanden.”

Nästa rally går av stapeln på Sardinen den 7-10 juni. Det väntas bli ett svårt event men Team Principal Michel Nandan bekräftar att teamet är mer än redo för att anta utmaningen. Hyundai Motorsport vann på Sardinien 2016 med Neuville men säkrade även pallplatser i 2015 (Paddon 2:a, Neuville 3:a) och 2017 (Neuville 3:a) vilket är framgångar teamet planerar bygga vidare på.

Slutresultat - Rally de Portugal
1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:49:46.6
2 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +40.0
3 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +47.3
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +54.7
5 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:00.9
6 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +3:33.5
7 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +5:23.0
8 P. Tidemand J. Andersson Škoda Fabia R5 +14:10.8
9 L. Pieniazek P. Mazur Škoda Fabia R5 +16:17.3
10 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau Citroën C3 R5 +16:34.3
... ... ... ... ...
16 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC + 24:44.4

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Förarmästerskapet
Efter omgång 6
1 T. Neuville 119
2 S. Ogier 100
3 O. Tanak 72
4 D. Sordo 58
5 E. Lappi 57
6 A. Mikkelsen 54
7 E. Evans 45
8 K. Meeke 43
9 J.M Latvala 31
10 C. Breen 26
11 T. Suninen 23
12 M. Østberg 16
13 S. Loeb 15
14 P. Tidemand 11
15 H. Paddon 10

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Konstruktörsmästerskapet
Efter omgång 6
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 175
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 162
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 140
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 111
18-05-21 Högt och lågt för Bergkvist i Portugal
I helgen var Emil Bergkvist från Torsåker på plats i Portugal för att köra den tredje deltävlingen i Junior-VM i Rally, JWRC, ihop med Joakim Sjöberg. Emil och Joakim var länge med och slogs om segern innan en avåkning tvingade duon att bryta i ledning, trots detta blir det en bra poängskörd med från Portugal.
– Vi blev utan styrning på sträcka 12 och rullade, vi kunde starta om till söndagen och lyckades köra upp oss till en fjärdeplats, säger Emil.

Dessutom tar Emil och Joakim 11 sträcksegrar av 20 möjliga, och får därför med sig 11 bonuspoäng i mästerskapet som leds av landsmannen Dennis Rådström som även vann tävlingen i Portugal.
– Vi är nöjda med vår insats och den fart vi visat, trots omständigheterna, säger Emil som nu blickar framåt mot nästa deltävling i Finland i slutet av juli.
18-05-21 Dennis Rådström och Johan Johansson vinner Rally Portugal
Efter ett rekordtufft rally som skördat många offer kan Dennis Rådström och Johan Johansson pusta ut och konstatera att de vinner Portugals VM-tävling i rally med stor marginal. De tar sin andra seger i årets Junior-VM och drygar ut sin ledning i mästerskapet.

– Det känns helt fantastiskt, jag tror vi gjort vårt bästa rally någonsin, säger Dennis.
– Vi är imponerade över oss själva och vår insats, att vi klarar av ett oerhört tufft rally på en hög nivå. Sen har det vart en otrolig upplevelse med alla fans som har vart ute och kollat.

Tävlingen i Portugal var den första på grus i årets JWRC, och närmare 15 bilar ställde upp i den tuffa juniorklassen. Dennis och Johan fokuserade på att köra sitt eget race och ta bilen i mål, något som kom att bli avgörande när nästan samtliga i klassen drabbades av problem eller åkte av vägen.
– Vägarna har vart enormt dåliga med mycket stora stenar överallt. Vi har kört smart och tog inte i maximalt överallt. Ska jag vara ärlig så var vi kanske inte snabbast, men vi var smartast, och därför står vi här som segrare nu, fortsätter Dennis.
– Det har vart långa dagar och varmt väder som tar hårt på fysiken, så det har vart svårt att hålla fokuset uppe. Men vi har skött våra förberedelser riktigt bra, så det var inga problem för oss, säger Johan.

Dennis och Johan har nu två segrar och en fjärdeplats på de tre deltävlingarna som körts i årets JWRC. De utökar sin ledning i mästerskapet när två deltävlingar återstår.
– Att bara få vara ute i VM och tävla är en stor dröm som går i uppfyllelse, och många av våra konkurrenter har vart stora förebilder för mig och Johan tidigare. Så det är bara fränt att få vara en del av detta. Men nu får vi jobba hårt inför avslutningen, hårdare än någonsin, säger Dennis.
– Det är väldigt hårt konkurrens i mästerskapet och de andra kör riktigt bra, så ingenting är avgjort än. Men det är klart att vi har ett bra självförtroende som vi tar med oss till Finland, avslutar Johan.

Nästa tävling i Junior-WRC körs den 26 till 29 juni i Finland, där Dennis och Johan slutade på en tredjeplats förra året.

Resultat JWRC Rally de Portugal 2018:
1. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson (SWE)
2. Enrico Oldrati (ITA) +15.06,5
3. David Holder (NZE) +20.22,3
4. Emil Bergkvist (SWE) +27.10,1
5. Bugra Banaz (TUR) +28.50,2
18-05-20 The C3 RF also passes its "gravel" licence!
Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau held the lead on eight of the twenty stages contested this weekend and equally claimed a stage win as they showed that the C3 R5 also has the potential to become the new benchmark in the category on gravel. Ultimately third overall in the WRC2 on the car's maiden outing on this surface, they went very close to doing even better…

As gravel is the surface on which most of the world rally championship is contested, this round was very important for Citroen in terms of its customer racing strategy. The brand can therefore take satisfaction this evening from having seen the C3 R5 – the new flagship model of its range – enjoy a successful debut on the demanding roads of Rally de Portugal, which caught out many other crews this weekend. After winning the first proper stage, the 26.73km-long SS2, works driver Stéphane Lefebvre confirmed that he meant business and he ended Friday's morning loop with the WRC2 class lead, 27.5s clear of his pursuers. The afternoon proved to be more difficult, however, with a puncture on SS5 resulting in damage to a brake hose on SS6, and the talented young Frenchman dropped back to third place. Stéphane refused to be beaten, however, and his persistence was rewarded when he moved back into the overall lead on day two's opening stage. He then increased his lead to 49.4s over the second-placed driver by the end of Saturday morning's loop. But another puncture on SS14 then proved costly: the wheel locked, resulting in a broken transmission on Amarante, the longest stage of the rally (37.60km). Once again, Stéphane Lefebvre showed great strength of character and skill to hold onto third place. He even managed to finish the race in style. Determined not to give up, the 26 year-old Frenchman made up 31.3s on the category's second-placed driver on Sunday's leg, over a competitive distance of just 51.53km, ending up 17s shy of the runner-up spot. All of which suggests that he has already established a strong – and effective – bond with C3 R5!

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, we had been hoping for a slightly better outcome in terms of result, because we had the speed to aim higher. But there are several reasons to be pleased, not least the reliability of the car, which had no technical issues on its maiden outing on gravel. Stéphane picked up a stage win and he also held the category lead for several stages, so that shows that the C3 R5 is also well designed for this surface. In any case, I'm very pleased with the way in which Stéphane managed his race. It was a consistent and mature performance, and we are now going to keep working on improving and fine-tuning the set-up of the car."

Stéphane Lefebvre
"It was an especially difficult Rally de Portugal this year, particularly on Friday afternoon's loop, but the C3 R5 handled very well on its debut on this surface. It was important to rack up the miles on this first outing, so we didn't take any unnecessary risks. Unfortunately, however, we still had two punctures, without which we would have recorded an even better result. But the potential is definitely there and that augurs well for the future, with the planned fine-tuning of the set-up."
18-05-20 Portugal victory sees Neuville regain champion
Neuville stays out of trouble on the final day to land second win of the season Thierry Neuville won Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Sunday afternoon to swing the FIA World Rally Championship pendulum firmly in his favour.

Victory at the gruelling four-day dirt road encounter promoted Neuville to the top of the standings as the series approaches its midpoint. After starting 10 points behind reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, the Belgian leaves Portugal with a 19-point advantage.

Neuville steered his Hyundai i20 away from trouble during a weekend of attrition that sidelined many frontrunners to win by 40.0sec from Elfyn Evans’ Ford Fiesta.

Fellow title challengers Ogier and Ott Tänak ended pointless after falling foul of Friday’s rock-strewn speed tests and Neuville pressed home his advantage by claiming four extra bonus points in the final Power Stage.

He moved to the front near the end of Friday’s first leg after the lead changed hands six times in a frantic opening. He doubled his advantage yesterday and eased through Sunday’s finale to secure his second win of the year.

“It was a clever approach all weekend,” he said. “I had a fantastic car which was working well and I felt comfortable. We can be proud of what we achieved here There are a lot of Portuguese mechanics in the team and I think the party is going to be big tonight!”

Second for Evans eased the pressure after a disappointing season and team-mate Teemu Suninen helped erase the frustration of Ogier’s blank weekend in the M-Sport Ford squad by claiming his maiden podium. He finished 7.3sec behind the Welshman.

Suninen held off Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo in an intense fight for the final podium place. Lappi was 7.4sec adrift of his fellow Finn in a Toyota Yaris with Spaniard Sordo 6.2sec further back in his i20.

Sordo went to bed last night in third but woke up this morning in fourth after receiving a 10sec penalty for dislodging two bales on a Porto street stage roundabout on Friday night.

Round seven promises a high-summer shootout on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The all-gravel Rally Italia Sardegna is based in Alghero on 8 - 10 June.

Leading positions:
1. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 3hr 49min 46.6sec
2. E Evans / D Barritt GBR Ford Fiesta + 40.0sec
3. T Suninen / M Markkula FIN Ford Fiesta + 47.3sec
4. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 54.7sec
5. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 1min 00.9sec
6. M Østberg / T Eriksen NOR Citroën C3 + 3min 33.5sec

FIA World Rally Championship (round 6 of 13):
1. T Neuville 119pts
2. S Ogier 100pts
3. O Tänak 72pts
18-05-20 Thousands of fans flock to fafe
Once again hampered by their role as road-sweepers for the rest of the field, Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen and Craig Breen – Scott Martin used today's final leg to work on their C3 WRC's set-up options in low-grip conditions, whilst nonetheless securing the sixth and seventh place points for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

Although plenty of spectators had turned up for the previous legs, thousands and thousands of highly-enthusiastic Portuguese fans lined the roads today to see the final day of racing. They came especially hoping to see the WRCs tackle the famous Fafe jump, over of rally's iconic sights, not once but twice! A natural, slightly angled springboard that tests not only the courage and skills of the drivers but also the ability of the cars to absorb the huge forces involved.

Once again hampered by running first and second on the road, Mads Østberg and Craig Breen used this final leg to keep working on the C3 WRC in low-grip conditions, whilst ensuring they also secured sixth and seventh positions overall respectively.

The starting order was revised for the Power Stage, with Mads Østberg running eighth on the road for the final test. He took advantage of this improved position to show that the French WRC had lost none of its speed, setting a time just 4.8s off the pace (over 11.18km) despite the fact that very little was at stake for him. The Norwegian's performance showed that he is becoming increasingly comfortable in the car and is ready to up his pace again at the next round in Sardinia.

WHAT THEY SAID
Craig Breen
"Our puncture on Friday afternoon, when we were running third, meant we had to open the road on the next two days and from that point on, it was difficult to hope for a better outcome. But I'm now looking forward to Sardinia to turn the good feeling we had this weekend into a significantly better result."
Mads Østberg
"This first rally on gravel was informative for us because we learned a lot about the C3 WRC. Although we struggled a bit to find the right set-up on Friday morning, the team quickly worked it out and the car worked very well in the afternoon for the second loop. It's just that we then had a tough time of it due to our road position. If you don't have as good a first day as you were hoping for, then your whole rally ends up being affected, but I'm pleased to see that the speed was there whenever we pushed and we had the right conditions."

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:49:46.6
2. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 40.0
3. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 47.3
4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 54.7
5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:00.9
6. Østberg/ Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:33.5
7. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 5:23:0

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Thierry Neuville – 119 points
2. Sébastien Ogier – 100 points
3. Ott Tänak – 72 points
4. Dani Sordo – 58 points
5. Esapekka Lappi – 57 points
6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 54 points
7. Elfyn Evans – 45 points
8. Kris Meeke – 43 points
9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 31 points
10. Craig Breen – 26 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Hyundai WRT – 175 points
2. M-Sport Ford WRT – 162 points
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 140 points
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 111 points
18-05-20 Från vinst i Rally Biltema till tysk asfalt för Lundberg/Arhusiander
Efter en kanonhelg i Karlstad där landslagsföraren Elias Lundberg med Co-driver David Arhusiander vann Rally Biltema bland de tvåhjulsdrivna bilarna och blev 3:a totalt i tävlingen med Ola Axelssons Volvo 940 så laddar nu teamet om för Tysk asfalt. Redan på tisdagen åker teamet ner till Tyskland för att genomföra ett test inför AvD-Sachsen-Rallye som börjar på fredagen i staden Zwickau. Elias & David går från några framgångsrika tävlingar på grus i Sverige med en kraftfull bakhjulsdriven bil till en betydligt motorsvagare framhjulsdriven bil på asfalt.
- Det kommer bli en riktigt tuff tävling med väldigt hård konkurrens och det kommer vara viktigt att hänga med från början, förklarar Elias och fortsätter. Därför känns det bra att köra ett test innan tävlingen för att försöka hinna ställa om körningen för asfalt och framhjulsdrivet.

Elias & David ligger tvåa i tabellen efter första deltävlingen i ADAC Opel Rallye Cup och nu väntar en mer klassisk asfaltstävling i deltävling nummer två.
- Förra tävlingen var väldigt utmanande med snö, is och blöt asfalt vilket överraskade hela startfältet. Vi tog då chansen och gjorde en bra tävling. Nu när en ’’riktig’’ asfaltstävling väntar så har jag mycket mindre erfarenhet än de flesta andra som är uppväxta med asfalt, men vi ser verkligen fram emot utmaningen, säger Elias.

Tävlingen avgörs under den 25:e och 26:e maj på närmare 17 mil specialsträckor runt den tyska staden Zwickau och är den tredje tävlingen Elias kör på asfaltsunderlag i sin karriär.

18-05-20 Positiv avslutning på skuffende løp
Rally Portugal ble aldri som Andreas Mikkelsen hadde håpet, men nordmannen gleder seg over at hans gode venn og teamkamerat Thierry Neuville vant løpet og overtok ledelsen i VM.

Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger var Andreas Mikkelsen optimistisk foran Rally Portugal. Og 28-åringen viste allerede fra start at han mente alvor når han hadde ambisjoner om å kjempe i toppen. Dessverre fikk han problemer med servostyringen, og måtte bryte fredag. Dermed handlet alt om å sikre flest mulig poeng for Hyundai Motorsport, og forsøke å hente hjem poeng på power stage. Andreas gjennomførte en meget sterk sisteetappe, og var raskest av de som hadde kjørt i mål. Men på grunn av sin tidlige startposisjon, visste han at det ville bli vanskelig å holde unna for de som startet etter han. Forholdene ble bedre og bedre for hver bil, og til slutt ble han nummer seks på den siste etappen – og var dermed ikke blant de fem som fikk bonuspoeng i VM. Kun to tideler skilte han fra femteplass på den siste etappen.
– Det ble ikke helgen vi håpet på. Selv om jeg hadde håpet på poeng på power stage, visste vi at det ville bli tøft med tanke på vår tidlige startposisjon. Vi prøvde det vi kunne, men lyktes dessverre ikke. Likevel ble det en fin avslutningen på løpet, og jeg vil rette en stor takk til teamet som gjort noen forandringer med bilen så den passer min kjørestil mye bedre nå. Jeg er i stand til å pushe skikkelig og levere gode etapper, og derfor er jeg optimistisk og ser virkelig frem til Rally Sardinia, sier Andreas Mikkelsen, som gledet seg stort over at teamkamerat i Hyundai, Thierry Neuville, vant årets sjette VM-runde. Andreas sin gode venn overtok dermed også ledelsen i VM-sammendraget – og har nå et forsprang på 19 poeng på Sebastien Ogier.
– Jeg er veldig glad på Thierry sine vegne, og hele teamet fortjener dette, sier Andreas, som selv var med på å sikre Hyundai seks poeng i fabrikk-mesterskapet. Hyundai leder mesterskapet, 13 poeng foran M-Sport Ford.

Briten Elfyn Evans sikret seg andreplassen i løpet, 40 sekunder bak Neuville, mens finnen Teemu Sunninen ble løpets store overraskelse da han sikret seg sin første pallplass i WRC – 47,3 sekunder bak vinneren.
18-05-20 Kämparglöden tog Tidemand till seger i Rally Portugal
Inget kunde stoppa Pontus Tidemands framfart i Portugal - inte ens två punkteringar. Efter en enastående upphämtning var han tillbaka i täten och höll sin position över mållinjen. Därmed gör han hattrick i segrar i det portugisiska VM-rallyt och fortsätter leda årets WRC 2-mästerskap.

Pontus fick en fin start och var i delad ledning efter Rally Portugals öppningssträcka på torsdag kväll. Men fredagens extremt tuffa vägar visade sig gå hårt åt många av de tävlande, däribland Pontus, som fick två punkteringar under dagen och tappade närmare tre minuter. Han och kartläsaren Jonas Andersson laddade kvickt om och började kampen för att ta sig tillbaka in i spelet. På fredagens resterande sträckor lyckades de avancera till femte plats och hade då nästan två minuter till förstaplatsen.

Under lördagen visade den värmländska SKODA-duon kämparglöd när den behövdes som mest. De fullkomligen flög fram i sin Fabia R5 och var snabbare än sina konkurrenter på alla sex sträckor som stod på lördagens program. De klarade sig igenom utmaningarna utan minsta problem och imponerande nog intog de ledarpositionen innan nattuppehållet - med en marginal på nästan en och en halv minut till tvåan.
- Inte varje helg man kör upp sig från 17:e till första plats, skrattar Pontus. Men vi hade en otroligt bra känsla med bilen, en bra rytm och allt bara fungerade så vi kunde göra vårt jobb. I situationen vi hamnade i efter punkteringarna hade vi inget att förlora men allt att vinna, så vi gav allt och hoppades att det skulle vara möjligt.

Att nå toppen och hålla sig kvar där var definitivt möjligt. På söndagens fem finalsträckor rattade sig Pontus rutinerat till mål med rätt balans mellan fart och säkerhet. Han plockade sträckseger nummer 12 och 13 för helgen innan han gick i mål som vinnare med över två minuter tillgodo.
- Jag kan inte vara mer nöjd med vår prestation. Vi fightade ordentligt för segern, vi tog inte bara ledningen och stannade där hela tävlingen, utan nu har vi också fått visa att vi kan slå i underläge. Det bevisar verkligen att man aldrig får ge upp. Jag vet att jag har sagt det många gånger tidigare men jag är enormt tacksam att få jobba med ett så fantastiskt team som ger oss perfekt material och de bästa förutsättningarna. Det betyder allt för att kunna leverera resultat som det här, säger Pontus.

Med den här segern gör Pontus även hattrick i segrar i Rally Portugals WRC 2-klass och tar samtidigt sin 30:e pallplats i VM på 43 starter. Totalt i rallyt räcker resultatet till en åttonde plats med flertalet WRC-bilar bakom sig. Den här gången stärker Pontus dessutom sin mästerskapsledning och tar ett kliv närmare målet för säsongen: att försvara världsmästartiteln.

Rally Portugal 2018 resultat WRC 2
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 4:03:57.4
2. Lukasz Pieniazek (POL) +2:06.5
3. Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA) +3:23.5
4. Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA) +3:10.5
5. Juuso Nordgren (FIN) +5:41.1
18-05-19 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT just outside top five
Although the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews were all hampered by their positions in the running order today, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle unfortunately going off in a heavy crash, Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen and Craig Breen – Scott Martin diligently stuck to the task in hand and ended the day in sixth and seventh positions respectively, adding to their experience on the way.

Faced with the grim prospect of acting as road-sweepers on the rally's longest leg, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews were expecting a tough time of it on today's second full day of racing. Following their misfortunes yesterday, Craig Breen, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg were running first, second and third on the road respectively and therefore found themselves sweeping the fine layer of sandy, loose gravel on the surface, instead of seeing their tyres bite into the hard ground beneath.

This exercise, which can prove educational, involves never veering off the racing line, otherwise you almost certainly lose control, and sticking to the line can prove very costly time-wise. However, Mads Østberg and Craig Breen made the best of the conditions encountered to make it to the end of the leg in sixth and seventh overall, despite a brief off (SS14) for Mads, who was caught off guard by a shower.

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were also sticking to their plan when they turned slightly late into a fast left-hand corner and went off the road, rolling into the trees. Taken to hospital for precautionary checks, the British driver was discharged a few hours later just with a few bruises, ready to bounce back at the next event, Rally Italia Sardegna.

Although tomorrow's final leg only features a competitive distance of 51.53km (five stages), it includes two runs on the famous Fafe stage, where thousands of spectators are expected to cheer on the crews, especially at the huge jump just before the finish.

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, it's disappointing for us to see Kris and Paul go off the road, but we are above all relieved that they have escaped more or less unscathed. As regards Mads and Craig, they did their best given their road positions, whilst also learning and acquiring information that will be useful to us in the future."

Kris Meeke
"I turned into a fast left-hand corner a little bit late, missed my line and got onto the loose gravel on the outside of the corner and lost control of the car. Obviously, I'm sorry for the whole team, who clearly deserved better. I'm really very grateful that they built such a strong car. It was my mistake, of course, so I'll take it on the chin. But the feeling in my C3 WRC was so good here in Portugal that I can't help but take the positives away from this weekend."

Craig Breen
"It was a difficult day for us, with a huge amount of cleaning with the dry and sandy ground. It hasn’t rained properly here for a while! But it’s the kind of experience that you have to get in order to fight with the very best one day and I prefer to focus on the very good feeling that I had driving my C3 WRC."

Mads Østberg
"The morning went well for us. I felt full of confidence in my C3 WRC and the times were pretty decent given our position in the running order. Since we weren't in a close fight for position with anyone, we decided to do some set-up tests this afternoon to try and keep improving with the car. We probably pushed things a bit too far, but that's part and parcel of the learning process."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:16:30.0
2. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 39.8
3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 57.2
4. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:01.9
5. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:13.0
6. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:14.1
7. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) ) + 4:53.1
18-05-19 Belgian gives world title hopes a major boost at Vodafone Rally de Portugal
Thierry Neuville starts tomorrow’s short finale with a 39.8sec advantage in his Hyundai i20, and victory would propel him back to the head of the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time since February.

Conditions were more benign than yesterday when rock-strewn dirt roads caused carnage among the frontrunners, and the Belgian focused on the double pass through the 37.60km Amarante speed test, the longest of this sixth round of the series.

He protected his Michelin tyres through the two previous stages of the morning and afternoon loops, before attacking in Amarante. He distanced closest rival Elfyn Evans on both occasions to build a comfortable advantage.

“I was comfortable in the car, especially in the long stage. I tried to make a difference in there and it worked twice. It’s not finished yet but it could be a great weekend,” said Neuville, whose conservative mix of hard and soft compound tyres were ideal for the wet final test.

Evans won two of the day’s six stages in his Ford Fiesta, one more than Neuville, and the Welshman looked increasingly secure in second as the day progressed. He struggled for confidence in both passes through Amarante but had a 17.4sec margin over Dani Sordo.

The Spaniard stiffened his i20’s set-up following the morning’s opening test but slipped back into the clutches of Teemu Suninen with a final stage spin. The margin between them narrowed to 4.7sec.

The young Suninen had a stellar day in his Ford Fiesta, holding off fellow Finn Esapekka Lappi in a furious fight. Both were on the limit throughout as they traded seconds in every stage and Lappi ended 11.1sec adrift in his Toyota Yaris.

Mads Østberg was a distant sixth, the Norwegian conceding almost a minute after sliding onto a bank at a muddy corner. The Citroën C3 driver was almost 1min 40sec clear of team-mate Craig Breen.

There was more disappointment for Kris Meeke in the French squad’s third C3. He slid wide on a fast left bend and his C3 rolled heavily down a bank and into trees. Both Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle were unhurt.

Five more stages covering 51.53km lie in wait on Sunday, including two passes through the classic Fafe test and its famous jump. The second pass forms the Power Stage with bonus points on offer to the fastest five drivers.

Leading positions:
1. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 3hr 16min 30.0sec
2. E Evans / D Barritt GBR Ford Fiesta + 39.8sec
3. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 57.2sec
4. T Suninen / M Markkula FIN Ford Fiesta + 1min 01.9sec
5. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 1min 13.0sec
6. M Østberg / T Eriksen NOR Citroën C3 + 3min 14.1sec
18-05-19 Sikter inn mot morgendagen
Etter brutt løp i går, er Andreas Mikkelsen kun opptatt av å sikre mest mulig poeng for Hyundai i fabrikkmesterskapet og hente med seg VM-poeng med en god power stage i Rally Portugal.

Andreas Mikkelsen og kartleser Anders Jæger måtte bryte Rally Portugal fredag etter problemer med servoen. De var til tilbake på startstreken i dag, men har ikke så mye annet å kjøre for enn å sikre verdifulle poeng til Hyundai Motorsport i fabrikkmesterskapet.
– Etter brutt løp i går er det ikke mye å kjøre for med tanke på fører-VM. Men vi ligger an til å ta med oss seks poeng i fabrikkmesterskapet, noe som er veldig verdifullt for teamet. Det er dette vi har hatt fokus på i dag, forteller Andreas.
Gjennom hele dagen har de kjørt med et motorprogram som har gitt lavere ytelse for å sikre at de kommer i mål. Det er nemlig litt usikkert om motoren ble skadet i går.
– Selv om løpet for vår del er en stor skuffelse, bidrar det fine været og folkehavet ute på etappene til at atmosfæren er spesiell. Nå handler alt om å fullføre for å sikret teamet verdifulle poeng, og prøve å hente hjem så mange poeng som mulig på power stage-etappen, sier Andreas, som kan glede seg over at teamkameratene Thierry Neuville og Dani Sordo ligger på henholdsvis første- og tredjeplass i løpet. På andreplass ligger Elfyn Evans, som har nesten 40 sekunder opp til Neuville, mens han har snaut 20 sekunders forsprang på Sordo.
18-05-19 Imponerande comeback av Tidemand - leder i Portugal
Efter fredagens punkteringar slog Pontus Tidemand tillbaka med full styrka. En enastående uppvisning i sin SKODA Fabia R5 har tagit honom till ledning i Rally Portugals WRC 2-klass.

Fredagen var tuff med två punkteringar som kostade närmare tre minuter, men på lördagen var oturen som bortblåst och Pontus Tidemand kunde göra en imponerande stark comeback. Han och co-drivern Jonas Andersson var i en klass för sig när de tog tillbaka förlorad tid och var snabbast på samtliga sträckor under dagen.
- Känslan har varit kanon hela dagen, säger Pontus. Det kändes i och för sig riktigt bra igår också men de där punkteringarna ställde till det för oss. Bilen funkar perfekt och det har varit kul att få ligga på lite och kämpa oss tillbaka sekund för sekund. Idag har vi dessutom klarat oss utan incidenter så det har bara varit att köra på.

Pontus startade lördagen på femte plats med en minut och 45 sekunder till toppen, men ett bra tempo och felfri körning hann ta honom upp i ledning innan dagen var över.
- Det är lite galet att tänka att vi låg nästan två minuter efter igår medans vi idag leder med närmare en och en halv. Det svänger snabbt i rally, konstaterar en leende Pontus, som nu förbereder sig för att ge allt för att hålla sin position ända i mål.

Rally Portugal 2018 WRC 2 topp fem efter SS15/20:
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 3:29:22.7
2. Lukasz Pieniazek (POL) +1:19.4
3. Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA) +2:07.7
4. Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA) +2:15.8
5. Hiroki Arai (JAP) +2:54.2
18-05-19 The C3 WRCs big on pace but short on luck
One of the dominant forces on today's opening leg with three stage wins, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle and Craig Breen – Scott Martin saw their hopes of a strong result seriously compromised by punctures, whilst Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen ended the day in an encouraging sixth place on their debut on gravel in the C3 WRC.
Expected to be the decisive leg of the rally due to the tendency of its stages to break up and become irreversibly rutted, day one proved to be even more devastating than predicted, with several drivers having to retire.

The C3 WRC, however, once again demonstrated its competitiveness and strength, claiming three stage wins (two for Meeke, one for Breen) from the day's six proper speed tests. A performance that reflected its versatility and the ability of the team to adapt its set-up to the changing road conditions.

But unfortunately, the Red Army's luck ran out again on the final real stage of the day (SS7). Kris Meeke, twice the rally leader during the day, and Craig Breen, third at that point just 4.4s off the pace, were both hit with punctures at the same time. Having already picked up a puncture on the previous stage, Kris was forced to contest the remaining two super special stages with only three wheels intact, but managed nonetheless to hang onto seventh position (+1:18.7) at the end of the leg, whilst Craig, who lost 2:24.6 with his misfortune, dropped down to eighth overall (+2:27.3).

Gradually upping his pace throughout the day on his first gravel outing in the C3 WRC, Mads Østberg made it to service this evening in sixth place. And his second fastest time on SS5, just 0.8s off the pace over its twenty-seven kilometres, augurs well for the rest the rally.

The rest of the rally starts, of course, tomorrow as the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews tackle the longest leg (154.64km over six stages). Craig Breen, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg will all be determined to keep fighting as they tackle the stages from first, second and third positions on the road respectively…

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"We are the only team that managed to end the leg with all three cars still in the race. That shows ours reliability, but unfortunately the standings don't reflect our level of performance. With five hard Michelin tyres, I think we made the right call on tyre choice for the afternoon, but we then had these punctures, which proved so costly for Kris and Craig. I'd like thank Kris and Paul for having managed the minor miracle of making it back to service in their C3 WRC and also acknowledge the progress made by Mads."

Kris Meeke
"It was a difficult day for us. It had all started so well, I felt so good in the car and we were leading the rally. But in the afternoon, I picked up two separate punctures – I've no idea where – and suddenly things were a lot more complicated. In order not to break the rules, which say that you can't drive on the wheel rims during the road sections, we had to manage the two flat tyres as best we could. In running second on the road tomorrow on the stages that will clean the most this weekend, I'm going to suffer for sure, but you can count on me to fight all the way and give it everything."

Craig Breen
“Obviously, it's been a frustrating day for us. We had really got back into our stride again this afternoon. Without the puncture, we could potentially have been leading the rally tonight. I'll be first on the road tomorrow, but I'll be doing my utmost to limit the damage."

Mads Østberg
"After an up and down morning where I made a few set-up mistakes, I really enjoyed it this afternoon. The car was really perfect to drive, after the team made changes in service. We stopped on the road where Paddon had his accident to see if we could help, so we didn't contest the longest stage of the day, but that wasn't the most important thing at the time. The conditions remind me of the Acropolis Rally, in Greece. It was so rough out there today, but we made it to the end of the leg and we're going to try and do even better in the rest of the rally."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:37:30.7
Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 17.7
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 24.3
Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 34.4
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 45.8
Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 48.3
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1:18.7
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) ) + 2:27.3
18-05-18 Thierry Neuville leads after a crazy opening day at Rally de Portugal
Chaotic opening leg destroys hopes of many Vodafone Rally de Portugal frontrunners. The lead changed hands on six occasions on rock-strewn dirt roads near the Spanish border before the Belgian Thierry Neuville took a 17.7sec advantage in his Hyundai i20 over Elfyn Evans. Dani Sordo was a further 6.6sec adrift in third.

WRC leader Sébastien Ogier, previous round winner Ott Tänak, Toyota Yaris team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and Hyundai duo Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon were all sidelined as the gruelling roads took a heavy toll.

Neuville’s gamble to select soft tyres for this afternoon’s second loop of three speed tests appeared to have backfired as temperatures rose and the tracks became rougher than expected.

He held his nerve and jumped from sixth to first as bedlam broke out around him, retaining his advantage over two asphalt stages in the streets of central Porto.

“Today was tough but we managed to stay out of trouble. It was very rough and there were many, many surprises so I tried to save the car a bit. It was a risky tyre choice which was maybe not great but we made it work,” he said.

Evans held second in a Ford Fiesta until a spin dropped him down the order but the Welshman vaulted from seventh to second in the twists and turns of the final dirt road stage.

Sordo topped the leaderboard midway through the leg in his i20. Like team-mate Neuville, the Spaniard opted for soft tyres this afternoon but regretted his decision and had to slow as they became worn.

Teemu Suninen was fourth in another Fiesta, the Finn avoiding the carnage to trail Sordo by 10.1sec and head Esapekka Lappi in the sole-surviving Toyota Yaris by 11.4sec. Mid-leg set-up changes resolved Lappi’s traction problems.

Mads Østberg was sixth in a Citroën C3, half a minute clear of team-mate Kris Meeke, who twice led. Tyre troubles forced Meeke to drive the final Porto stages with just a wheel rim on the rear left of his car and he conceded a minute.

Ogier was fourth until he broke a steering arm in his Ford Fiesta after hitting a tree root and he crashed at the next bend.

Tänak hit a rock and damaged his engine’s cooling system, forcing him to retire from the rally. Toyota’s turmoil continued when Latvala hit a rock and broke his front right suspension.

Paddon retired from the lead after a heavy impact damaged the front left of his i20 and blocked the stage. The Kiwi was taken to hospital for precautionary checks after complaining of back pain. Broken power steering accounted for team-mate Mikkelsen.

Tomorrow’s (Saturday) leg is the longest of the event, journeying east of the rally base in Matosinhos to demanding roads in the Cabreira Mountains. Three stages are driven morning and afternoon covering 154.64km.

Leading positions:
1. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 1hr 37min 30.7sec
2. E Evans / D Barritt GBR Ford Fiesta + 17.7sec
3. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 24.3sec
4. T Suninen / M Markkula FIN Ford Fiesta + 34.4sec
5. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 45.8sec
6. M Østberg / T Eriksen NOR Citroën C3 + 48.3sec
18-05-18 Mikkelsen felt av servoproblemer
Andreas Mikkelsen opplever alt annet en medvind om dagen. I Rally Portugal var han i ferd med å gi seg selv et godt utgangspunkt for en topplassering da servostyringen tok kvelden – og han måtte etter hvert bryte.

For andre løp på rad må fabrikkføreren til Hyundai Motorsport innse at en topplassering går i vasken på grunn av ting som er utenfor hans herredømme. Mens det var en punktering som felte han i Argentina, var det servostyringen som ødela i Portugal for Andreas og hans kartleser Anders Jæger.
– Vi mistet servostyringen midtveis på SS6. Jeg var i kontakt med ingeniøren vår og vi prøvde så godt vi kunne å ordne problemene på transporten etter etappen. Vi startet SS7 litt for sent på grunn av dette, men etter stund så oppførte bilen seg rart og det sprutet plutselig olje på frontruta. Da hadde vi ikke noe annet valg enn å stoppe, sier en skuffet 28-åring, som hadde kjørt meget bra og hang med i toppen inntil servoproblemene oppsto. Før løpet uttalte nordmannen, som ligger på fjerdeplass i VM, at målet var å legge de tre i teten i VM-sammendraget bak seg i Portugal. Og han var på god vei til lykkes med dette. Fra sin tidlige startposisjon lå han på fjerdeplass etter SS5, kun 10 sekunder bak førsteplassen – men var raskeste av toppkvarteten i VM.
– Jeg er utrolig skuffet, for jeg hadde hatt en veldig bra dag under de røffe forholdene. Bilen sjekkes nå av teamet, så får vi se om servoen lar seg ordne så vi kan starte igjen i morgen, sier han.

Nordmannens teamkamerat Thierry Neuville leder Rally Portugal 13,2 sekunder foran Elfyn Evans, mens Dani Sordo er å finne på tredjeplass, ytterligere 11 sekunder bak.

18-05-18 Tuff inledning i Portugal för Tidemand
Fredagen visade sig bli en extremt tuff dag för de tävlande i Rally Portugal. Så även för Pontus Tidemand som åkte på två punkteringar men en fantastisk upphämtning gör att han trots det ligger på femte plats i ställningarna.

Med delad ledning efter Rally Portugals inledande superspecial var planen att hålla sig i toppstriden. Men redan på fredagsmorgonens första sträcka fick Pontus Tidemand och kartläsaren Jonas Andersson en punktering som kostade dem nästan en och en halv minut. De började direkt kämpa sig tillbaka och på de följade tre sträckorna körde de upp sig från 17:e plats till fjärde plats med tredjeplatsen inom räckhåll. Då kom nästa punktering och duon förlorade återigen över minuten.
- Vad kan jag säga annat än att det här är rally, det är samma svåra förhållanden för alla och det är en del av sporten. Vi är långt ifrån de enda som haft trubbel idag, det har varit riktigt tufft för många så ur det perspektivet ska vi kanske vara glada att vi "bara" har haft punkteringar och faktiskt kunnat fortsätta även om vi har tappat tid. Inte ens hälften av tävlingen är körd så vi laddar om och ger allt och lite till imorgon.

Pontus knöt ihop sin fredag med att vara snabbast på de två avslutande stadssträckorna och är femma i sammandraget efter de två första tävlingsdagarna.

Rally Portugal 2018 WRC 2 topp fem efter SS9/20:
1. Gus Greensmith (GBR) 1:44:27.8
2. Lukasz Pieniazek (POL) +34.3
3. Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA) +34.8
4. Pedro Heller (CHL) +1:28.4
5. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) +1:44.6
18-05-17 Argentina hero Ott Tänak targets dominant win on Portugal gravel
The Estonian is the man to beat and is confident of continuing his fine form. Ott Tänak is the man to fear at Vodafone Rally de Portugal (17 - 20 May) following his stunning victory in Argentina last month.

Tänak dominated in south America in a way nobody has previously managed in new-era World Rally Cars, establishing himself at the forefront of the challengers to defending WRC champion Sébastien Ogier.

Nobody could challenge the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver as he reeled off a remarkable run of 10 fastest times in 12 special stages to charge to the top after an early mistake, and the 30-year-old Estonian is understandably bubbling with confidence.

“We certainly go to Portugal with a good feeling. We obviously know just how well the car can perform. Everything felt good too in our pre-event test where we were just trying to find some more improvements and even better performance.

“Portugal has always been one of my favourite events and our aim is to perform as well as in Argentina, but let’s see how it goes,” added Tänak, whose WRC career started at this rally nine years ago.

Portugal is the opening European dirt road encounter of the 13-round season and is viewed by many as a form barometer after the cluster of specialised fixtures that open the campaign.

The roads around Porto in the north of the country are soft and sandy and become heavily rutted during the second pass. They also disadvantage the early starters who sweep the loose stones to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind.

Tänak is third in the points, 28 points behind Ogier, and therefore third in the start order for Friday’s opening leg and he acknowledges the importance that will have.

“I think Friday will be critical with our road position. We have two cars in front of us so we will have some lines to follow, but normally the cleaning has more of an effect in Portugal.

“It’s important to get another strong result for the championship. We closed the gap a bit in Argentina and now we aim to do the same in Portugal,” he said.

The rally starts at Guimaräes on Thursday evening and finishes in Porto after 20 speed tests covering 358.19km.
18-05-14 Tidemand satsar på tredje raka i Portugal
De två senaste åren har han stått som segrare i det portugisiska VM-rallyts WRC 2-klass och nu satsar SKODA-föraren Pontus Tidemand på att upprepa succén. Han kommer till Portugal som mästerskapsledare efter en fenomenal start på säsongen och är beredd att ge allt för att hålla sin position på de trixiga grusvägarna i den omåttligt populära tävlingen.
- Rally Portugal är en av mina favoriter i VM, säger Pontus. Jag brukar alltid hitta en bra känsla här och att vi har kört till oss riktigt bra resultat alla gånger vi har deltagit stärker den känslan. Det finns inget annat än att gå för seger igen och se till att vara med i toppen från start. Jag är redo och ordentligt taggad så nu ser jag bara fram emot att få trycka på gasen.

Det är lätt att förstå att Pontus trivs på Portugals vägar när man tittar på hans meritlista från tidigare år i just det här rallyt. Han har tävlat här hela sex gånger och slutat på pallen i samtliga, och toppar resultaten med segrar de två senaste åren och i JWRC-klassen 2013.
- Precis som i vårt senaste rally i Argentina består de här vägarna till stor del av sand, men också lera och att välja rätt däck är extremt viktigt för att få till greppet, särskilt när vädret är omväxlande och sträckorna många och långa innan vi kommer tillbaka till service. Det finns snabba sträckor och sektioner men först och främst är vägarna tekniska med många kurvor och där tror jag erfarenhet är ett stort plus, förklarar Pontus, som precis som vanligt har sällskap av Jonas Andersson i högerstolen.

Rally Portugal har blivit utnämnt till 'Världens bästa rally' fem gånger och publiken blir allt större för varje år. Basen är belägen i norra Portugal med serviceplatsen i Matosinhos och startceremonin utspelar sig med Guimarães mäktiga slott som bakgrund. Den första sträckan körs på Lousadas rallycrossbana inför mer än 35000 fans, men den stora höjdpunkten för åskådarna är utan tvivel Fafe-sträckan som körs på söndagen. Det välkända hoppet strax innan mållinjen och höjderna med utsikt över de klassiska böljande svängarna lockar ut tiotusentals rallyentusiaster till den portugisiska landsbygden för att njuta av något av VM-seriens häftigaste action.
- Tävlingen ser i princip ut som föregående år så vi är väl insatta i vad som väntar. Det enda som är nytt jämfört med förra året är fredagskvällens stadssträcka i Porto och det blir kul eftersom jag brukar gilla den typen av sträckor. Stämningen kommer garanterat att vara på topp med enorma folkmassor och det är alltid peppande, säger Pontus.

Sammanlagt omfattar Rally Portugal nästan 360 kilometer fullfartsdistans, uppdelat på 20 specialsträckor.

Tidsschema Rally Portugal 2018 (svensk tid -1 timme)
Torsdag 17 maj
07:30 Shakedown Paredes (4,60km)
19:03 SS1 Lousada SSS (3,36km)

Fredag 18 maj
09:15 SS2 Viana do Castelo 1 (26,73km)
10:20 SS3 Caminha 1 (18,11km)
10:53 SS4 Ponte de Lima 1 (27,54km)
13:40 Service Exponor
15:25 SS5 Viana do Castelo 2 (26,73km)
16:30 SS6 Caminha 2 (18,11km)
17:03 SS7 Ponte de Lima 2 (27,54km)
19:03 SS8 Porto Street Stage 1 (1,95km)
19:28 SS9 Porto Street Stage 2 (1,95km)

Lördag 19 maj
09:08 SS10 Vieira do Minho 1 (17,50km)
09:46 SS11 Cbeceiras de Basto 1 (22,22km)
11:05 SS12 Amarante 1 (37,60km)
13:00 Service
15:08 SS13 Vieira do Minho 2 (17,50km)
15:46 SS14 Cabeveiras de Basto 2 (22,22km)
17:05 SS15 Amarante 2 (37,60km)

Söndag 20 maj
08:35 SS16 Montim 1 (8,64km)
09:08 SS17 Fafe 1 (11,18km)
09:36 SS18 Luilhas (11,89km)
10:35 SS19 Montim 2 (8,64km)
12:18 SS20 Fafe 2 (PowerStage)

Nuvarande ställning i WRC 2-mästerskapet
1. Pontus Tidemand SWE 68 poäng
2. Jan Kopécky CZE 50 p
3. Gus Greensmith GBR 36 p
4. Pedro Heller CHL 30 p
5. Takamoto Katsuta JAP 29 p
6. Ole Christian Veiby NOR 27 p
7. Nil Solans ESP22 p
8. Eddie Sciessere ITA 18 p
9. Yoann Bonato FRA 18 p
10. Jari Huttunen FIN 16 p
18-05-14 Mikkelsen vil nærme seg tettrioen
Andreas Mikkelsen ligger på fjerdeplass i VM, og målsettingen for Rally Portugal er å ta innpå de tre som ligger foran ham i mesterskapet.

Nordmannen kom hjem med femteplass i forrige VM-runde i Argentina. Selv om Hyundai Motorsport-føreren ikke jakter femteplasser, så var det likevel mye positivt å ta med seg fra VM-runden i Sør-Amerika. 28-åringen ledet løpet og var med i seierskampen, men en punktering satte en brutal stopper for det. Han og kartleser Anders Jæger avsluttet likevel løpet sterkt, og godfølelsen fra Argentina har Andreas planer om å ta med seg til Portugal. Løpet har base i Porto, nord i Portugal, mot Atlanterhavet. Porto er landets nest største by etter Lisboa.
– Vi avsluttet på en bra måte i Argentina, og vi skal forsøke å fortsette der vi slapp. Målsettingen for Rally Portugal er å ta innpå de tre som ligger foran meg i mesterskapet. De må ikke dra fra noe mer, sier Andreas, som tok VM-bronse i tre strake år fra 2014. I fjor kjørte han ikke full sesong.

Andreas deltar i Rally Portugal for sjette gang i karrieren, men han har til gode å vinne løpet. Andreplassen fra 2016 er hans beste plassering. Som bil nummer fire på veien, spår han at det blir vanskelig å hente hjem en seier.
– Startposisjonen har mye å si, og det er vanskelig å si at man skal gå for seier i dette løpet. De som starter sent har virkelig en fordel her, og det skal godt gjøres og vinne om man starter tidlig. Derfor er jeg ikke så opptatt av å vinne, det er som nevnt viktigere for meg å slå de som ligger foran i VM, poengterer han.

Andreas og Anders deltok i WRC2-klassen i Portugal i fjor, og var helt overlegne før de brøt på den siste fartsetappen.
– Rally Portugal er et bra løp for meg. Det viste vi i fjor også, hvor vi ledet stort i WRC2 før vi dro av på den siste prøven, forteller han.
Rallyesset beskriver løpet som et typisk grusrally. Medium røft, men mer utfordrende på andre gjennomkjøring.
– Egentlig er det et løp hvor du må ha full gass fra start til mål om du skal ha mulighet til å henge med i toppen. Kommer regnet, kan det bli ett gjørmebad uten like. Andre gjennomkjøring blir røff, og da gjelder det å ta smarte dekkvalg, sier han.

Tidsplan Rally Portugal 2018 (Portugal er -1t på norsk tid)
Torsdag 17. mai
07:30 Shakedown Paredes (4,60km)
19:03 SS1 Lousada SSS (3,36km)

Fredag 18. Mai
09:15 SS2 Viana do Castelo 1 (26,73km)
10:20 SS3 Caminha 1 (18,11km)
10:53 SS4 Ponte de Lima 1 (27,54km)
13:40 Service Exponor
15:25 SS5 Viana do Castelo 2 (26,73km)
16:30 SS6 Caminha 2 (18,11km)
17:03 SS7 Ponte de Lima 2 (27,54km)
19:03 SS8 Porto Street Stage 1 (1,95km)
19:28 SS9 Porto Street Stage 2 (1,95km)

Lørdag 19. mai
09:08 SS10 Vieira do Minho 1 (17,50km)
09:46 SS11 Cbeceiras de Basto 1 (22,22km)
11:05 SS12 Amarante 1 (37,60km)
13:00 Service
15:08 SS13 Vieira do Minho 2 (17,50km)
15:46 SS14 Cabeveiras de Basto 2 (22,22km)
17:05 SS15 Amarante 2 (37,60km)

Søndag 20. mai
08:35 SS16 Montim 1 (8,64km)
09:08 SS17 Fafe 1 (11,18km)
09:36 SS18 Luilhas (11,89km)
10:35 SS19 Montim 2 (8,64km)
12:18 SS20 Fafe 2 (PowerStage)
18-04-30 Positive upgrades to the C3 WRC
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT saw the chance of a podium slip away after a harsh puncture, as its efforts over the weekend went largely unrewarded. The team can nonetheless take satisfaction from having once again challenged right at the front in the C3 WRC and from having shown that the recently-approved upgrades to the rear axle of its car have had the desired effect.

THE STORY OF THE RACE
A podium (3rd) on his first WRC appearance in 2014 followed by his first world championship win a year later: there can be no doubt that Kris Meeke enjoys competing at Rally Argentina. Full of confidence in the C3 WRC, on which a new rear axle was introduced for this round, the Northern Irishman wasted no time in demonstrating his love of this event when he made it to midday service on the opening day in third place, particularly thanks to two consecutive second fastest times. He upped his level again in the afternoon, moving into second position, 22.7s behind the leader at the end of day one. Meanwhile, Craig Breen ended the day in sixth overall, just 4.8s behind the fifth-placed driver, on his return to the WRC. His strong performances (two second fastest times) were somewhat obscured by a ten-second penalty for arriving late at a time control. Unfortunately, Craig ran into trouble the following day, spelling the end of his rally, whilst his split times showed he was keeping pace with the future rally winner on the first run on Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos, the weekend's longest stage... Up to that point, Craig had produced a strong performance, especially for someone whose only previous appearance here was cut very short in 2017. Aware of how important securing a podium was for the team, Kris Meeke opted against all-out attack to hold off the comeback of Neuville. He had a tight hold on third place, with a 16.2s lead over the fourth-placed driver, when he suffered a puncture on the second pass on the same stage. After losing almost 2m 30s, the C3 WRC adorned with the Union Jack – which had been unerringly consistent and fast up to that point – saw its hopes of what would have been the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT's third podium of the season evaporate. However, the team once again showed its strength of character on Sunday, fully committed to the cause despite the obvious frustration, focusing already on set-up testing for the next event. Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi, fourteenth on his first competitive outing this year in the C3 WRC, following a long period out of action – at least in conventional rallying – made his contribution in the hunt for manufacturers' championship points.

QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
What is your analysis of this Argentinian round?
It is bound to be poor, if we focus on just the results themselves. Nevertheless, the outcome doesn't reflect the performances we delivered – especially by Kris – and the C3 WRC once again showed just how competitive it is at an event where we really struggled last year. Similarly, we can also be pleased with how incredibly reliable the car was, as it has been since the start of the season, despite this rally being one of the roughest, if not the roughest, in the championship.

So this shows that the upgrades introduced at this round have been effective?
Yes, the new rear axle homologated for this round had the desired effect, especially on the confidence of the drivers in the car, and that confirms that we have chosen the right options to continue to develop and improve the car. We also used Sunday's leg to explore, in full racing conditions, some slightly different ideas for the set-up, which will undoubtedly be beneficial for the next few rounds. Based on this information, and what we learned during our six days of on-site testing, we are already focused on defining the set-up for Portugal, with the aim of securing final positions more in keeping with our performance level.

How would you assess the performances of your drivers?
Craig had a tough time of it on his return to the WRC but we can be sure he'll come back stronger in Portugal. I'd like to congratulate Kris for his consistency. He didn't make any mistakes at all this weekend, despite being in the middle of an incredibly intense scrap at the front. He was simply unlucky with the puncture on a harmless-looking stone, of which there are so many at this round. There were a lot of punctures this weekend. It just so happens that Kris' came at the start of the longest stage, i.e. at the worst possible moment, which left him with no choice but to change the tyre. Lastly, coming from having competed in several cross-country rallies, Khalid can be pleased to finish his first rally of the year, whilst adding to the team's haul of manufacturers' points.

HIGHLIGHTS
With stages littered with embedded rocks and covered at average speeds approaching 120kph, providing the cars with a very serious examination of their reliability and strength, day one of Rally Argentina is always a daunting challenge for the drivers and teams. Citroen experienced first hand just how punishing it can be last year on the Santa Rosa – San Agustin stage (23.85km). This year, on Friday's leg, Kris Meeke showed he was immediately on the pace by grabbing the second fastest time on the first run on the stage, just 2.9s behind the future dominant winner, taking him into third place. This just goes to show the substantial improvements made by the Citroën C3 WRC, and how the team has managed to constantly increase the car's operating window
18-04-30 Masterful Tänak off the mark for Toyota with Argentina cruise
Estonian seals first WRC season win as Neuville cuts title lead to Ogier.
A dominant Ott Tänak scored his third WRC victory, and his first for Toyota Gazoo Racing this season, on Sunday afternoon at YPF Rally Argentina.

After dictating the opening two legs, he eased through the classic El Condor and Giulio Cesare speed tests in the rock-strewn Traslasierra mountains to win this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 37.7sec.

The Estonian looked down and out after hitting a rock, spinning his Yaris World Rally Car and damaging its steering in Friday morning’s opening special stage.

He won 10 of the next 12 tests to storm into a comfortable lead, leaving his demoralised rivals fighting over the remaining podium places. It was his first win since August last year in Germany, and Toyota’s first success since last July in Finland.

“It’s a special one. We never knew what was going to happen with the team change but it’s nice to see how quickly we’re improving,” said Tänak, who joined the Japanese manufacturer at the start of the year.

“The car is near enough to my liking and it’s a massive boost for a driver if you have the confidence. I can’t say it was easy, I was pushing really hard and living on the edge on Friday and Saturday.”

Second for Thierry Neuville enhanced his title hopes. He narrowed the gap to championship leader Sébastien Ogier to 10 points, helped by a maximum five bonus points for winning the final Power Stage in his Hyundai i20.

Team-mate Dani Sordo finished a further 38.0sec behind in third to maintain his recent good form, which has delivered two podiums from the last three events.

Frenchman Ogier lacked the pace to improve on his record of three wins from the opening four rounds in a Ford Fiesta. The Frenchman held off a determined final day charge from Andreas Mikkelsen to claim fourth.

Norwegian Mikkelsen felt more comfortable with the handling of his i20 and fell 4.0sec short of overhauling Ogier.

Elfyn Evans completed the top six in another Fiesta, despite rarely finding the pace which brought him within 0.7sec of victory 12 months ago.

The championship heads back across the Atlantic to Europe for round six. The gravel road Vodafone Rally de Portugal is based in Matosinhos on May 17-20.

Final positions:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Toyota Yaris 3hr 43min 28.9sec
2. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 + 37.7sec
3. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 1min 15.7sec
4. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta + 1min 58.6sec
5. A Mikkelsen / A Jaeger NOR Hyundai i20 + 2min 02.6sec
6. E Evans / P Mills GBR Ford Fiesta + 3min 06.3sec

Championship positions
1. S Ogier 100pts
2. T Neuville 90pts
3. O Tänak 72pts
18-04-29 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT already focused on Portugal
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT used today's final leg in the demanding competitive testing conditions provided by Rally Argentina to keep working on its C3 WRC, whilst also setting some probing times. Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle moved up a place in the standings to finish seventh overall, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson concluded their first WRC outing of the season in fourteenth position.

The asados, the famous Argentinian barbecues, had been going strong in the mountains of El Condor and Giulio Cesare for several days, at almost 2,000 metres above sea level. The local fans wanted to be sure of getting the best vantage point in order to see the WRCs on this final leg! Huge crowds were in evidence this morning, perched on the rocks overlooking the mountain roads, famous for providing the cars with a very serious examination of their reliability and strength, due to their especially bumpy nature.

Despite being hampered by running very high up the order (3rd), Kris Meeke once again showed the qualities of the C3 WRC. After finishing fourth – just 2.8s off the stage-winning time – on the first run on Copina – El Condor (16.43km), he moved up into seventh, a position he held until the end of the rally. Already looking ahead, Kris also took advantage of the last few stages to conduct some full-scale testing for Portugal, and saw his persistence and determination rewarded with a fifth fastest time (3.7s off the pace over 16.43km) on the Power Stage, earning him one bonus point.

Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi was first on the road and therefore forced to sweep the loose gravel from the roads on stages that are known to become rutted as more cars complete. He could take some satisfaction from having made it to the end of the rally, feeling that he had gradually got to grips with the C3 WRC on his first competitive outing in the car after many months away from the WRC.

WHAT THEY SAID
Kris Meeke
"It was a good day for us: we did set-up tests for Portugal and it was informative. The feeling was very good in the car. Apart from that, and the frustration of not being able to bring home the result that we deserved, the main thing for me is that the upgrades introduced this weekend to the C3 WRC enabled us to be a lot more consistent. I felt confident throughout the weekend, even when fighting for the podium. I felt that I had the situation under control at all times and we need to keep going in this direction."

Khalid Al Qassimi
"Obviously, I'm disappointed for the team that we didn't manage to secure a result that would reflect our real performance level. Nevertheless, I'm pleased to see our C3 WRC make regular progress and I'm convinced that this will lead to some good results very shortly. On a more personal note, running first on the road didn't make life easy for me today, but I was happy to be back with the team and enjoy the atmosphere of the championship again."

18-04-29 Andra raka VM-segern för Pontus Tidemand
Efter en riktig rysare till kamp blev det slutligen rallyesset Pontus Tidemand som segrade i ett stenhårt Rally Argentina. - En skön seger efter en tuff helg, de här poängen kan komma att bli värdefulla för mästerskapet, säger han.

Rally Argentina, grusrallyt som sticker ut bland de övriga i VM-serien, är lika känt för sina svårigheter som för sina storslagna miljöer. På de mjuka sandiga vägarna med luriga stenar och de snirklande bergsvägarna, båda kantade med hundratusentals rallyfans, handlar det till stor del om klok körning och att ta sig igenom varje sträcka med bilen hel.

Fjolårsmästaren i WRC 2, Pontus Tidemand, är ute efter att försvara sin och SKODA Motorsports titel och för att göra det är målsättningen givetvis att kamma hem så bra resultat som möjligt från varje tävling man deltar i. Farten och vinnarskallen finns där, men i de här riktigt tuffa tävlingarna spelar även tålamod och taktik in.

Pontus och kartläsaren Jonas Andersson inledde Rally Argentina på bästa sätt med att knipa ledningen redan på fredagen och höll hårt i den fram till lördagen. Teamkamraten i SKODA Motorsport, den unga finländaren Kalle Rovanperä, tryckte på ordentligt och tog täten med Pontus strax bakom.
- Teamet vill att vi på ett säkert sätt skulle ta oss igenom dagen utan att pusha så vi såg till att vara på rätt sida riskmarginalen. Att brassa på vid fel tillfälle kunde ha äventyrat inte bara tävlingen utan också mästerskapet så vi höll oss i skinnet, förklarar Pontus, som innan lördagen var över såg till att svara på pressen från Rovanperä och tog tillbaka viktiga sekunder.

På finaldagen gick Pontus för seger med en rejäl attack och efter morgonens första sträcka hade han mer än halverat glappet till finnen. Men den intensiva kampen fick ett abrupt slut när Rovanperä körde av på rallyts näst sista stäcka. Pontus gick upp i ledning och med en marginal på nästan sex minuter till britten Gus Greensmith på andraplatsen, var det koncentration som gällde för att ta sig kontrollerat till mållinjen.
- Det här var en skön seger efter en tuff helg, säger en nöjd Pontus. Vi var med från den första metern och har kämpat i krävande förhållanden med bra motstånd. Det var synd att vi inte fick fortsätta fighten med Kalle (Rovanperä) hela vägen. Han har imponerat stort och det hade varit kul att få avgöra det på sista sträckan. Allt har stämt med bil och teamwork under hela tävlingen men idag när vi fick släppa på för fullt kändes det extra bra.

Utöver vinsten i WRC 2, toppade Pontus även den samlade klassen för R5-bilar, RC2, med sin andra SKODA-kollega Ole Christian Veiby bakom sig på andra plats. Totalt i rallyt blev det även en tiondeplats.

Inför tävlingen berättade Pontus att han siktade på att lämna Argentina i mästerskapsledning - ett mål han lyckas med. Tre tävlingar av sju är avklarade och hittills är han precis där han vill vara i sammandraget.
- Varje poäng är viktigt när resultatet ska räknas ihop i slutet av säsongen så maxpoängen härifrån kan bli betydelsefullt. Vårt jobb är att se till att SKODA säkrar titeln i både förarmästerskapet och teammästerskapet och med två segrar och en andraplats är vi på god väg. Året är fortfarande långt och konkurrensen är hårdare än någonsin så det finns inget annat än att fortsätta ge allt i alla tävlingar, säger Pontus.

Resultat Rally Argentina WRC 2
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 3:55:44.7
2. Gus Greensmith (GBR) +7:39.1
3. Pedro Heller (CHL) +9:02.9
4. Diego Dominguez (PAR) +15:50.6
5. Nil Solans (ESP) +37:43.9
18-04-29 God debut i Rally Argentina
Det ble en dramatisk avslutning på Argentina-debuten for Ole Christian Veiby. Han rullet på den siste etappen, men fullførte likevel løpet på en meget god måte og ble nest raskeste R5-bil.

Ole Christian Veiby og kartleser Stig Rune Skjærmoen stilte til start som privatteam i sin debut i Rally Argentina. De kjørte ikke om VM-poeng i WRC2, men målte likevel krefter med førerne i den klassen – og kunne fornøyd konstatere at kun Pontus Tidemand var raskere av de som kjører R5-bil.
– Å bli nest raskeste R5-bil er jeg veldig fornøyd med. Det er som nevnt mitt første løp i Argentina, og det var utrolig røffe veier – så dette var bra, konstaterer Ole, som fikk smertelig erfare hvor tøffe forholdene var da han rullet på den siste etappen – i tillegg til en punktering fredag og to punkteringer lørdag.
– Det ble jammen en liten rulling på den siste etappen. Jeg føler det var helt uforskyldt. Jeg kom inn i en hårnål-høyre. Der var det så dype spor at bilen hektet på ytterhjulet, og vi ble rett og slett vippet rundt. Heldigvis var det publikum der som var flinke og fikk oss på hjulene igjen, og vi kunne fullføre etappen i fullt tempo, sier han med et smil.

Ole, som er fabrikkfører for Skoda Motorsport, lot seg imponere av teamkameratene Pontus Tidemand og Kalle Rovenperä, som var de to som kjørte om VM-poeng for teamet denne gangen. Den 17-årige finnen ledet løpet da han på den nest siste etappen satset over evne, og rullet rundt flere ganger og måtte bryte. Dermed vant Tidemand på overlegent vis.
– Pontus og Kalle har kjørt veldig fort i helga. Vi klarte ikke helt å henge på det tempoet, men jeg er likevel fornøyd med gjennomføringen av løpet, sier Ole.

18-04-29 Andreas Mikkelsen med sterk avslutning
En punktering sendte Andreas Mikkelsen ut av seierskampen i Rally Argentina. Men nordmannen avsluttet VM-runden på imponerende vis.

Den norske Hyundai-føreren ledet Rally Argentina fredag formiddag. Men ikke før han hadde advart mot de vanskelige forholdene med steiner i veien, så ble han selv et offer for nettopp dette. En punktering ødela seiersmulighetene for han og kartleser Anders Jæger, og sendte dem ned på åttendeplass. Deretter jobbet de seg oppover på resultatlista, og lå på femteplass før siste dag.

Før dagens tre avsluttende etapper uttalte 29-åringen at han ikke hadde gitt opp å stjele fjerdeplassen fra Sebastien Ogier – selv om de siste fem års verdensmester hadde en ledelse på 14,8 sekunder. Men nordmannen viste at han mente alvor, og var raskest på dagens første etappe. Han knep et halvsekund på franskmannen, som var nest raskest. På den neste etappen var Andreas nest raskest, men var hele 10,5 sekund raskere enn Ogier. Dermed skilte det bare 3,8 sekunder før den siste etappen. Med noen småfeil her og der, måtte Andreas innse at Ogier ble for sterk. Det ble til slutt fire sekunder som skilte de to sammenlagt.
– Det ble en bra avslutning på et vanskelig løp. Vi slet litt med oppsettet, men gjorde noen endringer i går, og ting føltes mye bedre etter det. Da kunne jeg pushe og likevel vite hvor jeg hadde bakparten på bilen. I dag var vi raske. Jeg prøvde å ta igjen Ogier, men det var vanskelig. Vi klarte bare å ta inn 10 av 14 sekunder. Uansett var det mye positivt å ta med seg fra denne dagen og videre til neste VM-runde i Portugal, hvor jeg håper på noe bedre enn en femteplass, sier Andreas.

Selv om punkteringen var en stor skuffelse, og femteplass var under pari, koste han seg på de argentinske grusveiene.
– Det er ekstremt mange tilskuere, spesielt på de siste etappene. Men vi rekker ikke å tenke så mye over det, for det er steiner over alt på de smale veiene, så vi klarer ikke å nyte atmosfæren helt. Jeg har alltid likt dette løpet, både fordi underlaget passer meg bra og den spesielle stemningen som er på etappene. Jeg skulle bare ønske det hadde gått bedre denne gangen, sier han.
Med tredjeplass på den siste etappen, sikret Andreas seg med det ett ekstra bonuspoeng i VM-sammendraget. Ott Tanak vant årets femte VM-runde, foran Thierry Neuville og Dani Sordi, som begge er teamkamerater med Andreas Mikkelsen, som for øvrig ligger på fjerdeplass i VM.
18-04-29 Tänak supreme in Argentina as rivals have no answer on Saturday
Neuville moves into second as Estonian closes on first WRC victory of season.

Ott Tänak was king of the pampas for a second day at YPF Rally Argentina as he stretched his lead in this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

He demoralised the opposition to win five of the seven speed tests in the Los Gigantes mountain region to widen his advantage to 46.5sec with Sunday’s short final leg remaining.

After winning Friday’s final three special stages, the Estonian reeled off three more victories this morning as thick fog posed a trial of bravery and commitment.

Only a final stage scare prevented him from repeating the hat-trick. A damaged front right shock absorber and power steering problems on his Toyota Yaris forced him to ease off.

“That was really hard. The oil leaked out of the damper and I lost the use of the power steering before it came back. I didn’t feel like I was pushing so much today. I had a great feeling with the car, which was going so well, so why not enjoy it?” said Tänak.

Thierry Neuville headed the challengers. The Hyundai i20 driver demoted Kris Meeke from second and took no risks on the rocky, rutted gravel tracks to consolidate this afternoon. “I could have done more but it wasn’t necessary,” said the Belgian, who headed team-mate Dani Sordo by 21.7sec.

Neuville and Sordo were the only two drivers to halt the Tänak steamroller, claiming a stage win each. Sordo gained a podium place in the final stage when Meeke conceded more than two minutes and his Citroën C3 plunged to eighth.

“I had to stop and change a puncture. There was a stone in the middle of the road. I saw it but couldn't avoid it, went over the top of it and punctured straight away,” he explained.

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier was fourth in a Ford Fiesta. The Frenchman was hugely cautious in the morning fog, conceding almost a minute to Tänak in the tough 40km Chuchilla Nevada test.

Andreas Mikkelsen was fifth, the Norwegian happier with his i20’s handling this afternoon after set-up changes.

Craig Breen was the day’s major victim. The Irishman rolled his C3 out of sixth and a damaged roll cage brought retirement.

Sunday’s finale is one of the season’s classic days. Two passes through the rock-strewn roads of El Condor sandwich the lunar landscape of Giulio Cesare, both high in the Traslasierra mountains. They add up to just 55.27km, but are some of the year’s toughest roads.

Leading positions:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Toyota Yaris 2hr 58min 33.9sec
2. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 + 46.5sec
3. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 1min 08.2sec
4. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta + 1min 59.0sec
5. A Mikkelsen / A Jaeger NOR Hyundai i20 + 2min 13.8sec
6. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 2min 42.9sec
18-04-29 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT out of luck
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT's luck escaped them on the second full day of racing: just as they seemed on course to secure another podium finish, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle picked up a puncture that relegated them to eighth place. Earlier on, Craig Breen and Scott Martin were forced to retire after rolling their C3 WRC, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson continued to rack up the miles and ended the day in fourteenth place.
Yesterday's weather forecast proved to be accurate: fog was indeed in evidence on the morning loop of stages, and in these kind of unpredictable visibility conditions, it's easy to go too slowly and get your pace wrong. This is all the more true now that crews are no longer able to see split times in the cockpit. It is therefore a case of who can adapt the best to the conditions and have unwavering confidence in their pace notes.

Kris Meeke proved to be very adept at this exercise in an undoubtedly fast C3 WRC: he grabbed the second fastest time on the day's opening stage, just 3.8s behind the almost unbeatable leader, clearly determined to hang onto a podium spot. Having also picked up two consecutive third fastest times at the start of the afternoon loop, the Ulsterman held a firm grip on third place when he suffered a puncture on the rally's longest stage (40.48km). Left with no choice but to change the tyre, he dropped back to eighth overall after losing almost 2m 30s.

Meanwhile, Craig Breen was focusing on trying to keep improving. His splits suggested he was mathcing the pace of the future stage winner on first run on Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos (40.48km) when unfortunately he was caught out by a crest on a corner and rolled the car. He nursed the car back to midday service, but an in-depth analysis of the roll cage, which had been damaged in the incident, concluded it was unfit to continue.

Hampered by running first on the road, Khalid Al Qassimi remained committed to his careful approach, as he tried to improve his handling of the C3 WRC between the morning and afternoon loops. He made to the end of day two in fourteenth place.
Rally Argentina concludes tomorrow with the famous El Condor and Giulio Cesare stages, with huge, enthusiastic crowds expected to line the roads.

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, it has been a frustrating day because after having once again shown the performance level and reliability of our C3 WRC, Kris was on course to bring home a deserved podium. His aim was to hold onto third place and was certainly not trying to push to close on the second-placed driver. That was the approach we had agreed with him after Craig went off this morning. Sure enough, Craig made a mistake but up to that point he had every reason to be pleased with his performance, compared with the best drivers on this surface, at an event at which he has so little experience. Finally, Khalid managed to keep out of trouble and get some more miles under his belt."

Kris Meeke
"There was a stone in the middle of the road and I couldn't avoid it, given the width of the road. Unfortunately, I got a puncture straight away on the right rear tyre. It's a shame because I was both quick and consistent, and I clearly felt capable of securing third place."

Craig Breen
"Unfortunately, I turned in a bit too soon on a right-hander over a crest. I realised that I was going to hit a ditch so I tried to steer to avoid it but it was too little, too late and when we landed, we were thrown into a roll. Obviously, I'm sorry for the team, who deserved a better result, and am frustrated not to have been able to complete any more miles at this event, where I'm already short on experience. But I have to focus on the speed we showed at certain points and will aim to come back stronger in Portugal."

Khalid Al Qassimi
"It wasn't an easy day for us, mainly due to the fact we opened the road all day, which meant we spent the morning especially cleaning the road for those behind. I enjoyed the afternoon driving a C3 WRC that was more precise, despite making a minor mistake, which fortunately had no serious consequences."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:58:33.9
2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 46.5
3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:08.2
4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:59.0
5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:13.8
6. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2:42.9
7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:49.1
8. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:20.4
9. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4:17.6
14. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) + 17:17.2

18-04-28 Andreas klatrer i Argentina
Andreas Mikkelsen er mellomfornøyd med dagens kjøring i Argentina. Nordmannen har klatret til femteplass, og kjemper en spennende kamp mot Sebastien Ogier om fjerdeplassen.

29-åringen åpnet Rally Argentina meget sterkt fredag, og var med i seierskampen helt til en punktering sendte han ut av tetkampen. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger startet han lørdagens etapper på sjuendeplass, og har i løpet av dagen klatret til femteplass – uten være er helt fornøyd med dagens prestasjoner.
– Det har vært en litt vanskelig dag, i hvert fall før service. Forholdene var vanskelige, og jeg kjørte helt greit. Men jeg hadde ikke den helt gode følelsen med bilen. I ettermiddag foretok vi noen endringer, gjorde bilen litt lavere bak, blant annet. Det gjorde at jeg fikk en bedre følelse med bakparten og fikk bedre grep, og «mistet» ikke bilen så mye. Jeg skulle ønske jeg kunne kjørt de etappene om igjen, for nå er den gode følelsen tilbake, sier Andreas.
Det lover bra før morgendagens tre siste etapper, hvor han kjører om ekstra VM-poeng på den avsluttende powerstage-etappen. I tillegg har han og Sebastien Ogier en duell om fjerdeplassen. Franskmannen har overtaket med et forsprang på snaut 15 sekunder, men Andreas lover at de siste fem års verdensmester skal få svette for å beholde plassen.
– Det er tre etapper igjen, og det er fullt mulig å hente sekunder på de etappene. Så alt er mulig, forsikrer Hyundai-føreren.
Estlenderen Ott Tanak har virkelig imponert i Argentina. Han leder med 46 sekunder på Theirry Neuville, mens Dani Sordi er på tredjeplass – ytterligere 21,7 sekunder bak. Sordo har et forsprang på drøyt 50 sekunder på Ogier.

18-04-28 Tidemand i toppstrid i Rally Argentina
Pontus Tidemand inledde Rally Argentina som ledare i WRC 2-klassen. Efter den tredje tävlingsdagen med strategisk körning är han tvåa, men finaldagen är lång och påfrestande och än är det slutliga resultatet öppet.

Med högt satta mål att plocka så mycket poäng som möjligt i det argentinska VM-rallyt, var det full fart från start som gällde för Pontus Tidemand. Han gick upp i ledningen under fredagen och höll förstaplatsen fram till lördagen då hans jagande teamkompis i Skoda, Kalle Rovanperä, kom ikapp honom.
- Mitt jobb är att följa teamets strategi och det betyder att komma i mål med så bra resultat det går, säger Pontus. På de här vägarna tar vi inte riskerna för att äventyra något. Mästerskapet är den stora uppgiften i år och vi behöver ta poäng i alla tävlingar vi kör. Rally Argentina är ett förrädiskt rally och koncentrationen är konstant uppskruvad för att undvika problem som gör att planen inte klaffar. Vi gör vad vi kan och tampas i täten, men framförallt ser till att ta oss hela vägen till mål och håller oss på rätt sida gränsen.

Pontus, som har co-drivern Jonas Andersson i högerstolen, avslutade lördagen med en sträckseger och tog därmed tillbaka några sekunder från ledande Rovanperä. Kampen hänger alltså med till de tre sista avgörande sträckorna imorgon, söndag. Mer än fem mil fullfartssträckor återstår och Pontus vet att vad som helst fortfarande kan hända.
- Vi har inte på något sätt gett upp. Det här är som sagt en oberäknelig tävling och tålamod och uthållighet är lika viktigt som farten. Jag ser fram emot morgondagen och hoppas vi kan göra det bästa av den, säger han.

Rally Argentina WRC 2 topp fem efter dag tre/SS15 av 18:
1. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) 3:09:24.1
2. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) +23.2
3. Gus Greensmith (GBR) +2:27.7
4. Pedro Heller (CHL) +7:36.2
5. Diego Dominguez (PAR) +12:58.8

18-04-28 The C3 WRCs in the thick of it!
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT combined speed and reliability to make it through one of the hardest legs in the championship. Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended the day second overall, once again in contention for a final podium spot. Meanwhile, Craig Breen and Scott Martin lie sixth, more than holding their own on their first proper experience of this unusual event, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson completed day one in fifteenth place, thus meeting their target, which was to amass experience with the C3 WRC.

Held on roads around Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, to the south of Villa Carlos Paz, this first full day of racing was a daunting challenge for the drivers. This was due to its length, obviously – covering more than forty-three percent of the total competitive distance – and the high temperatures too, but above all, this was due to the nature of the stages contested. Extremely quick and littered with embedded rocks, the stages promised to provide the cars with a very serious examination of their reliability, as they took quite a battering from the roads.

In these demanding conditions, the C3 WRCs displayed all of their qualities: after having been hampered by hanging dust on the opening stage and then had difficulties finding the right pace on the next test (SS3), Kris Meeke finished the morning loop in style. With two consecutive second fastest times, he made it to midday service in third place. He picked up where had left off in the afternoon, with another second fastest time on the first stage after lunch, enabling to move up into second overall, and end this opening leg 22.7s behind the leader, despite a puncture on the day's final stage.

Craig Breen was not to be left out: set back by a ten-second penalty for arriving late at the time control yesterday evening, he gradually made up the time, notably grabbing the third fastest time on the morning loop's longest stage (33.58km) and setting several top-five times, despite his limited knowledge of the stages. Third fastest again on the day's final stage, he end the leg sixth overall, just 4.8s behind the driver ahead. It has been a remarkable performance so far for the Irishman after his appearance here was cut short last year.

Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi focused on improving as he completed more stages, trying to accumulate miles behind the wheel of the C3 WRC. He ended the day in fifteenth position.

Tomorrow's leg features seven more stages, including two runs on Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos (40.48km), the longest test of the week-end. The action promises to be very exciting again. Especially as conditions may be more difficult, with fog and rain forecast for Saturday…

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Given the difficulties of today's leg, we can obviously be pleased that Kris end the day in second place. He managed to be get the balance right between being competitive whilst avoiding any mistakes. That was the right approach to adopt. On his return to competitive action, on a rally where he still has a lot to learn, Craig not only set some encouraging times, but he also upped his pace as he completed more stages. As such, he also had a fine day. Meanwhile, Khalid stuck to his plan, which was to get his bearings again and gradually up his pace when he felt comfortable."

Kris Meeke
"Although our day got off to a difficult start, with some visibility issues on the first stage and some problems finding the right pace on the next one, we worked things out after that. This was a daunting leg so we're pleased to have been both smart and consistent. I felt confident behind the wheel, which just goes to show that the changes made to the car are going the right way and that we have to keep it up. If there is fog tomorrow, then that blows the whole thing wide open again because the gaps will end up being minutes rather than seconds. So it'll be up to us to perform!"

Craig Breen
"It was a pretty good leg for us, given our lack of knowledge of the stages. I think I made a real breakthrough in the afternoon, in trying to adapt my driving style to the handling of the C3 WRC. My time on the final stage shows this and that augurs well for the rest of the rally."

Khalid Al Qassimi
"With the fog we experienced in recce, my pace notes weren't perfect but we made it to the end of this leg whilst making steady progress. Although the first loop was difficult, I felt more confident on the afternoon loop thanks to the adjustments to my C3 WRC' set-up by the technical team."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:30:38.6
2. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 22.7
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 28.6
4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 29.5
5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 36.4
6. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 41.2
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 58.5
8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:07.9
9. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:10.3
10. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:33.7
15. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) + 8:03.8
18-04-28 Tänak leaves rivals floundering in Argentina to claim Friday lead
Estonian produces thrilling WRC drive to edge ahead of Meeke and Neuville. Ott Tänak recovered from an early error to lead YPF Rally Argentina on Friday night after arguably the best single day drive of his career.

A half-spin in the opening dirt road speed test left him trailing early leader Sébastien Ogier by nearly 25sec in his Toyota Yaris.

Tänak stormed back up the leaderboard, winning five of the next six special stages to build a 22.7sec advantage over Kris Meeke and leave his rivals open-mouthed.

“It was a stupid mistake. I hit a rock, had a spin and broke something in the steering which caused problems in the next stages. For the moment we’re performing quite well and this car starts to suit me,” said the Estonian, in his first season with Toyota Gazoo Racing.

His dominance was emphasised by the fact the next five drivers were covered by less than 20sec. A final stage puncture cost Meeke a few seconds but the Citroën C3 driver admitted it made no difference. “It was impossible to follow Ott, he’s been on a blinder,” he said.

Thierry Neuville bounced up and down the order all day. The Hyundai i20 driver eventually snatched third in the final test from team-mate Dani Sordo, having gambled on hard compound tyres for the afternoon tests as temperatures climbed to 30°C.

They were split by 0.9sec, with championship leader Ogier a further 6.9sec behind in a Ford Fiesta after a sterling job limiting his time loss from first in the start order.

Ogier swept loose stones from the roads to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind. His pain was eased initially as hanging dust slowed those behind, forcing organisers to extend the gap between cars from two to three minutes.

Craig Breen has little experience of the bumpy Argentine roads but was sixth in a C3. His lack of knowledge meant he struggled with his pace notes and he clipped roadside banks on several occasions.

Jari-Matti Latvala was the only major retirement after hitting a rock and breaking his Yaris’ front right suspension when third. The damage also caused his engine’s oil system to fail and he will not restart.

Saturday is another tough leg with Friday’s glorious weather forecast to be replaced by fog and rain. Two identical loops of three stages north of host town Villa Carlos Paz are split by a repeat of the theme park test on the edge of town. They add up to 146.88km.

Leading positions:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Toyota Yaris 1hr 30min 38.6sec
2. K Meeke / P Nagle GBR Citroën C3 + 22.7sec
3. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 + 28.6sec
4. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 29.5sec
5. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta + 36.4sec
6. C Breen / S Martin IRE Citroën C3 + 41.2sec
18-04-27 Tidemand toppar i Argentina
Pontus Tidemand har fått en strålande start på sitt Rally Argentina. Med den första långa tävlingsdagen genomförd ligger han etta i WRC 2-klassen.

En bra start i VM-rallyt som klassas som en av de svåraste grustävlingarna i VM gjorde att Pontus Tidemand fick ett perfekt utgångsläge inför de stora utmaningarna. Han startade fredagen på andra plats, men tog över ledningen redan på morgonens första sträcka.
- Det var lite svårt med sikten i början, berättar Pontus. En massa damm låg kvar i luften så vi gick inte ut alltför hårt men var tillräckligt snabba för att ta täten, precis som vi siktade på.

Rallyts mest mastiga dag bestod av sju sträckor, långa och krävande, där punkteringar eller ännu värre skador på bilen är överhängande risker i och med stenarna som dras upp i vägytan. Förmiddagen är svårbemästrad, men eftermiddagen - då sträckorna körs en andra gång - är en extra tuff uppgift. Pontus och hans kartläsare Jonas Andersson höll sin ledning dagen igenom med ett högt och jämnt tempo. Inte ens en punktering kunde stoppa deras framfart.
- Vi fick en smygpunka på den näst sista sträckan, någon kilometer från mål. Fram tills dess var det en riktigt bra sträcka så det var tur att vi inte direkt tappade någon tid. Och eftersom vi inte behövde köra på det speciellt länge störde det inte så mycket heller, säger Pontus.

Pontus och Jonas avslutar fredagen med ett övertag på 20 sekunder. Andraplatsen har deras finske teamkamrat Kalle Rovanperä medan britten Gus Greensmith är trea i klassen.
- Allt går som det ska och jag är nöjd med dagen. Rally Argentina är en tävling där man måste vara med från första metern om man ska ha en chans att ta hem det. Samtidigt är det inte bara att gasa och hoppas på det bästa, man måste ha skallen med i spelet och aktivt se till att inte ta de där onödiga riskerna. Men jag gillar det, det är en del av sporten och särskilt det här rallyt. Jag hoppas vi kan fortsätta på samma spår imorgon, summerar Pontus.

Rally Argentina WRC 2 topp fem efter dag två/SS8 av 18:
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 1:36:25.1
2. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) +20.2
3. Gus Greensmith (GBR) +1:27.0
4. Pedro Heller (CHL) +3:57.8
5. Diego Dominguez (PAR) +5:34.0
18-04-27 Uheldig Mikkelsen mistet ledelsen
Andreas Mikkelsen så ut til å være tilbake på vinnersporet da en punktering sendte han ut av tetkampen i Rally Argentina. – Men vi har ikke gitt opp, sier Andreas, som ligger på sjuendeplass.

Den norske Hyundai-føreren var skuffet etter asfaltrunden på Korsika, og gledet seg til å få grus under hjulene igjen. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger var han optimistisk, og mente at en plass på seierspallen var innen rekkevidde i Argentina. Og det skulle rask vise seg at 29-åringen mente alvor. Han ledet årets femte VM-runde etter første gjennomkjøring, men advarte samtidig mot alle steinene som var gravd frem.
– Det er veldig mye steiner som er kommet ut i veien. Jeg gjør så godt jeg kan med å styre unna, men det ødelegger litt for rytmen, sa han etter SS3.

Og på SS6 skulle han bli et offer for de utfordrende forholdene. Han punkterte på høyre framhjul, og tapte 40 sekunder på uhellet. Med bare ett reservehjul i bilen, måtte han være ekstra forsiktig og kunne ikke ta noen sjanser på de to siste etappene. Det gjorde at han tapte ytterligere tid.
– Vi måtte ha i bakhodet at vi ikke hadde flere reservehjul, og med enda en punktering ville vi vært ute av løpet. Derfor ble ikke den andre loopen slik vi hadde håpet, forteller Andreas.

Foran morgendagens etapper ligger den norske duoen på sjuendeplass – halvminuttet opp til teamkamerat Thierry Neuville på tredjeplass. Ott Tanak leder med drøyt 22 sekunder på Kris Meeke, som på sin side har snaut seks sekunders forsprang på Neuville.
– Jeg har på ingen måter gitt opp. Værmeldingen sier at det vil bli utfordrende forhold i morgen, så vi får se hva som skjer, sier Andreas med et lurt smil.
18-04-26 The C3 WRCs on the pace!
Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle set the second and third fastest times in today's shakedown in their C3 WRCs, confirming that they were very much on the pace in Argentina. Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson finished with the thirteenth fastest time, making use of this final practice session to get back into swing of things.

Following few days of storms and persistent fog during recce, the crews lined up this morning for the shakedown, the final opportunity to get their bearings on the roads at this unusual event. At just over four kilometres long and fairly representative of the weekend's difficulties, especially on the opening leg, the shakedown stage provided the crews with the chance to familiarise themselves with the local roads, reputed for being very sandy in places and on which ruts can form very quickly.

Full of confidence in his C3 WRC, which features a new rear axle for this round, Kris Meeke grabbed the fastest time on each of his first two runs, only missing out on topping the timesheets by just four tenths on his third attempt. Despite being less experienced at this event – his single appearance here having been cut short last year – Craig Breen also proved to be fast from the word go, even setting the second fastest time on his fourth run. Meanwhile, for his first rally of the year, at an event where he finished sixth in 2015, Khalid Al Qassimi adopted a careful approach, gradually building his confidence in the car and reducing the gap to the leading drivers on each of his runs.

Although this evening's super-special stage held in the streets of Villa Carlos Paz is set to kick start the weekend's festive atmosphere, the real action gets underway tomorrow. Friday's leg is the longest of the rally, with more than forty-three percent of the total competitive distance covered and featuring stages expected to be extremely demanding for the cars.


WHAT THEY SAID
Kris Meeke
"Although you should never draw any hasty conclusions based on the shakedown, it's always positive to start the racing weekend like this. I was comfortable in my C3 WRC today and the times reflected that. I just hope that it'll be the same thing when we start racing, but the opening leg is going to be a huge challenge on extremely fast and bumpy roads that are very demanding."

Craig Breen
"It's great to be back in my C3 WRC, especially as the feeling was good right from the word go this morning! I feel that we have a good package to challenge at the front this weekend and although I may lack experience on this unusual surface, I'm going to give it everything and especially make the most of my good road position tomorrow."

Khalid Al Qassimi
"It's not easy for me to come back to the WRC after competing in several cross-country rallying races in a row. I need some time to adapt, especially as the car has made quite a bit of progress since I last drove it. So I tried to take it in stages this morning and that's how I intend to approach the race this weekend, gradually building confidence and trying to make it the end of this great challenge!"

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS
1. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:31.5
2. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) ) 2:31.8
3. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:31.9
4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:32.2
5. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:32.6
6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:32.7
7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:33.0
8. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:33.2
9. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:33.3
10. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:33.7
13. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:42.1
18-04-25 Sébastien Ogier bids to complete CV with elusive victory in Argentina
Three times Ogier has finished second in Argentina, now he wants the top step. After five world titles and 43 victories, little is missing from Ogier’s FIA World Rally Championship curriculum vitae – except for success in Argentina.

The Frenchman has the opportunity to put that right at this weekend’s YPF Rally Argentina when he targets success in his ninth attempt at the South American classic.

Ogier is in a rich vein of form. He won three of the opening four rounds in a Ford Fiesta and back-to-back wins in Mexico and Corsica have earned a 17-point championship lead over Thierry Neuville.

“It’s the only event Julien (co-driver Ingrassia) and I are yet to win and, even though I won’t be fixated on a win this week, I would also love to stand on the top step of the podium in Argentina,” admitted Ogier, who has three times finished second.

“We know the win won’t be easy, but we have made a lot of progress this year and will certainly give it our best. The competition is strong, but if we can limit the time loss on Friday, which will be the key, I’m sure we’ll be in with a chance.”

As championship leader, Ogier starts first in Friday’s opening leg. If dry, he will sweep a line through loose gravel, conceding valuable time to later starters who will benefit from cleaner and faster roads.

Rain is forecast before the start, which would likely turn the conditions in Ogier’s favour and perhaps the weather Gods could play a vital part in him plugging that hole in his CV.

More than a million fans will pack the dirt speed tests, a mix of soft and sandy tracks and twisty rock-strewn roads high in the mountains of Cordoba province, which demand a blend of speed and endurance.

It is 16 years since Ogier’s M-Sport Ford team triumphed in Argentina but team principal Malcolm Wilson is backing him to end that barren run.

“They want to add this accolade to their long list of achievements and, knowing the form they’re in at the moment, they’re in with a chance of doing it. They won’t have an easy run opening the road on Friday, but they can never be discounted,” he said.

The rally starts in Villa Carlos Paz on Thursday night and drivers face 18 tests covering almost 360km before Sunday afternoon’s finish there.
18-04-24 Nye utfordringer for Veiby
Ole Christian Veiby ser frem til å delta i Rally Argentina for første gang i karrieren. – Det blir spennende å få oppleve enda en ny VM-runde, sier han.

Når 21-åringen får Rally Australia under beltet, er det kun VM-rundene i Mexico og Australia han ikke har erfaring fra. Og nettopp det å bygge erfaring blir viktig i helgens løp.
– Jeg stiller som privatsjåfør denne gangen, og kjører derfor ikke om VM-poeng i WRC2. Det betyr at jeg har frie tøyler og styrer løpsopplegget helt selv. Men det blir viktig å fullføre løpet og få mest mulig erfaring, forteller Ole, som har Wevers, med support fra Skoda Motorsport, til å drifte bilen.

Sammen med kartleser Stig Rune Skjærmoen har han gjennomført en liten test før det hele braker løs for alvor på fredag. Ole kjører for øvrig sin 29. VM-runde i karrieren, og helgens løp er den 20. VM-runden Ole og Stig Rune har sammen.
– Jeg har kjørt rallycross i Argentina, men aldri rally. Dette er et litt annerledes løp enn hva vi kjenner til fra før. Grusen er spesiell, og på andre gjennomkjøring kan det bli ganske røffe forhold. Da kan det dukke opp steiner som ikke var der tidligere. Vi må bruke øynene godt, for å si det sånn. Bilene tåler utrolig mye, men ikke alt, påpeker han.

Selv om han ikke skal kjempe om WRC2-poeng denne gangen, vil han selvsagt måle krefter og sammenligne seg med de fremste førerne der.
– Vi ønsker selvsagt å fighte med Pontus (Tidemand), som jeg ser på som den sterkeste føreren i dette løpet. Men det viktigste blir som sagt å fullføre løpet, understreker Ole.

Argentina ligger fem timer bak Norge, men tidsforskjellen er ikke noe som bekymrer Skoda-føreren.
– Vi fikk mye erfaring med store tidsforskjeller da vi deltok i Asian Pasific i fjor, og jeg synes det er noe vi takler veldig godt. Det har aldri vært noe problem, egentlig, forsikrer han.

18-04-23 Tidemand laddad för spektakulärt Rally Argentina
SKODA Motorsports WRC 2-mästare Pontus Tidemand är redo att ta upp kampen igen. Han är på plats i Villa Carlos Paz och förbereder sig för start i Rally Argentina där 360 kilometer i krävande terräng ska bemästras.

Två pallplatser på två tävlingar - en seger i Rally Mexiko och en andraplats i hemmatävlingen Rally Sweden - har gett Pontus Tidemand och hans rutinerade kartläsare Jonas Andersson en kanonstart på säsongen 2018. Efter VM-seriens senaste deltävling på Korsika, en tävling som den värmländska duon inte deltog i, ligger de ändå tvåa i mästerskapsställningarna med målet att klättra under kommande helg i Argentina.
- I WRC 2 kör vi ju sju tävlingar på ett år och sex av dem räknas i slutet av säsongen, berättar Pontus. Det innebär att inte alla kör varje tävling och den totala ställningen skiftar från rally till rally, särskilt så här tidigt på året. Det är tufft och tajt med många bra förare i mästerskapet, men vi siktar givetvis på att plocka maxpoäng nu och lämna Argentina med totalledning igen - då vet vi att vi är precis där vi vill vara och fighta.

Rally Argentina bjuder på tuff terräng med grusvägar unika i sitt slag. De mjuka sandvägarna i Santa Rosa de Calamuchita-dalen kontrasterar skarpt mot de smala och karga sträckorna i bergskedjan Traslasierra och en av de stora utmaningarna är att kunna ställa om sig och anpassa körstilen till de olika underlagen. Sträckorna korsar också många floder som gärna breder ut sig om det kommer mycket nederbörd. Ytterligare en väderfaktor att ha i beräkningarna är att dimma, och till och med is, inte är helt ovanligt på högre höjder om hösten är tidig på det södra halvklotet.
- De sandiga vägarna blir lätt uppkörda eftersom de är så mjuka. När de sträckorna körs för andra gången gäller det att ha tungan rätt i munnen och försöka hålla sig i rätt spår för att inte kastas av vägen, samtidigt som sträckorna uppe i bergen är extremt steniga och inget annat än full fokus gäller för att klara sig igenom dem. En kombination av fart, rytm och uthållighet var det som fungerade för oss ifjol så vi provar att hitta samma koncept i år, fast den här gången med lite mer erfarenhet, säger Pontus, som debuterade i det argentinska VM-rallyt förra året och då slog till med en rejäl skrällseger.

Idag, måndag, körs ett litet test för att bekanta sig med de argentinska vägarna och sedan väntar två dagars rekognosering av sträckorna för att sedan kicka igång tävlingen med shakedown och första sträckan på torsdag. Nytt för i år är att öppningssträckan har flyttat från Argentinas näst största stad Córdoba till gatorna i värdstaden Villa Carlos Paz och det förväntas bli en praktfull start på helgen. Under de följande dagarna avgörs de resterande 17 sträckorna innan bilarna kommer i mål sent på söndag eftermiddag svensk tid.

Tidsschema Rally Argentina 2018 (svensk tid -5 timmar)
Torsdag 26 april
19:08 SS1 Villa Carlos Paz (1,90km)
Fredag 27 april
08:13 SS2 Las Bajadas/ Villa Del dique (16,65km)
09:00 SS3 Amboy/ Yacanto (33,58km)
10:13 SS4 Santa Rosa/ San Agustin (23,85km)
12:08 SS5 Super Especial Fernet Branca (6,04km)
12:48 Service
14:51 SS6 Las Bajadas/ Villa Del Dique (16,65km)
15:38 SS7 Amboy/ Yacanto (33,58km)
16:51 SS8 Santa Rosa/ San Agustin (23,85km)
Lördag 28 april
08:23 SS9 Tanti-Mataderos (13,92km)
09:08 SS10 Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada (16,02km)
09:35 SS11 Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos (40,48km)
11:38 SS12 Super Especial Fernet Branca (6,04km)
12:15 Service
13:23 SS13 Tanti – Mataderos (13,92km)
14:08 SS14 Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada (16,02km)
14:35 SS15 Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos (40,48km)
Söndag 29 april
09:08 SS16 Copina – El Condor (16,43km)
09:55 SS17 Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero (22,41km)
12:18 SS18 Power Stage El Condor (16,43km)
18-04-23 Spesielt løp venter Andreas Mikkelsen
Andreas Mikkelsen kjenner det kribler i kroppen når han tenker på Rally Argentina. – Det er et spesielt løp på alle mulige måter, og publikum er alltid helt elleville, sier Hyundai-føreren.

Det er ingen løp på VM-kalenderen som kan sammenlignes med Rally Argentina. Løpet skiller seg ut på flere måter, og Andreas Mikkelsen er entusiastisk når han forteller om det som venter han og kartleser Anders Jæger.
– Rally Argentina er utrolig spesielt, med et fantastisk landskap. Starten på El Condor er nesten som å kjøre inn i en Indiana Jones-film, det er helt fantastisk hvordan veien snirkler seg mellom fjelltoppene. Fansen står overalt og skaper en spesiell atmosfære. Det opplever vi også i andre løp, men Argentina er noe helt spesielt. Du kan nesten føle entusiasmen helt inn i bilen. Hvis du skal følge ett rally på wrc+, så burde du velge dette, sier Andreas.

Han mener Rally Argentina er et løp som passer kjørestilen hans godt, og 29-åringen legger ikke skjul på at han er revansjesugen etter en skuffene asfaltrunde på Korsika.
­– Underlaget er annerledes enn andre grusløp. Det er litt mer sandete. Det passer egentlig ganske godt til min kjørestil, hvor jeg kan angripe svingen ordentlig. Rally Argentina er i utgangspunktet et røft løp, så på andre gjennomkjøring gjelder det å være litt ekstra påpasselig med bilen. Men det er raske prøver også, så det er viktig ikke å være for forsiktig. Noen steder er veien så uframkommelig at du nesten ikke kunne kjørt der med traktor en gang. Likevel skal vi kjøre flat-out. Det forteller en del om hvor solide rallybilene er, påpeker han.

Rallyesset forteller også at dette er et løp hvor han må ha nervene under kontroll, og gjøre en god og grundig jobb med notene.
– Det er en helt utrolig følelse når du har 400-500 meter med rett strekke og det går i 200 kilometer i timen. Da må du bare håpe at den nota du har valgt på svingen som kommer er riktig. Du må ha nerver av stål enkelte steder, sier han med et smil.
Argentina er også kjent for sine mange vannsplash, noe som bidrar til å gjøre løpet ekstra spektakulært. Andreas deltar i løpet for femte gang, men var ikke med i fjor. For to år siden ble han nummer tre, og målet er å komme på pallen nok en gang.
18-04-17 Østberg klar for nye WRC løp med Citröen Racing
Citröen Racing annonserer i dag at Mads Østberg vil være en del av det offisielle teamet for Rally Portugal og Rally Sardinia.
«Det er utrolig godt å være tilbake, og jeg gleder meg stort til å kjøre WRC rally igjen, forteller Mads. Jeg drar allerede i morgen for å treffe teamet i Portugal hvor vi skal ha en to dagers test for å forberede oss. Dette er to grusløp som passer meg bra, og ambisjonen er å gjøre gode løp og bygge på den positive erfaringen fra Rally Sverige hvor vi viste bra tempo etter minimum med forberedelser».

Østberg har også flere spennende rally prosjekter for 2018 sesongen, men venter litt før han avslører det. «Nå er det fullt fokus på disse to løpene, så regner jeg med at jeg vil komme med flere nyheter i løpet av et par uker», avslutter han.
18-04-09 Hyundai Motorsport på pallen i Tour de Corse
Hyundai Motorsport har avslutat en utmanande helg på asfalt i Tour de Corse, fjärde omgången av 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) med en pallplats för Thierry Neuville som slutlig trea.
Teamets tre bilar slutade alla inom topp sju med Dani Sordo på fjärde och Andreas Mikkelsen som en sammanlagd sjua. Neuville med kartläsare Nicolas Gilsoul var helt fokuserade på att säkra tredjeplatsen på söndagsmorgonen men stötte på problem under den långa inledande sträckan då de skadade sitt vänstra bakhjul. Ett oförklarligt motorproblem förhindrade dem från att prestera sitt yttersta i Power Stage men belgarna lyckades trots det bekräfta sin tredje raka pallplacering på Korsika.

Med konstruktörspoäng tilldelade för de två bäst placerade bilarna i teamet lyckades Hyundai Motorsport behålla sin ledning i mästerskapet med ett reducerat övertag mot M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.

Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Neuville berättar: ”Det är såklart fantastiskt att sluta på pallen men helgen har ändå varit fylld med frustration. Vi lyckades inte matcha tiderna mot de snabbaste förarna även om vi verkligen försökte. Vi måste vara nöjda med resultatet vi lyckades uppnå då tredjeplatsen gjorde att vi tog viktiga poäng i Konstruktörsmästerskapet. Ser man däremot till vår rena prestation hade vi inte det flytet jag önskade under helgen.”

Sordo/Del Barrio (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe)
Dani Sordo om helgen: ”Vårt slutliga resultat är inte alltför dåligt med tanke på den motiga helg vi har upplevt på Korsika. Vi lyckades helt enkelt inte hitta den fart som behövdes för att tackla de här vägarna. Ändå – en fjärdeplats ger oss viktiga poäng i mästerskapet vilket alltid är något positivt vi kan ta med oss. Nu måste vi jobba ihop som ett team för att få upp farten på asfaltsvägarna under resten av säsongen.”
Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe)

Mikkelsen kommenterar: ”Det vart inte direkt det resultat vi hade hoppats på och överlag en riktigt jobbig helg. Vi gjorde några slutliga justeringar på bilen under söndagen men lyckades ändå inte hitta den känsla vi behövde. Vi har haft ett utmanande rally men nu vet vi vad vi måste göra för att öka erfarenheten och självförtroendet på asfalt. Vi behöver helt enkelt lägga fler mil bakom oss för att lära oss hur vi kan få ut maximal effekt av bilen. Det är lite tid kvar tills nästa asfaltsevent i Tyskland så vi måste fokusera på att få till de förbättringar vi behöver. Det är läxan vi tar med oss från den här helgen.”

Rally Argentina äger rum 26–29 april och blir en minnesvärd återkomst till den plats Hyundai Motorsport segrade i 2017. Det 18 etapper långa rallyt blir det femte av 13 på säsongen.

Slutresultat - Tour de Corse
1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:26:52.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +36.1
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:07.5
4 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:02.6
5 E. Evans P. Mills Ford Fiesta WRC +2:06.1
6 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +2:33.5
7 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:43.4
8 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +10:34.8
9 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +10:40.5
10 Y. Bonato B. Boulloud Citroën C3 R5 +12:26.0

2018 FIA World Rally Championship – Förarmästerskapet
Efter omgång 4
1 S. Ogier 84
2 T. Neuville 67
3 O. Tanak 45
4 A. Mikkelsen 41
5 K. Meeke 36
6 E. Lappi 36
7 J.M Latvala 31
8 D. Sordo 30
9 C. Breen 20
10 E. Evans 18
11 S. Loeb 15
12 H. Paddon 10

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Förarmästerskapet
Efter omgång 4
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 111
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 107
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 93
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 81
18-04-09 C3 WRCs competitive in Corcika but short on luck
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews produced performances entirely in keeping with the ambitious goals set for them, but were unable to turn their clear speed into results on some of the most demanding roads in the world championshi

THE STORY OF THE RACE
A true tarmac specialist, Sébastien Loeb had already produced exceptional performances in Corsica, like in 2005 when he topped the timesheets on every stage throughout the weekend. Ten years after his last appearance here, he produced another incredible feat on Friday morning when he finished just 9.7s behind the leader on the formidable opening stage of La Porta – Valle di Rostino (49.03km). Whilst his rivals could use their experience of the stage, having faced its seemingly never-ending series of bends since 2016, the nine-time world champions had to rely solely on pace notes. Their ninth position in the running order was no help to their cause, with more gravel and mud being pulled onto the road as cars ahead completed the stage. Unfortunately, "more fired up than my own tyres", the nine-time world rally champion was caught cold at the start of the next stage. Kris Meeke then took up the baton to perform superbly on behalf of Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. The Northern Irishman made it to the end of day one in third overall, just 5.1s behind the second-placed driver, picking up a second fastest and a third fastest time in the process. Whilst Sébastien Loeb produced a masterful display the next day on his return to action under Rally 2 rules, his three stage wins demonstrating the performance level of the C3 WRC on this surface, Kris Meeke also confirmed his good form by moving into a tie for second place. Unfortunately, a pace note error ended up in the Ulsterman going off the road on Saturday's final stage. After securing the second fastest time on Sunday on his return under Rally 2 rules, before finishing third on the Power Stage, Kris Meeke nonetheless demonstrated the array of qualities of his car right to the end. The same was true of Sébastien Loeb, who came second on the final speed test – hotly contested as ever – just 2.2s off the stage-winning time.

QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
How would you assess this first rally of the season on tarmac?
Obviously, the final result is disappointing and we were clearly aiming for a different outcome at out our home event, but it doesn't really reflect the performance level we had this weekend. Although the gaps became narrower on this surface, we managed to claim three stage wins in the heat of the battle thanks to Sébastien and Daniel, whilst Kris and Paul had just moved into a tie for second place with Neuville when they had their unfortunate off. The C3 WRC is clearly also very competitive on tarmac. We therefore had the potential to do well here, which makes our two crews' incidents all the more frustrating. We are already focused on Argentina, where we will be determined to get some big points on the board.

Were you expecting Sébastien and Daniel to be in such good form again?

After their performance in Mexico, we were undoubtedly expecting them to be more or less on the pace on their favoured surface, but they were still at a significant disadvantage compared with their rivals, tackling several stages for the first time, including a few very long ones, that the others were already familiar with. So, I think it's fair to say they were amazing once again, despite lacking a bit of match fitness. I was probably most impressed by the way in which they returned to action on Saturday under Rally 2 rules. When there's nothing really at stake from a sporting point of view, you really need a champion's mindset to produce the kind of times they set on the second leg!

The team also showed great commitment and dedication on Saturday evening in repairing Kris and Paul's car so they could return to action on Sunday…

Yes, that's true. I'd like to pay tribute to the entire team for their hard work. They didn't hesitate to work until very late on Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning, first of all to recover our C3 WRC from the maquis and then repair it in record time. It was tough going, but it was a fine example of great teamwork and commitment! Especially as it was important for Kris and Paul to get back into the saddle quickly and put the previous day's misfortune behind them. Their good times on Sunday show that they have already put the incident to bed and that they managed to pick up the pace again, looking ahead to the forthcoming events where I'm sure they will be determined to put things right.

HIGHLIGHTS
In securing the second fastest time, just 9.7s off the pace on the fifty or so kilometres of La Porta – Valle di Rostino, despite contesting the stage for the first time – unlike his rivals – Sébastien Loeb managed to impress "Patou" Magaud, his former safety crew driver…
"His performance on this stage is comparable with what he achieved with Danos in Mexico – they just keep on surprising us! And yet it was a stage where knowledge was important, given the constant changes in pace, grip and road surface. And with all the streams of water running across the road from the fifteen kilometre point onwards, running ninth on the road wasn't really an advantage. That reflects his professionalism, and his commitment too because he worked on the on-board camera footage taken during recce. In conditions like these, his incredibly precise pace notes also help make a difference, because they are unerringly consistent. Every single corner is noted faithfully, even though it is extremely complicated to be so precise on such a long stage. In any case, it's when the going gets tough that his ability to adapt comes to the fore and he is the best!"
18-04-09 Successful maiden outing for the C3R5!
With two stage wins for Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau at the heart of the fight for the lead in the WRC2, and a fine second overall in the category for Yoann Bonato and Benjamin Boulloud, the C3 R5 showed the full extent of its potential on some of the most demanding tarmac stages in the world.

Giving the C3 R5 its competitive debut at an event as difficult as the Tour de Corse was a bold gamble. The event is known as the ""Rally of 10,000 Corners" with good reason and its wide range of difficulties and road surfaces made it the perfect full-scale test bench. The gamble nonetheless paid off from the get go, on the demanding La Porta – Valle di Rostino stage, almost fifty kilometres in length: Yoann Bonato, the 2017 French champion, incorporated in the works team for this round, grabbed the second fastest time in the WRC2 class, just three tenths off the pace. It was then the turn of Stéphane Lefebvre, the Citroën Racing works driver having been held up on SS1 by an issue with his brakes, to produce a stunning performance and secure the C3 R5's maiden stage win of its fledgling competitive career. A result that proved beyond any doubt that Citroën's latest customer racing product has been well designed! That feeling only grew when Stéphane Lefebvre confirmed his good form by claiming another stage win on SS4 to move up to fourth place at the end of the leg, whilst Bonato finished the opening day in second position, just 20.8s off the lead. Unfortunately , Saturday began with a fatal off (SS5) for Lefebvre. Although Bonato also made two mistakes, he nonetheless consolidated his second position. On Sunday, he then came through the remaining stages, not least the rally's longest test (55.17 kilometres), held between Vero, Sarrola and Carcopino, to seal a fine performance and secure the C3 R5's first podium in the WRC2. A podium that rewards the hard work put in by the development team since September 2017 – when the car completed its first road tests – and which shall hopefully be the first of many!

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"This first outing of the C3 R5 has been really promising, despite a few inevitable teething problems but there's just no substitute for competitive experience. Stéphane was able to win stages in normal conditions against the established names in the category, so it's a shame that his rally was cut short. Meanwhile, Yoann was both consistent and fast, securing a deserved first podium, which will encourage us to redouble our efforts in order to do even better."

Stéphane Lefebvre
"Obviously, I'm disappointed that my race came to a premature end, but there are some positives to take away from this weekend. First and foremost, the performance level of the car, which enabled us to win two of the four stages we finished. The potential of the car is unquestionable and I have no doubt that we will be able to fight for category wins very quickly."

Yoann Bonato
"Clearly, we hoped to secure a result like this, we had done everything to give ourselves the best chance but we couldn't be sure that we could do it, especially at such an iconic rally. I'm particularly pleased with this successful debut. The C3 R5 handled really well on these very demanding stages. We'll now be able to keep working in order to make it even more formidable."

18-04-08 Three wins from four for Ogier after impressive Corsica victory
Sébastien Ogier led the the Corsica Linea - Tour de Corse from start to finish. The Frenchman eased to his third FIA World Rally Championship victory in four rounds after winning the three-day asphalt fixture by 36.1sec in his Ford Fiesta.

It was his second success on the Mediterranean island’s mountain roads and came 10 years after the five-time world champion secured the junior world title at the rally. He heads the championship by 17 points.

Ogier made his indications clear by winning Friday morning’s opening speed test. Three fastest times out of four earned him a lead of more than half a minute and afforded him the luxury of managing his pace over the final two legs.

"I’m very happy with our performance here. It was a great, great day on Friday and that’s where we built the platform for this win. It’s never easy controlling your pace rather than driving flat out, but everything feels better and better in this car,” said Ogier.

Ott Tänak finished second in a Toyota Yaris. The Estonian restarted today with just a tenth of a second in hand over Thierry Neuville. He distanced the Belgian in the marathon 55km opening test and widened the gap to 31.4sec as Neuville encountered problems.

He limped through the final test with engine troubles in his Hyundai i20 and was grateful to hold a large advantage over team-mate Dani Sordo. He finished 55.1sec clear of the Spaniard.

Sordo and Elfyn Evans were never split by more than a handful of seconds all weekend. The Welshman had to settle for fifth in his Fiesta, a fine result as 2003 world champion co-driver Phil Mills replaced the injured Dan Barritt for his first WRC rally in almost eight years.

There was final day heartbreak for Esapekka Lappi. The Finn thrust himself into the fight for second yesterday, but his hopes were shattered when he hit a kerb and stopped to change a punctured tyre. Ironically Neuville hit the same kerb but escaped.

Lappi plunged to seventh, but salvaged maximum bonus points by winning the final Power Stage in his Yaris as well as overhauling Andreas Mikkelsen to climb to sixth.

The championship returns to gravel roads for YPF Rally Argentina, which is based in Villa Carlos Paz on 6 - 9 April.

Final positions
1. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta 3hr 26min 52.7sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Toyota Yaris + 36.1sec
3. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 + 1min 07.5sec
4. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 2min 02.6sec
5. E Evans / P Mills GBR Ford Fiesta + 2min 06.1sec
6. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 2min 33.5sec

FIA World Rally Championship (round 4 of 13):
1. S Ogier 84pts
2. T Neuville 67pts
3. O Tänak 45pts
18-04-08 The C3 WRCs finish on a hig note
Sébastien Loeb – Daniel Elena and Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT's two crews, once again flirted with the top of the timesheets in their C3 WRCs on today's final leg in Corsica.

The Tour de Corse drew to a close in style today, featuring the longest stage of the rally (55.17 kilometres) to the north of Ajaccio, followed by the Power Stage, contested in the south of the island, between Pénitencier de Coti and Chiavari.

However, the day's challenge had started before the stages for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT's technical team. Having recovered Kris Meeke's C3 WRC after yesterday's final stage, the team's mechanics did a great job to repair the car in time for the Nothern Irishman to rejoin the action this morning under Rally 2 rules.

Kris Meeke did them proud in return. Without taking any unnecessary risks, he fought with the podium contenders to set the second fastest time on the opening stage, suggesting that there were no after effects from last night's off in his close partnership with co-driver Paul Nagle. He then confirmed his good form in tying for third on the Power Stage, securing him two bonus points and finishing ninth overall, a position that did not reflect his speed throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC. He deserved to finish on the podium.

Sébastien Loeb was also in fine form on the final day, grabbing the second fastest time on the Power Stage just 2.2s off the stage-winning time. He therefore ended the weekend tied for second best performer, with three stage wins. A result that proves, following on from his majestic performance in Mexico, that he has lost none of his talent on tarmac!

WHAT THEY SAID
Kris Meeke
"Obviously, it's frustrating to have dropped out of contention yesterday when a top three place was clearly within our reach, but we had to get back at it today and I think we have proven our ability to do just that. We are already looking ahead and we'll be trying and get back on the podium and turn our speed into good results at the next few races."

Sébastien Loeb
"It’s a real shame that we went off on Friday. We would have undoubtedly been right in the mix otherwise. In any case, I'm delighted to have been on the pace again this weekend for our second one-off appearance of the season. I prefer to focus on the enjoyment we have had throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC. It is a really formidable car on tarmac and I really enjoyed driving it on these magnificent Corsican roads. It was also very nice to feel all the love and support from the French fans at our home event."

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:26:52.7
2. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 36.1
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:07.5
4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:02.6
5. Evans / Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:06.1
6. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2:33.5
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:43.4
9. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 10:40.5
14. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) + 20:58.0

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Sébastien Ogier – 84 points
2. Thierry Neuville – 67 points
3. Ott Tänak – 45 points
4. Andreas Mikkelsen – 41 points
5. Kris Meeke – 36 points
6. Esapekka Lappi – 36 points
7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 31 points
8. Dani Sordo – 30 points
9. Craig Breen – 20 points
10. Elfyn Evans – 18 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 111 points
1. M-Sport Ford WRT – 107 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 93 points
3. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 81 points
18-04-08 Dennis Rådström fyra på Korsika
Efter tre dagar och 10 000 kurvor går Dennis Rådström och Johan Johansson i mål som fyra i årets andra deltävling i Junior-VM i rally på den franska ön Korsika.
– Det har vart en helt fantastisk helg! Vi har utvecklats något enormt och får med oss mycket poäng i mästerskapet, så det kan knappast bli bättre, säger Dennis.

Trots teamets knappa erfarenhet av körning på asfalt lyckades man hänga med i tempot som de betydlig mer erfarna konkurrenterna satte upp, och de var länge med och fightades om den sista pallplatsen.
– Jag är förvånad över hur bra vi faktiskt hängde med de andra, detta är nästan en större prestation är segern i Sverige, fortsätter Dennis.
– Vi har utvecklats otroligt mycket i vår körning på asfalt sen förra året. Nu vet vi på riktigt hur man ska köra, säger Johan.

Rallyt på Korsika är ett av de tuffaste i hela världen med VM-seriens längsta sträckor och upp mot 10 000 kurvor, vilket gör att det sätts stor press på koncentration och samarbetet i bilen.
– Jag var lite orolig innan vi kom hit för hur det skulle gå, men allt har gått felfritt hela helgen och vi har inte gjort några misstag, säger Johan.
– Johan har gjort ett enormt jobb hela den här helgen och inte missat en enda not, säger Dennis.

Fjärdeplatsen i helgens tävling följer upp premiärsegern i Sverige för några månader sedan och är ännu ett steg på vägen mot årets stora mål; att vara med och slåss om VM-titeln. Nu väntar en månads uppehåll innan VM-serien fortsätter i Portugal, en helt ny tävling för Dennis och Johan.
– Det ska bli kul att komma tillbaka till gruset. Men nu blir det också mycket tuffare, för alla i årets mästerskap kan vara med och kriga i toppen på grus. Vi har en plan för hela året, och nu blir det hårdare jobb än någonsin för att fortsätta vara med och slåss, avslutar Johan.

Resultat JWRC Tour de Corse 2018:
1. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (FRA)
2. Therry Folb (FRA) +33,7
3. Emil Bergkvist (SWE) +3.28,6
4. Dennis Rådström (SWE) +4.11,7
5. Callum Denive (IRL) +6.24,8
18-04-08 Andra raka pallplatsen för Bergkvist
I helgen kördes den andra deltävlingen i Junior-VM i rally på den franska ön Korsika. För Torsåkers Emil Bergkvist och hans kartläsare Ola Fløene slutade tävlingen med en tredjeplats, deras andra raka pallplats i årets mästerskap.
– Vi är nöjda med vår tävling. Det är så oerhört hög nivå i denna serien, och de andra åkte riktigt fort i helgen, säger Emil.

I förra deltävlingen i Sverige hade Emil problem med att anpassa sig efter den nya bilen, en Ford Fiesta R2T, och fick inte till körningen riktigt. Inför tävlingen på Korsika hade han förberett sig bättre, och lyckades även få till körningen och känslan i bilen.
– Det har vart en väldigt utmanande tävlingen med extremt långa sträckor, och vi hade lite problem inledningsvis med att hitta det rätta flytet. Men igår fick vi lite hjälp och det hjälpte väldigt mycket, så vi är nöjda med hur körningen fungerade i slutet.

Efter två pallplatser på två tävlingar ser det bra ut i mästerskapet för Emil och Ola.
– Vi får med oss bra med poäng från denna helgen, och det kommer bli viktigt i slutet av detta långa mästerskap. Alla här är otroligt snabba, och det gäller att ta det i mål under hela säsongen om man ska vara med i slutet, fortsätter Emil.

Om några veckor fortsätter mästerskapet med årets första grustävling i Portugal, en tävling Emil kört de senaste två åren.
– Visst är det en fördel att vi vart där innan, men vi ska inte underskatta de andra. Vi vet att Dennis (Rådström) och flera andra är duktiga på grus. Det gäller att komma så bra förberedda som möjligt inför tävlingen, så får vi se hur långt det räcker, avslutar Emil.
18-04-07 Veiby imponerte Skoda-ledelsen
Ole Christian Veiby viste muskler under Rally Korsika, og fikk skryt av ledelsen i Skoda Motorsport for måten han gjennomførte løpet på. Dessverre ødela tekniske problemer for en opplagt andreplass.
– Hadde noen sagt til meg på forhånd at jeg skulle ta fire etappeseire og tre andretider, så hadde jeg ikke helt trodd på det. Jeg er utrolig stolt over å ha slått Jan Kopecky på flere etapper hvor han sier han har gitt alt, sier en fornøyd Ole Christian Veiby.

Dessverre måtte han nøye seg med fjerdeplass sammenlagt i WRC2, og det skyldes utelukkende at bilen låste seg i førstegear på SS10, noe han tapte over to og et halvt minutt på.
– Utrolig synd at det skjedde, og det var selvsagt en stor skuffelse. Da måtte jeg bare refokusere. Det var 55 sekunder opp til tredjeplassen, og jeg tenkte at jeg skulle gi det et forsøk, sier Ole, som sammen med kartleser Stig Rune Skjærmoen virkelig ga alt for å komme på pallen. På avslutningsdagens to eneste etapper var de suverene i WRC2 – og vant begge etappene.
– Jeg klinte skikkelig til fra start på den nest siste etappen for å se om det var mulig å ta tredjeplassen. Vi gjennomførte en utrolig bra etappe, og vant den med nesten 38 sekunder på Kopecky, og tok 47 sekunder inn på tredjeplassen. Dermed skilte det bare 7,9 sekunder opp til pallen før den siste etappen, forteller Ole, som plutselig øynet muligheten til en pallplass.

Han ga absolutt alt, og gjennomførte en perfekt etappe. Dessverre var ikke marginene på hans side, for det skilte til slutt fattige 1,8 sekunder opp til tredjeplass. Frem til Jan Kopecky, som vant, var det drøyt tre minutter, mens det var drøyt halvannet minutt opp til andreplassen. I lys av at han tapte over to og et halvt minutt på en etappe, er dette meget imponerende av unggutten.
– Det føles surt når vi har jobbet så hardt for å klare tredjeplassen, men det var ikke mulig å kjøre noe fortere. Vi får heller tenke på det positive vi har opplevd i helgen. Alt har egentlig fungert perfekt, bortsett fra problemene på den siste etappen lørdag, sier 21-åringen, som fikk skryt av Skoda Motorsport.
– De er veldig fornøyde med jobben jeg har gjort. Jeg føler på en måte at andreplassen var vår, og det vet Skoda også. Vi har gjort jobben vår, og vel så det. Vi har tatt utrolig store steg siden i fjor, og jeg er stolt av at jeg har matchet en så god asfaltkjører som Jan Kopecky, sier Ole.

Neste løp for Ole og Stig Rune blir Rally Argentina om to og en halv uke. Mens de i helga kjørte for VM-poeng for Skoda Motorsport, stiller de som privat team i neste VM-runde.
– Det skal blir spennende å kjøre i Argentina. Vi gleder oss til det, sier han.
18-04-07 Mikkelsen er skuffet etter sjuendeplass
Mikkelsen har mye å jobbe med. Rally Korsika ble aldri i nærheten av hva Andreas Mikkelsen hadde håpet på. VM-runden avslørte at de har mye å jobbe med for å finne det rette oppsettet på bilen.

Fabrikkføreren til Hyundai legger ikke skjul på at årets fjerde VM-runde ble en frustrerende affære. Han vet at bilen kan være konkurransedyktig på asfalt med det riktige oppsettet. Og det er nettopp bilens innstillinger som har vært helgens store utfordring for nordmannen. Han har ikke mulighet til å gjøre alle endringer på oppsettet som han ønsker under løp, og måtte til slutt innse at det ble en skuffende sjuendeplass.
– Det har vært en fryktelig vanskelig helg, og sjuendeplass er absolutt ikke det resultatet vi kom hit for. Jeg visste det kom til å bli et utfordrende løp etter all testingen vi har gjort. Men jeg hadde uansett regnet med at vi skulle henge bedre med. Det viser at vi alle i teamet virkelig må stå på og ta bilen fremover. Slik den oppfører seg nå, så blir jeg ekstra straffet med den kjørestilen jeg har. Vi må rett og slett jobbe knallhardt, og heldigvis er det lenge til Rally Tyskland, som er neste asfaltrunde, sier Andreas, som ble nummer to i Tyskland i fjor.
Rally Korsika er et løp hvor det er ekstra viktig å føle seg i ett med bilen. Med utallige svinger, løper sekundene svært fort om man ikke finner en god rytme. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger ble det derfor en tung helg.
– Vi forsøkte å pushe enkelte steder, men da ble bilen veldig understyrt, noe som førte til at det gikk enda saktere. Nå gleder jeg meg bare til å komme tilbake på grus, sier han med et smil – og retter blikket mot Argentina og neste VM-runde om to og en halv uke.

Sebastien Ogier vant Rally Korsika med et drøyt halvminutts forsprang på Ott Tanak. Andreas Mikkelsens teamkamerat Thierry Neuville sikret seg tredjeplassen.


18-04-07 Loeb racks up the stage wins as Meeke forced to retire
Whilst Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who rejoined under Rally 2 rules today and won three out of the leg's six stages, performed superbly on behalf of Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle suffered an unfortunate end to their day when they went off the road on the final stage when running in second overall.

Crossing the inland scenery of the Cap Corse from east to west, the day's completely new and very fast opening stage (35.61km) promised to be a real challenge. The same could also be said for the next stage, also brand new, held in the Désert des Agriates to the south-west of Saint Florent, on more sweeping, circuit-style roads.

These two demanding speed tests provided Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who rejoined under Rally 2 rules this morning after their misfortune yesterday, with the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of their immense talent, as the pair won the day's first two stages. The nine-time world rally champions even claimed a third stage win in the afternoon, therefore winning half of the six tests contested today, taking their personal tally to the impressive figure of nine hundred and twelve stage wins in the WRC! The crew's times showed they are still very competitive and confirmed the high performance level of the C3 WRC in Corsica.

Also in good form on the day's opening stage – as seen in his third fastest time, just 1.9s behind his famous team-mate over the 35km stage – Kris Meeke then had a more up and down morning, but still managed to hold onto third place. The midday service enabled the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT to fine-tune the set-up of his C3 WRC for the afternoon loop. Kris had just drawn level with Neuville in second overall when a pace note mistake meant he carried too much speed into a corner and ended up going off on the final stage of the day.

Another formidable Tour de Corse challenge awaits the drivers in tomorrow's final leg, as the crews tackle the rally's longest stage. A marathon 55.17 kilometres between Vero, Sarrola and Carcopino, 48.21km of which are completely new, like the Power Stage which follows it.

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"The highlight of the leg for me was obviously the three stage wins secured by Sébastien and Daniel, who proved once again just how competitive our C3 WRC is, even if the gaps were narrower today with our rivals. Their misfortune yesterday is therefore all the more regrettable. In any case, it is the mark of all truly great champions to manage to come back after such an incident re-motivated and then produce the kind of performance they did this morning. Obviously, we're disappointed about Kris and Paul's mistake, because it is a very costly one and means we miss out on a potential podium at a rally where we had serious hopes of a strong result."

Kris Meeke
"We were fighting for second and pushing really hard, absolutely on the limit. Unfortunately, something happened that has never happened before between Paul and me. He got the pace notes a bit mixed up, but that's rallying. It's the very first time that this has happened. We've gone off several times together in the past when it's been my fault and not his. Look, we win together and we lose together. I'm sure we'll bounce back from this very quickly."

Sébastien Loeb
"It was a very good day for us – better than yesterday, in any case! I pushed like I know I can when I feel comfortable and I had plenty of confidence behind the wheel of my C3 WRC today. It's really enjoyable to drive it on this surface. It is a balanced car, the engine works really well and I'm delighted to have set some really good times in the car throughout the leg."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2 :43 :07.7
2. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 44.5
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 44.6
4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 54.9
5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:46.7
6. Evans / Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:49.8
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:13.5
-
16. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) + 20:52.6
18-04-07 Sébastien Ogier extends lead and in comfort zone on Corsica’s asphalt
Masterful Frenchman remains on target to win the Corsica Linea - Tour de Corse.
Without ever needing to drive flat out, the FIA World Rally Championship leader ended the penultimate day with a 44.5sec advantage after six speed tests in the northernmost tip of the Mediterranean island.

In contrast to yesterday when the world champion won three of the four speed tests in his Ford Fiesta, he drew a blank today, preferring a measured pace which still proved sufficient to leave him with a comfortable lead ahead of tomorrow’s finale.

“Anything can always happen but I don’t take the extra risk and I feel like I’m still in control. I feel comfortable, but if someone says they are 100% in control they’re lying. We must stay focused,” he said after 136.90km of narrow, twisty asphalt and untraditional faster sections.

A fierce fight for second involving four drivers ended with Ott Tänak snatching position by a tenth of a second from Thierry Neuville in the final Novella test, as Kris Meeke crashed his Citroën C3 into retirement after mishearing a pace note.

Neuville and Meeke started the 17.39km stage tied in second. Handling issues blighted Neuville all afternoon after set-up changes had an adverse effect on his Hyundai i20, and Estonian Tänak capitalised to leap from fourth to second in the final kilometres.

The disappointment was acute for Meeke, the third year in succession that the Ulsterman has retired on this stage.

Just 10.3sec further behind in fourth was Esapekka Lappi. The Finn produced the drive of the day in his Toyota Yaris after suspension and differential changes transformed his confidence. He won two stages to reel in those ahead and has a podium in his sights.

Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans were evenly matched all day. Sordo ended fifth in his i20, with a 3.1sec advantage over the Welshman who lost time after stalling his Fiesta’s engine and being too hesitant on the tricky mountain roads.

Sébastien Loeb, returning after yesterday’s crash, won three stages in his C3.

Sunday’s finale comprises just two stages, but brings a sting in the tail. The opening 55.17km test from Vero to Sarrola-Carcopino is the longest in the rally since 1986. It is followed by the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest five drivers.
18-04-07 Mikkelsen kjemper med bilen på Korsika
Det har vært en frustrerende dag for Andreas Mikkelsen på Korsika. Han sliter med å finne det riktige oppsettet på bilen.
– Vi har forsøkt å gå noen retninger med bilen i løpet av dagen. Noe har ikke fungert i det hele tatt, og noe har fungert litt bedre. Men vi kommer til å gjøre mer ekstreme endringer før de siste etappene i morgen. For slik som bilen har oppført seg i dag, så går det rett og slett for sakte. Forsøker vi å pushe, blir den veldig understyrt – og da går det bare enda saktere, sier Andreas litt oppgitt. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger ligger han på en skuffende sjuendeplass. Etter åpningsdagen har han likevel klatret to plasser etter at Kris Meeke og Jari-Matti Latvala har brutt.
– Jeg håper endringene vi skal gjøre med bilen bidrar til at vi får opp tempoet og kan være med å kjempe om verdifulle poeng på power stage. Men med den følelsen jeg har med bilen akkurat nå, så vil det ikke være mulig. Det er derfor vi kommer til å gjøre store endringer på oppsettet, for slik det er nå, går det rett og slett for sakte. Veldig frustrerende, men sånn er det enkelte ganger. Men jeg kan kjøre fort på asfalt, det vet jeg fra før. Så nå gjelder det bare å få bilen slik jeg vil den skal være, og da kommer jeg til å kjøre fort.

Nordmannen ligger drøyt to minutter bak suverene Sebastien Ogier, som leder med 44,5 sekunder på Ott Tanak, mens Andreas sin teamkamerat i Hyundai, Thierry Neuville, ligger på tredjeplass kun 0,1 sekunder bak Tanak.

18-04-06 Loeb´s display cut short as Meeke challenges for podium place
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT experienced an opening leg of contrasting fortunes in Corsica, with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena forced into an early retirement after making a strong start. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended day one third overall in their C3 WRC, confirming their hopes of securing a podium finish.

Featuring just four stages, but held over a competitive distance of more than 125 kilometres, today's opening leg was no easy introduction. The schedule included two runs on the lengthy La Porta – Valle di Rostino stage (49.03km). The speed test is renowned for providing competitors with the full range of characteristics that make the island's roads both appealing and difficult: sweeping, circuit-style sections with long straights, other roads barely more than a car's width, and uphill and downhill sections; mostly on smooth tarmac but bumpy in places and with plenty of gravel and mud dragged onto the road.

On this demanding surface, where the level of grip deteriorated as more cars completed, the road positions of Sébastien Loeb (9th) and Kris Meeke (4th) were not especially advantageous, and yet they both performed well right from the word go: the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT drivers grabbed the second and fourth fastest times on SS 1 (49.03km), 9.7s and 19.1s off the pace respectively.

The performance of Sébastien Loeb was all the more impressive for the fact that he had not previously driven on this stage, whereas his fellow WRC colleagues have contested it since 2016. Unfortunately, caught out by cool tyres and by the road being dirtier than expected, the French ace saw his fine start ruined by an off in the opening metres of the next stage. The nine-time world rally champion was unable to get back onto the road and was therefore forced to retire, but will return to action tomorrow under Rally 2 rules.

Kris Meeke stepped in perfectly as the team's remaining representative. After setting a second fastest time (SS2) and a third fastest time (SS3), the Northern Irishman ended the opening leg third overall, only 5.1s adrift of second place. He thus confirmed that he will be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the fight for the final podium places.

Just over thirty-seven percent of the total distance has been covered so far; the competitors will tackle the rally's longest leg (136.90km in six stages) tomorrow. Two of the three stages contested tomorrow – those held in Cap Corse and Désert des Agriates – are brand new and may throw up their fair share of surprises…

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, it's been a day of mixed fortunes. We're pretty pleased to see Kris Meeke definitely in contention for a podium place. Especially as he didn't throw himself recklessly into the fight, instead adopting a moderate pace. However, we cannot hide our frustration about the retirement of our nine-time world champions that brought their impressive display to a premature end. On a stage where they were the only ones not to have contested it before, they produced a superb performance. There is still a long way to go and we're going to do everything we can to get our C3 WRCs as high up the standings as possible."

Kris Meeke
"It was a pretty good day for us, I was pleased with my rhythm, even though it wasn't quite enough to keep pace with the leader. I don't know to what extent the road became 'polluted' as more cars came completed the stages. In any case, I was pleased with my C3 WRC. My intercom was playing up, which was a bit annoying at times. With a couple of totally new stages tomorrow, a lot can still happen but I'm very determined to fight to stay in the podium places."

Sébastien Loeb
"I turned into a right-hand corner and on the exit, I had to brake for a tighter left-hand bend. I was a caught out a little bit by the amount of gravel and mud on the road, and as a result I understeered and just couldn't quite make the left-hander. As I went off, I tried to avoid hitting a tree straight on but I ended up sliding into a ditch. When I tried to get back out onto the road, I then got totally stuck in the ditch. It's very frustrating because we had made a good start on the opening stage. We'll now try put on a show for the fans."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:19:39.0
2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 33.6
3. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 38.7
4. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 44.2
5. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:13.5
6. Evans / Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:13.8
7. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:14.4
8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:25.0
9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:29.2
10. Bouffier / Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:44.8
18-04-06 Sébastien Ogier reigns supreme on Corsica's Mediterranean mountain roads
Frenchman dominates opening Corsica Linea - Tour de Corse leg to leave rivals floundering. A peerless performance from the FIA World Rally Championship leader on the first all-asphalt encounter of the season enabled him to build a 33.6sec lead in his Ford Fiesta over a frustrated Thierry Neuville.

Like everyone else, Neuville had no answer to Ogier’s pace as the Frenchman won the first three of four twisty and narrow speed tests near Bastia. Such was his mastery that Ogier drove around a handling problem which threatened to spin his car at tight hairpins.

He won both passes through the long 49.03km La Porta - Valle di Rostino by a massive 10sec and said: “We pushed hard all day, it’s a great start. I was surprised with my time in the first stage as it wasn’t perfect. I had the same kind of oversteer I had in the first round in Monte-Carlo.”

Ogier’s task was simplified when arch-rival and WRC legend Sébastien Loeb crashed his Citroën C3 out of second place in the second test.

The nine-time world champion, competing in the second of three guest appearances, carried too much pace into a left corner 400 metres after the start and dropped into a deep ditch.

Brake problems hindered Neuville this morning and although the Belgian climbed to second, he was powerless to halt Ogier. “I didn’t feel completely confident in the car. We have to accept we can’t beat him, but must stay positive and keep the other guys behind,” he said.

His Hyundai i20 ended 5.1sec ahead of Kris Meeke, who suffered intermittent intercom problems in his C3. Ott Tänak was fourth, the Estonian a further 5.5sec adrift after fighting handling problems at the rear of his Toyota Yaris.

Esapekka Lappi ended Ogier’s hopes of a clean sweep by winning the final test in a Yaris. His success promoted him to fifth, 0.3sec ahead of Elfyn Evans, who quickly gelled with 2003 world champion co-driver Phil Mills, deputising for the injured Dan Barritt.

Saturday’s second leg is the longest, with six stages totalling 136.90km. Three morning tests are repeated in the afternoon as the event visits the northernmost Cap Corse tip of the island for the first time since 1995.

18-04-06 Mikkelsen sliter på Korsika
Andreas Mikkelsen har ikke funnet godfølelsen med bilen i sitt første ordentlige asfaltløp for Hyundai Motorsport, og ligger på en beskjeden niendeplass.

Nordmannen var spent før sesongens fjerde VM-runde, som er den første virkelige asfaltrunden i år. Han har ikke altfor mye erfaring med Hyundai på dette underlaget, og sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger har han fått en mildt sagt trøblete start.
– Det har vært en fryktelig dårlig start på løpet. På den første etappen hadde vi en tidlig snurring, og fant aldri rytmen etter det. På den neste etappen så var vi av veien. De to neste etappene ble gjennomført uten problemer, men jeg har ikke helt funnet ut hvordan jeg skal kjøre denne bilen. For jeg føler at hvis vi pusher hardere, så blir det bare understyring, beskriver Andreas.

På de svingete veiene i Rally Korsika forsvinner sekundene fort om man ikke finner en god rytme. Med 50 sekunder opp til pallen fra sin niendeplass, må han innse at det skal svært mye til for å blande seg inn i kampen om en plass på seierspallen. Nå er håpet at han skal finne et oppsett som fungerer bedre. Andreas kommer til å ta en prat med teamkompis Thierry Neuville, som ligger på andreplass – drøyt halvminuttet bak suverene Sebastien Ogier.
– Jeg får sammenligne litt med hva slags oppsett Thierry bruker, og kanskje kopiere det i morgen selv om jeg har en litt annen kjørestil enn han. Men Thierry kjenner denne bilen veldig, veldig godt på asfalt, så det er verdt å lytte til hva han sier og ta en prat med ingeniørene for å få en endring på bilen. Da kan jeg forhåpentligvis kjempe i toppen i morgen, sier han.
18-04-05 Former champion Loeb hopes to go from zero to hero in Corsica return
Frenchman targets dry asphalt win in second of three 2018 WRC stops.

Corsica master Sébastien Loeb returns to the island’s WRC rally this weekend as a virtual beginner 10 years after dominating the classic mountain road encounter.

The asphalt Corsica linea - Tour de Corse is the second of the Frenchman’s three-event guest appearances for Citroën, with whom he won nine consecutive world titles before quitting the sport on a full-time basis in 2012.

Loeb claimed four straight Corsica victories between 2005 and 2008 before the championship’s French fixture moved to the mainland. It returned three years ago but the 44-year-old has little specific knowledge on which to draw from his glory days here.

“It’s all new for me,” he explained. “I have no previous pace notes at all because all the stages are new for me. The route used to be located around Ajaccio but now it’s a little bit everywhere. I’ve had to restart from zero with everything.”

Loeb created many records during his career but his 2005 Corsica win set a benchmark that may never be broken. He won every speed test and remains the only driver in the series’ 45-year history to achieve such a feat.

He acknowledges the event has changed since his last appearance. Constant twists and turns on narrow and abrasive roads earned Corsica the nickname ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’.

While precision and focus in the mountains remain essential, the 2018 version also includes faster and wider sections. Loeb said: “Maybe it has changed by half in its characteristics. I think I have to learn but it isn’t so different from what I was doing 10 years ago.”

After thunderstorms on Wednesday, the forecast indicates a dry weekend and Loeb has yet to experience his C3 car in such conditions on sealed surface roads.

“My test was OK and the feeling was good so I didn’t change a lot. I’ve never driven it on asphalt in the dry. Both my test here and in Alsace last year were in the wet, so we’ll see on the first stages on Friday how it feels,” he added.

Loeb led in Mexico last month on his comeback before a puncture dropped him to fifth. So what about his chances of a fifth island win?

“After our performance in Mexico, I hope we’ll be on the pace again, especially as I’ve always been comfortable on asphalt, not least in Corsica. It’s a place and an event I’ve I have always enjoyed, even if it’s not the easiest rally,” he said.
18-04-05 The C3 WRCs all set for Corsican Challenge
Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle topped the timesheets whilst Sébastien Loeb – Daniel Elena were seventh fastest on a shakedown stage not entirely representative of the difficulties ahead this weekend, as they confirmed their good feeling in the C3 WRC on the Corsican tarmac.
The Tour de Corse's 5.45 kilometre-long shakedown stage, contested this morning in Sorbo-Ocagnano, was unusual in that it featured many deep cuts. And with the heavy rain that has fallen on the island in recent days, the corners proved to be especially greasy.

In conditions like these, you had to be among the very early starters to have any hopes of setting a good time, before the road surface gradually became more and more covered with mud. And yet Kris Meeke, fourth in the running order, immediately went to the top of the timesheets, before then confirming his excellent form with another promising time on his second run.

Sébastien Loeb – who was ninth in the running order – initially got his bearings in the tricky grip conditions, before then becoming the only driver to improve on his second run to claim the seventh fastest time, suggesting he will be a force to be reckoned this weekend in Corsica, a rally at which he is a four-time winner (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008).

Since the greasy conditions are not expected to feature in the rest of the rally, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews decided to limit their efforts to the three mandatory runs. Following this evening's ceremonial start in the centre of Bastia, the real action gets underway tomorrow, starting with the heavyweight challenge of La Porta – Valle di Rostino (49.03km). A challenge that will need to be tackled again in the afternoon…

WHAT THEY SAID
Kris Meeke
"It was a tricky shakedown, with yesterday's rainfall and since it was getting muddier and muddier, there was no point in doing any more runs. Especially as we're not expecting grip conditions to be like this in the rally itself. Nevertheless, there might still be damp patches in the wooded sections tomorrow morning. I felt comfortable in the car today, I was able to handle the grip conditions, and that's what matters most to me."

Sébastien Loeb
"The conditions were as expected: very greasy, with plenty of mud dragged onto the road on the cuts. So I didn’t want to go flat out on the first pass, especially as I hadn't driven in low-grip conditions with the car. Once we had completed one pass, I upped my pace on the second run and straight away, I had a good feeling in the car."

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS
1. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:00.8
2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:03.0
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:03.8
4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:04.3
5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:05.1
6. Evans / Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:06.1
7. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:06.4
8. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:08.5
9. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:08.5
10. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:08.6
18-04-04 10 000 utmaningar väntar VM-ledande Dennis Rådström
Till helgen avgörs den andra deltävlingen i årets Junior-VM i Rally på den Franska ön Korsika. Dennis Rådström och hans kartläsare Johan Johansson kommer till tävlingen som ledare i VM efter segern i premiären i Svenska Rallyt för några veckor sedan. Korsika bjuder dock på en helt annan utmaning med asfaltvägar kända för sina 10 000 kurvor.
– Det är en tuff utmaning för mig som kartläsare, det svänger hela tiden. På den längsta sträckan på fem mil har jag inte en enda paus, utan behöver läsa hela tiden, säger Johan.

I år gör Dennis och Johan sitt andra år i mästerskapet med siktet inställt på att kriga om VM-guldet, och teamet har jobbat hårt sedan senaste tävlingen i Sverige för att komma så väl förberedda som möjligt till Frankrike.
– Vi kommer hit med en bra känsla, säger Dennis.
– Vi har förberett oss väldigt bra inför denna helgen med tester och notträning. Dessutom var vi på Korsika för några veckor sedan ihop med Fords fabriksteam och deras förare Elfyn Evans som pris för vi vann rookie-cupen förra året och fick åka med på deras test inför tävlingen, vilket var väldigt lärorikt.

Det var just på Korsika som Dennis och Johan gjorde sin VM-debut förra året, och att komma tillbaka till samma tävling för andra gången ser Dennis positivt på.
– Det påverkar mycket att komma tillbaka en andra gång, nu vet man hur allt funkar och vart allt ligger. Så vi kan lägga mer fokus på noterna och tävlingen, det känns faktiskt nästan som en hemmatävling, fortsätter Dennis.

Trots att Dennis och Johan kommer som VM-ledare med en färsk seger i ryggen är de väldigt ödmjuka inför uppgiften.
– Man får konstatera att vi fortfarande har mycket kvar att lära vad gäller körning på asfalt. Vi siktar på att göra en bättre tävling än förra året och köra på i vårt tempo utan att fokusera på resultaten, säger Dennis.
– Vi har ett bra självförtroende och har jobbat hårt sen sist, men vi vet inte hur vi står oss på asfalt mot de andra. Det är många snabba fransmän i serien och inte minst vår landsman Emil Bergkvist som alltid vart snabb på asfalt. Men vi ska göra vårt bästa, avslutar Johan.
18-04-04 Veiby er godt forberedt til Korsika
Ole Christian Veiby sitter med en god følelse og er godt forberedt foran Rally Korsika, hvor han skal kjøre om VM-poeng for Skoda Motorsport.

21-åringen fra Kongsvinger ser frem til årets første ordentlige asfaltrunde. Skoda Motorsport-føreren forteller at han har forberedt seg svært godt foran sitt fjerde løp på øya i Middelhavet.
– Jeg har fått kjørt en del på asfalt i det siste. Før påske hadde jeg en test og deltok i et asfaltløp i Tsjekkia, og jeg har også hatt en test før Rally Korsika. Jeg har derfor en del kilometer på asfalt den siste tiden, og har en god følelse både med underlaget og ikke minst bilen, forteller han.

Han beskriver veiene på Korsika som helt spesielle i VM-sammenheng. Det er ingen andre løp som har så mye svinger, noe som er utfordrende for han og ikke minst kartleser Stig Rune Skjærmoen.
– Det er et krevende løp, spesielt for Stig Rune. Normalt har vi én noteside per kilometer, mens den ene etappen som er på 50 kilometer har 65 sider med noter, forteller han.

VM-runden på Korsika består av bare 12 etapper, men flere av dem er til gjengjeld lange.
– Løpet banker i gang med en etappe som er på nesten fem mil, og det er en brutal start. Vi må være våkne om morgenen og henge med fra start, hvis ikke er det fort gjort å tape et halvminutt allerede på SS1. I tillegg må vi være smarte og sørge for at dekk og bremser holder i fem mil, sier han.

Ole ser på teamkamerat Jan Kopecky som den store favoritten i løpet. Den erfarne tsjekkeren trives svært godt på asfalt.
– Han er en asfaltekspert, og jeg vil påstå at han er en av verdens fremste på asfalt. Sånn sett blir han en skikkelig målestokk for oss. Målet vårt er rett og slett å henge på så godt vi kan, og jeg mener at vi har minsket forspranget til Kopecky på asfalt betraktelig det siste året. Det håper jeg vi klarer å vise i løpet av helga, sier Ole.
18-04-03 Det svinger for Andreas på Korsika
Andreas Mikkelsen er forberedt på at det bokstavelig talt vil svinge under VM-runden på Korsika. – Her er det sving etter sving etter sving, og det blir helt avgjørende å finne en god rytme, sier Andreas.

Rally Korsika er det første ordentlige asfaltløpet på VM-kalenderen denne sesongen. Andreas Mikkelsen var ikke helt komfortabel med oppsettet på bilen i Spania i fjor, som er det eneste asfaltløpet han og kartleser Anders Jæger har kjørt for Hyundai.
– Vi har jobbet hardt på testing og har forsøkt å få bilen i den retningen vi tror passer oss best. Jeg vet at det fortsatt er mye å gå på, men det blir spennende og se hvor store steg vi har klart å ta. Bilen må bli litt bedre på asfalt, i tillegg har vi jobbet med å få den litt mer tilpasset min kjørestil. Thierry (Neuville) har en litt annen kjørestil, og bilen passer nok bedre til han på asfalt, sier Andreas.

Som tidligere alpinist vet Andreas hvor viktig det er å finne en fin rytme i kjøringen når det er mye svinger. Og svinger er det nok av på den vakre øya i Middelhavet.
– Vi har et klassisk Rally Korsika-løp i vente, med få og lange etapper. Det er rett på med en 50 kilometer lang prøve fredag morgen. Her må vi være offensive, ellers har vi plutselig lagt igjen ett halvt minutt på første prøva. Det er svært avgjørende å komme inn i rytmen fort, og være i ett med bilen, da flyter det gjennom svingene. Dette løpet er kjent for x-antall svinger. Finner man ikke rytmen, eller begynner å krangle teknisk med bilen, havner man fort på hæla, beskriver han.

Nordmannen legger ikke skjul på at han er revansjesugen etter fjerdeplassen i Mexico i forrige VM-runde, og håper å løfte tempoet opp et hakk.
– Vi har alltid som mål å kjempe om de øverste plassene på pallen. Vi er derfor ikke fornøyd med resultatet i Mexico, vi sikter høyere enn fjerdeplasser. Jeg kjørte med litt for mye respekt i Mexico på grunn av tidligere erfaringer. I tillegg var oppsettet på bilen langt fra optimalt, og da uteble tempoet. Det var skuffende. Men det er positivt at vi kjørte stabilt og smart, og ble derfor belønnet med gode poeng i sammendraget. Ønsket foran Korsika er at vi tar store steg med bilen. Målet er å ta inn på konkurrentene poengmessig, og sørge for å knappe inn ledelsen i VM, sier Andreas, som etter tre VM-runder ligger på tredjeplass i sammendraget.

18-03-12 A majestic performance!
With the almost perfect return to the WRC of the iconic Loeb – Elena duo and a second consecutive podium secured by Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT produced a majestic performance on the Mexican gravel, which enabled the team to close in on second place in the manufacturers' world championship.

THE STORY OF THE RACE
Having claimed six wins in Mexico (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012), sometimes even starting first on the road, Sébastien Loeb had already produced some miraculous performances on these lofty, scorching gravel roads. But it was unthinkable that he could repeat the feat on his return to the WRC as part of a three-event programme (Mexico, Corsica and Catalonia), six years after his last full season in the category, especially given the increasingly tough competition. And yet that is exactly what he did in a C3 WRC that seemed to fit him like a glove! Alongside Daniel Elena, they made the most of their eleventh position in the running order on day one to move into second place, whilst topping the timesheets on two tests, their first stage wins since the 2015 Rallye Monte-Carlo. They then confirmed their good form on the Saturday with another stage win on the opening speed test, taking them into the overall lead, whereas this time the running orders were broadly equivalent among the leaders. Observers, who were already impressed by the French ace, were left stunned by his performance! The 44 year-old Frenchman and his Monegasque co-driver led the race for three stages, before picking up a puncture (SS14) and making the ill-advised call to change the affected wheel, due to a lack of knowledge of the tyres currently used in the WRC. The pair dropped to fifth overall, which is where they would finish the race, but continued to thrill the many fans lining the roads from that point until the end, whilst also securing precious points for the team. It has to be said they were very ably replaced on the podium by Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, winners of last year's rally. Having equally collected two stage wins on day one despite being hampered by a less-than-ideal tyre choice on the morning loop, the pair ended the opening leg fourth overall, eager to seize any opportunities and determined to move up the standings. Mission accomplished on Saturday's leg: with three further stage wins, they moved up into second place, 10.9s ahead of the third-placed driver. Unfortunately, a minor off on Sunday morning meant they had to settle for third place. It was nonetheless their first podium of the season, and the second consecutive top-three finish for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
How would you assess this first rally of the season on gravel?
Well, Kris' third place is obviously positive in terms of points as it means that he moves up the standings in the drivers' world championship. It is also our second consecutive podium this year, which suggests that we are certainly moving in the right direction, and it also means that we have closed to within just one point of second place in the manufacturers' world championship standings. Having held the overall lead for a while on day two, and even had both C3 WRCs briefly in the top three, we might well have hoped for an even better result, but that's racing for you!

The other source of satisfaction must be the majestic performance of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena…
Yes, that's the least you can say! We know all about their talent, but they have literally blown us away here, even managing to set fastest times on stages that they have not contested before and taking the lead right in the middle of the battle. On that basis alone, they definitely deserved a podium place. It may seem slightly perverse for nine-time world rally champions, but they paid a heavy price for their lack of knowledge of the tyres now used in the WRC when they had their puncture. Let's hope that it's only a matter of time and they get their podium place at the Tour de Corse! In light of the performance they produced this weekend, I can’t really see how they won't be just as able to get among the frontrunners.

What is your view of the performance of the team?
I would like to take this opportunity to warmly congratulate each and every one of them because they have all produced high quality work! With eight stage wins at a rally renowned for being one of the most demanding for the cars – but also for the human body – due to the altitude and the heat, we finished the event as best performer among the manufacturers, which shows how extremely competitive we are. And what's more, we did it without the slightest technical problem. That's not a question of luck, it comes down to relentless hard work and dedication. It is also yet further evidence of the constant progress made by our C3 WRCs.

HIGHLIGHTS
Fourth overall at that point, Sébastien Loeb claimed his first stage win of the weekend on the second run on El Chocolate (31.44km) during Friday's leg, whereas he was 14.6s off the pace on the first pass. Co-driver of the French ace since 1998, Daniel Elena knows him better than anyone. He gave us his analysis of this stunning performance, incredibly achieved on a stage they had not contested before this weekend…

"It's simple, it's absolutely typical of Loeb! He analysed his 'below-par performance' on the first pass, and put it right on the second run. He doesn't make the same mistake twice! He then drove that stage in typical Loeb fashion, i.e. clean as a whistle, whereas he had pushed too hard in the morning. It was the fact that it was Dani Sordo who had set the fastest time on the first pass that had got him thinking, because Dani also has a precise driving style on twisty, technical sections. I can't honestly say I was surprised by anything this weekend, except perhaps that we didn't make the right call with the puncture. I always thought that it was possible to make this kind of comeback, I know what he's like. I think he has only got better since we retired from the WRC. The WTCC gave him something else, as did cross-country rallying and rallycross, which helped him to work on his reflexes, with him being constantly sideways in a 560 horsepower car!"
18-03-12 Hyundai Motorsport på pallen i Rally México
Hyundai Motorsport avslutade ett intensivt och grusigt Rally México med Dani Sordo på andraplats och spanjorens första pallplacering under 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Sordo med kartläsare Carlos del Barrio imponerade under hela helgen genom att haft segervittring under hela helgen och dessutom lyckats registrera tre etappsegrar. Alla tre Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC slutade inom topp sex med Andreas Mikkelsen på fjärde och Neuville på sjätte plats.

Teamets samlade insats bidrog till att Hyundai Motorsport utökade sin ledning i WRCs Konstruktörsmästerskap. Men poäng för fjärde och andra plats har teamet byggt upp en 12-poängsledning efter de tre omgångar som varit Hyundai Motorsports mest framgångsrika start någonsin på en säsong.

Söndagens avslutande etapper bjöd på samma mängd drama som präglat hela helgen och ett väldigt spännande Rally México. Sordo startade söndagen som trea med fokus helt och hållet ställt på att klättra upp på pallen. En incident för Citroëns Kris Meeke under öppningsetappen hjälpte spanjoren att nå just det målet. Fjärdeplacerade Mikkelsen minskade luckan till Meeke men norrmannen stötte på sina egna motgångar i den näst sista etappen då han en kort stund körde fast i ett dike på SS21. Neuville som startat som förstabil under rallyts alla dagar började på söndagen känna sig lite bekvämare i sitsen. Belgaren kämpade sig fram genom en mängd utmaningar under helgen och slutade på en stark sjätteplats. I en jämn kamp i Power Stage med bara 1.4 sekunder som separerade de fyra bästa tiderna tog Neuville tre extra poäng för sin tredjeplats och Mikkelsen två poäng för fjärde. Andraplatsen i säsongens första grusrally är en klar förbättring mot teamets tidigare tredjeplatser i México, som uppnåddes av Neuville i 2014 och 2017.

Sordo/Del Barrio (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Första pallplatsen 2018 och Sordos bästa resultat sedan Spanien 2016.

Sjunde pallplatsen som Hyundai Motorsport-förare.
Sordo berättar: ”Jag är jätteglad över att ha lyckats ta pallplats i vad som för oss varit ett både roligt och intensivt rally. Vi har hållit bra fart här tidigare säsonger så jag var optimistisk över åtminstone en topp-tre-placering inför helgen. Det har inte varit helt lätt däremot. Till och med i Power Stage vart det läskigt när vi åkte på en punktering i höger bakdäck. Med stenar mitt i vägen fanns det hela tiden risk för att något skulle hända så vi tog det försiktigt mot slutet. En pallplacering är så viktig för oss och vi gjorde verkligen det bästa vi kunde baserat på startordningen för att parera alla svåra, grustäckta etapper. Det har varit en laginsats och jag är speciellt stolt över att vi lyckats öka vår ledning i Konstruktörsmästerskapet. Tack till Carlos och hela teamet för det här resultatet.”

Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Andra fjärdeplatsen för den norska duon sedan de anslöt till Hyundai Motorsport.

Etappseger under lördagskvällens SS19 och poäng i Power Stage.
Mikkelsen kommenterar: ”Det har inte direkt varit ett enkelt rally för oss då vi inte lyckats hitta det momentum som behövdes för att prestera. Vi gjorde ändringar på bilen under lördagskvällens service och kände oss lite bekvämare under söndagens inledande etapper. Vi var tyvärr inte i någon position att avancera från där vi var utan siktade in oss på att komma ihop hela och rena in i mål. Det fanns såklart ställen där vi kunde attackerat mer men att sluta på fjärdeplats gav oss viktiga poäng i varje fall. Som team har vi ökat vår ledning i Konstruktörsmästerskapet och jag har avancerat upp till tredje plats i Förarmästerskapet. På alla sätt en positiv helg.”

Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Sjätteplats som säkrar viktiga poäng i belgarens Förarmästerskap.

Säkrade tre ytterligare poäng i Power Stage.
Neuville berättar: ”Vi attackerade under den avslutande morgonen på rallyt, fast bestämda om att ta hem så många poäng som möjligt i Förarmästerskapet. Sen gav jag verkligen allt i Power Stage där jag är glad över att ha säkrat tre extrapoäng efter vad som verkligen varit en kämpig helg för oss. Vi startade först på vägen varje dag och det var långt ifrån idealiskt men också en del av sporten. Det var faktiskt en lärorik upplevelse att hantera de här förhållandena trots den uppenbart ogynnsamma tidsnackdelen. Vi stötte på flera motgångar under helgen så att kunna avsluta på sjätte plats och hålla uppe trycket i mästerskapet känns ändå viktigt. Tack till hela teamet som vägrade ge upp utan kämpade på hela helgen. I Korsika blir det en helt annan historia!”

Den 5-8 april är FIA World Rally Championship tillbaka på asfalten och Korsikas vägar. Hyundai Motorsport återvänder till det populära rallyt för att försvara förra årets seger.

Slutresultat - Rally México
1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:54:08.0
2 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:03.6
3 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +1:19.2
4 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:38.4
5 S. Loeb D. Elena Citroën C3 WRC +2:24.6
6 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +9:03.0
7 P. Tidemand J. Andersson Škoda Fabia R5 +10:24.7
8 J. M Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +15:37.1
9 G. Greensmith C. Parry Ford Fiesta R5 +17:09.3
10 P. Heller P. Olmos Ford Fiesta R5 +24:18.1

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Förarmästerskapet
Efter omgång 3
1 S. Ogier 56
2 T. Neuville 52
3 A. Mikkelsen 35
4 K. Meeke 32
5 J.M Latvala 31
6 O. Tanak 26
7 E. Lappi 23
8 C. Breen 20
9 D. Sordo 18
10 H. Paddon 10

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Konstruktörsmästerskapet
Efter omgång 3
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 84
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 72
3 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 71
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 6
18-03-12 Spirited Ogier recaptures title lead with fourth Mexico victory
Frenchman wraps up Rally Guanajuato Mexico as Loeb finishes fifth on return.

Sébastien Ogier won Rally Guanajuato Mexico for the fourth time on Sunday afternoon to recapture the lead of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship as compatriot Sébastien Loeb finished fifth on his WRC return.

He sealed his 42nd career victory, and his second of 2018, by 1min 13.6sec after mastering tricky road conditions and intense heat in the high mountains of central Mexico.

The Frenchman minimised his time loss on Friday from second in the start order after ploughing a line through loose gravel to leave cleaner and faster roads for rivals behind.

He surged from fifth to first on Saturday, avoiding trouble in his Ford Fiesta as mistakes and problems cost others vital time. He had the luxury of easing through Sunday’s finale before celebrating victory in this third round of the season at the León finish.

“It’s a special place for me every year. Seven podiums and four victories, I love it here. It’s a great atmosphere even though I knew this weekend would be tough starting second on the road. I knew our chance was pretty small but we never gave up,” said Ogier.

Kris Meeke crashed out of second this morning, tipping his Citroën C3 onto its side after sliding into a gulley. Spectators righted the car but the Briton dropped 45sec to allow Dani Sordo, who led earlier in the weekend, to snatch the runner-up position in a Hyundai i20.

The error revived memories of 12 months ago when Meeke won despite a dramatic crash into a car park less than a kilometre from the finish.

Sordo had a late scare of his own. The Spaniard punctured his rear right wheel in the final test but had enough time in hand as Meeke lacked the pace to challenge after damaging his car’s aerodynamic rear wing in the crash. The gap between them was 15.6sec.

Andreas Mikkelsen finished fourth, a further 19.2sec behind, after struggling with his i20’s handling throughout.

Returning nine-time champion Loeb was fifth following a remarkable return after more than three years out of the WRC. The 44-year-old Frenchman led in his C3 before a puncture ended his bid for a fairytale victory.

Thierry Neuville came into the rally leading the championship. The burden of opening the roads in the worst of the conditions and a series of minor mistakes left the Belgian in recovery mode. He did well to salvage strong points in sixth in his i20.

The championship moves to the Mediterranean island of Corsica for round four. The asphalt Corsica Linea - Tour de Corse is based in Bastia from April 5-8.

Leading positions
1. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta
2. D Sordo/C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20
3. K Meeke/P Nagle GBR Citroën C3
4. A Mikkelsen/A Jaeger NOR Hyundai i20
5. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroën C3
6. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 3 of 13):
1. S Ogier 60pts
2. T Neuville 51pts
3. A Mikkelsen 34pts

18-02-12 A second consecutive podium for the C3 WRC!
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended the rally third overall, securing a second podium of the year for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT and thus confirming the team's very strong start to the season. Meanwhile, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena finished fifth overall – after having boldly held the rally lead – as they pulled off a remarkable return to their favourite racing category.
With a series of narrow, winding sections on the day's opening stage, followed by quicker roads for the two passes on Las Minas, today's final leg was anything but a Sunday stroll.

Unfortunately, Kris Meeke found this out to his cost on the opening test. His 10.9s overnight advantage on the third-placed driver disappeared when he skidded on the cobbles under braking, losing 47.5s and dropping a position in the standings. He nonetheless managed to hold onto third place until the end of the rally and therefore take his first podium of the year. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT claimed its second podium in the stifling Mexican heat to go with the one secured by Craig Breen in Sweden's wintry temperatures. The Northern Irishman is now fourth in the drivers' championship.

Second on the road this morning, a position that prevented him from getting among the frontrunners, Sébastien Loeb made the most of these last few kilometres on gravel with the C3 WRC, whilst safely making it to the end in fifth place. A consequence of the puncture he picked up yesterday when leading the rally, the result does not reflect the full majesty of his performance this weekend on his return to his first love.
At an event that is very demanding on the cars, the C3 WRC scored eight stage wins (two tied), once again proving its reliability and performance level. Thanks to the points claimed this weekend, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT closed to within one point of second place in the manufacturers' championship.

WHAT THEY SAID
Kris Meeke
"Obviously, there are positives to take away from this weekend, starting with the fact that I secured my first podium of the year and picked up good points for the championship. But I can't help but feel disappointed, not least for the team. I had everything you need to win here in Mexico – the pace, the car and road position – but I didn't do the job. I made too many silly mistakes and you just can't get away with that at this level. I need to tidy my game up, starting in Corsica where we were very competitive last year."

Sébastien Loeb
"Coming into the rally, I felt that testing had gone well, but I obviously had no certainty about my level, bearing in mind that everyone is fighting over tenths of a second, and that it doesn't take much to find yourself left behind a little bit. So it was a nice surprise to be on the pace! I'm just a bit frustrated that I wasn't able to test myself properly against the others right to the end because of the puncture. In any case, it was a very good weekend and that was the initial aim of this comeback. I hope I can now go on to get a good result in Corsica, even though I'll still have quite a few things to refamiliarise myself with."

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:53:58.0
2.Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:13.6
3.Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1:29.2
4.Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:48.4
5.Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:34.6
6.Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 9:13.0
7.Tidemand / Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) + 10:34.7
8.Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 15:47.1

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Sébastien Ogier – 60 points
2.Thierry Neuville – 51 points
3.Andreas Mikkelsen – 34 points
4.Kris Meeke – 32 points
5.Jari-Matti Latvala – 30 points
6.Ott Tänak – 26 points
7.Esapekka Lappi – 23 points
8.Craig Breen – 20 points
9.Dani Sordo – 18 points
10.Sébastien Loeb – 10 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Hyundai WRT – 84 points
2. M-Sport Ford WRT – 72 points
3. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 71 points
4. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 67 points
18-03-11 Kontrollerte inn til fjerdeplass
Andreas Mikkelsen har aldri helt klart å knekke koden i Rally Mexico. Også helgens konkurranse ble en utfordrende affære, og derfor er han greit fornøyd med fjerdeplass.
– Jeg hadde nok håpet på noe bedre enn en fjerdeplass, for å være ærlig. Men når situasjonen ble som den ble, så kom jeg greit fra det, sier Andreas Mikkelsen.

For med tanke på VM-sammendraget var det viktig å fullføre på en best mulig måte, og fjerdeplassen gir verdifulle poeng for Andreas og hans kartleser Anders Jæger.
– Det var 13 viktige poeng å ta med seg. Vi hadde håpet på flere poeng, men vi har slitt med å få skikkelig selvtillit i bilen. Bakenden på bilen har levd litt sitt eget liv, og da er det vanskelig å pushe slik man vil. Det er egentlig noe alle vi Hyundai-førere har slitt med, så vi må finne ut av hvorfor bilen har oppført seg slik, sier han.

28-åringen hadde snaut to minutter opp til vinner Sebastien Ogier, som imponerte under de vanskelige forholdene i Mexico. Frem til teamkompis Dani Sordo på andreplass skilte det drøyt halvminuttet, mens det var 19,2 sekunder opp til Kris Meeke på tredjeplass.
– Vi kom i hvert fall gjennom løpet uten noen store problemer, selv om det har vært vanskeligere enn vi hadde forventet, sier Andreas Mikkelsen, som i det minste kan glede seg over at han har vunnet fartsetapper i samtlige seks VM-runder han har kjørt for Hyundai. I Rally Mexico vant han en av de 22 fartsetappene.
18-03-11 Briljant Tidemand segrade storslaget i Rally Mexico
Rally Mexico tillhörde Pontus Tidemand från första till sista metern. Med 17 sträcksegrar av 22 gick han i mål som segrare i WRC 2 - med närmare 7 minuter tillgodo. - Bilen har varit en dröm att köra och nu är vi med och fightar i toppen av mästerskapet, säger Pontus.

Rally Mexico är krävande för både man och maskin och utmaningarna är många och unika i sitt slag i VM-serien. En stor del av tävlingen avgörs på hög höjd, vilket gör att motorerna tappar kraft och får jobba hårdare i den syrefattiga luften, precis som det medför en extra fysisk ansträngning för förarna. I kombination med att flertalet sträckor är långa, blir den mexikanska deltävlingen något i särklass.
SKODA Motorsport och EVEN Managements Pontus Tidemand och co-drivern Jonas Andersson kopplade ett järngrepp om ledningen på rallyts inledande sträcka på torsdagen - en unik stadsstäcka mitt i den pittoreska staden Guanajuato - och började redan där dra ifrån konkurrenterna.

Med inget annat än överlägsna sträcksegrar på de första tio sträckorna blev sekunderna snabbt till minuter och på fredagskvällen hade Pontus ett glapp på över tre minuter till britten Gus Greensmith på andraplatsen. Tidsdifferensen växte drygt ett par minuter under lördagen när Pontus rutinerat fortsatte i ett högt tempo på de snabba och tekniska vägarna såväl som på de kortare publiksträckorna. Innan dagen var över satte han den bästa tiden på ytterligare fem sträckor och landade på en enorm ledning på mer än fem och en halv minut inför den slutliga satsningen.
- Det går undan när bilen är en dröm att köra och allt fungerar perfekt, säger Pontus. Vi fick snabbt en stor ledning och gick miste om närkampen jag hoppades på, men den här sitsen är bekant från förr och jag vet att vi klarar den mentala pressen i att inte tappa koncentrationen. Jag måste ändå säga att jag har haft riktigt kul och verkligen kunnat njuta av att köra de här fräna sträckorna. Varje erfarenhet är viktig för framtiden och jag är så tacksam för det enastående jobb som teamet och Jonas gör, det är det som gör det möjligt att prestera på topp.

Att ta sin SKODA Fabia R5 ända till mål som vinnare var den enda uppgiften på söndagen. Tre sträckor stod på programmet och Pontus satte två topptider att lägga till samlingen. Efter sammanlagt 345 fullfartskilometer i 30-gradig värme kunde han tillsist säkra sin andra seger i det mexikanska VM-rallyt med en gigantiskt marginal till andraplatsen. I och med detta tar han även täten i den sammanlagda mästerskapsställningen i WRC 2 och klämmer också till med en sjundeplats i rallyt som helhet - den hittills bästa totala placeringen han kört till sig i VM.
- Med tanke på att vårt största mål i år är att kunna försvara titeln i WRC 2 så är det väldigt positivt att ha slutat på pallen i båda tävlingarna vi kört så här långt den här säsongen. Den här segern flyttar upp oss i mästerskapsledning och trots att det är tidigt på året känns det bra att veta att vi är där i toppen och fightar. Nu är vi rejält taggade på fortsättningen, summerar en nöjd Pontus.

Resultat Rally Mexico 2018 WRC 2
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 4:04:32.7
2. Gus Greensmith (GBR) +6:44.6
3. Pedro Heller (CHL) +13:55.4
4. Marco Bulacia Wilkinson (BOL) +22:45.9
5. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) +1:02:54.1
18-03-11 TV-sändning - sammandrag från Mexico
Sammandrag från Mexikos VM-rally. Kommentatorer: Stefan Klemetz och Jonas Kruse sänds i kväll 22.30 på SVT1 och via SVT Play på länken:
https://www.svtplay.se/video/17267322/motorsport-rally-vm/motor-rally-vm-mexiko
18-03-11 Ogier springs clear on dramatic day in Mexico after Loeb puncture
Reigning champion up from fifth to lead Rally Guanajuato Mexico on Saturday. Sébastien Ogier avoided trouble on Saturday at Rally Guanajuato Mexico while his rivals faltered in intense heat on dirt roads and, after starting more than half a minute off the lead in the morning, the Frenchman will now carry a 35.9sec advantage into Sunday’s finale.

The reigning five-time WRC champion strung together four consecutive speed test victories in the mountains near León in his Ford Fiesta to put him on the verge of a second season win with Sunday’s short leg remaining.

“It’s been a perfect day. I pushed as hard as I could and it worked for us. We had a bit of tyre wear late this afternoon so I didn’t push as hard as I would have wanted,” he said.

Ogier left behind a string of disappointed drivers, none more so than returning nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb. The 44-year-old raised hopes of a fairytale victory at his first gravel WRC outing for almost five years when he surged into the morning lead.

However, a front left puncture ended the dream. Loeb conceded almost 2min 30sec when he stopped to change the wheel after hitting a stone in his Citroën C3 and plunged to fifth.

Team-mate Kris Meeke took up the cudgels behind Ogier. He was only a handful of seconds adrift before a spin dropped him back, although the Ulsterman doubted he had the pace to stay in touch.

Dani Sordo began the day in front and the Spaniard was less than three seconds adrift of Loeb before he punctured after hitting the same stone. He was luckier and drove his Hyundai i20 to the finish losing only 30sec. He was third, 10.9sec behind Meeke.

Ott Tänak’s overnight third vanished in the opening test. The Estonian limped through the second half with a turbo boost problem in his Toyota Yaris and retired soon after.

A frustrated Andreas Mikkelsen split Sordo and Loeb in fourth. The Norwegian tried different driving techniques and modified his i20’s set-up in a bid to stem the time loss but ended in no man’s land between them.

Championship leader Thierry Neuville endured another taxing day in his i20. As road opener, he ploughed slippery loose gravel on the surface and a series of mistakes cost more time.

He stopped for a minute in the opening stage when his engine ingested water at a river crossing and stopped. A slow puncture later in the test and several unplanned visits to ditches cost more time and he finished sixth.

Just three stages totalling 46.46km comprise Sunday’s finale. The rally ends with the Las Minas Power Stage, in which the fastest five drivers will score bonus points.

Leading positions :
1. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta 3hr 25min 03.1sec
2. K Meeke/P Nagle GBR Citroën C3 +35.9sec
3. D Sordo/C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 +46.8sec
4. A Mikkelsen/A Jaeger NOR Hyundai i20 +1min 28.4sec
5. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroën C3 +2min 19.7sec
6. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 +4min 44.6sec
18-03-11 Mikkelsen klatrer i Mexico
Andreas Mikkelsen har i natt klatret til fjerdeplass i Rally Mexico. Det er langt opp til tredjeplass og langt ned til femteplass. – Nå handler det om å kontrollere inn og forsøke å få med oss noen ekstra poeng på power stage, sier han.

Årets tredje VM-runde i rally har vært et vanskelig løp for nordmannen. Han sliter med å bli helt komfortabel med bilen, og våger ikke å kjøre så aggressivt som han ønsker.
– Det har vært en vanskelig dag, spesielt første loopen. Når grepet i veien er dårlig, så sliter vi med å stole på bilen. Vi ”mister” rompa på bilen, og det gjør at vi ikke kan angripe svingene. Derfor må vi sette opp bilen før svinger, og det taper vi tid på. Dette er tydeligvis noe alle Hyundaiene sliter med, så det må vi finne ut av, forklarer han.

I løpet av natten har han klatret fra sjette til fjerdeplass, og det ser det ut til at han og kartleser Anders Jæger er trygt plassert som nummer fire. Det er drøyt 40 sekunder opp til teamkamerat Dani Sordo på tredjeplass, og drøyt 50 sekunder ned til Sebastien Loeb på femteplass når tre etapper gjenstår. Andreas vant for øvrig nattens siste etappe, og han har dermed vunnet fartsetapper i samtlige seks løp han har kjørt for Hyundai.
– Vi ligger litt i ingenmannsland, og må prøve få med oss noen power stage-poeng. Det blir viktig, sier Andreas om den avsluttende etappen som går klokken 19.22 norsk tid.

Det er for øvrig Sebastien Ogier som har overtatt ledelsen i løpet, med Kris Meeke på andreplass.

18-03-11 Loeb out of luck as Meeke remains in contention for podium place
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT experienced contrasting emotions on day three as its iconic crew Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena authoritatively took the lead, before unfortunately picking up a puncture that dropped them back to fifth overall. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were also in good form as they moved up to second and claimed another stage win, and are in with a very strong chance of a podium finish tomorrow.

Kicking off with the thirty-one or so kilometres of Guanajuatito, the second proper day of racing began with a serious challenge. This stage is renowned for offering the full set of difficulties that make Mexico the great event it is: incredibly narrow and technically demanding roads, lined with treacherous rocks and stones, which call for precise yet flexible driving.

It was on this tricky stage that Sébastien Loeb decided to strike a telling blow. The eclectic 44 year-old driver moved into the overall lead with another stage win, his third since the start of the rally! It confirmed that the French ace was totally at one with his C3 WRC, which has been especially competitive this weekend. Kris Meeke refused to be left out, however, as the Northern Irishman followed up his promotion into third on the first stage of the day by winning the next one (SS12). The two men therefore concluded the first loop in first and third places respectively.

Unfortunately, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena's masterful display would prove to be short-lived. A puncture at the start of the afternoon loop (SS14) cost the nine-time world rally champions more than two minutes and with it, their hopes of a podium spot evaporated. This misfortune takes nothing away from their incredible performance, six years after their last appearance in Mexico and more than three years after last contesting a WRC rally.

At the same time, Kris Meeke struck a mighty blow as he moved up another place in the standings. Despite a spin (SS15), the 38 year-old Ulsterman then managed to hold onto second position until the end of the day, with a 10.9s lead over the third-placed driver.
With such narrow gaps, tomorrow's final leg – which features three stages (46.46 kilometres) – promises to be action-packed again!

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, it's been a day of mixed fortunes for us. To start with, we had an extraordinary morning when Seb and Daniel moved into the overall lead, but then disappointment after their puncture. The decision to change the tyre proved very costly, because otherwise they would have ended the day on the podium. But we can't really hold it against them, especially after their majestic display here! Meanwhile, Kris produced a solid performance, despite a few silly mistakes, and now has a good chance of securing a really strong result. He still has to finish the job tomorrow!"

Kris Meeke
"It was a good day for us in terms of rhythm, especially this morning when we were really comfortable. I then benefited from Seb's puncture, but that's part and parcel of rallying, and this stage was particularly tricky, with a lot of loose stones on the road. We now have to finish off the job tomorrow by making sure of second place, but it won't be an easy task. The power stage might also be interesting, with temperatures that will have risen by lunchtime, whereas we'll have to decide on tyre choice when it's much cooler, early in the morning."

Sébastien Loeb
"This morning, it was really nice to be able to confirm yesterday's performance and hold the overall lead six years after my last Rally Mexico. To be honest, I hadn't expected to be in this position before the start but it's reassuring to know that I haven't lost my driving skills! It was all set to be a good battle at the front until we got the puncture. There were two successive corners with stones on the inside of the bend. We went over them a little and one of them proved fatal. The mistake we made was to change the wheel. I wasn't very familiar with how these tyres last and our instinct was the wrong one, probably from cross-country rallying, in fact! We would have lost a lot less time had we not stopped to change the tyre, but that's just the way it goes. We'll now try and make it to the finish, and enjoy driving the car as much as possible."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 3
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:25:03.1
2.Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 35.9
3.Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 46.8
4.Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:28.4
5.Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:19.7
6.Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 4:44.6
7.Tidemand / Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) + 9:24.2
8.Greensmith / Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) + 15:06.8
18-03-11 Tidemand drygar ut överlägsen ledning i Mexiko
Pontus Tidemand fortsätter spela i en egen liga i Rally Mexico. Efter den tredje tävlingsdagen är han mer än fem och en halv minut före närmaste konkurrenten.

Pontus Tidemand jobbade tillsammans med kartläsaren Jonas Andersson upp ett försprång på över tre minuter under Rally Mexicos fredag. På lördagens sträckor drygade de ut det avsevärt när de återigen var både snabba och säkra på de heta grussträckorna.
- Den största utmaningen idag var faktiskt att hitta balansen mellan att köra kontrollerat och samtidigt inte slå av på tempot. Rallybilen är gjord för att gå snabbt och den blir mer svårkörd när man tar det lugnare. Så vi har försökt hålla ett relativt högt tempo och inte lagt mycket fokus på att ledningen är så pass stor som den är. Vi har kört vårt race helt enkelt, berättar Pontus.

Med 19 av de totalt 22 sträckorna bakom sig leder den svenska duon WRC 2-kategorin med fem minuter och 42 sekunder inför tävlingens tre sista sträckor som väntar imorgon, söndag.
- Tankarna inför morgondagen går inte i andra banor än att vi måste ta bilen i mål. Många har tvingats bryta under helgen och det om något bevisar hur snabbt läget kan ändras. Men allt känns kanonbra och fortsätter det så här imorgon också så kan vi nog få en riktigt kul avslutning på helgen, säger Pontus.

Rally Mexico WRC 2 topp 3 efter dag tre/SS19:
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 3:34:27.3
2. Gus Greensmith (GBR) +5:42.6
3. Pedro Heller (CHL) +12:18.8
18-03-10 A sensational return for Leb as Meeke holds his onwt!
With four stage wins between them, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews were one of the dominant forces in today's first proper day of racing. Whilst Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena ended the day second overall, confirming that they had lost none of their talent, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle completed the leg in fourth, ready to weigh in on the fight for the podium places.

Today's first proper leg was a day full of superlatives: a total competitive distance of 155.15 kilometres in nine stages, ground temperatures close to forty-five degrees and the altitude peaking at 2,739 metres above sea level on the Ortega test. In other words, a real heavyweight challenge for crews and mechanics alike.

In these extreme conditions, two men – Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena – were in particularly impressive form, as the pair staged a remarkable return to the WRC! After setting the third fastest time on the opening stage, the nine-time world rally champions then went on to record a second fastest time, just 1.9s off the stage-winning time on SS4, as they made the most of their eleventh position on the road this morning to reach midday service in third overall. However, they upped their pace again in the afternoon behind the wheel of their C3 WRC. Despite the grip conditions being more even for everyone, they topped the timesheets on two successive tests (SS7 and SS8) – their first stage wins since Monte-Carlo 2015 – to move up into second position. Their performance was all the more remarkable given that El Chocolate, where they claimed the first of their stage wins, was one of the tests they were contesting for the first time this weekend.

With a slightly less favourable position in the running order (7th) this morning, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle also made an excellent start, claiming the first stage win of the day. However, their bold tyre choice (3 Michelin soft compounds and two hard tyres) did not really pay off, as the rest of the field went for five soft tyres. The winners of last year's rally nonetheless made it to midday service in second place. They began the afternoon loop with another stage win, confirming their good form, but then spins on two consecutive stages (SS7 and SS8) saw them drop back into fourth overall. A place that means that they will still have a good road position tomorrow (5th) and which – like Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who will be seventh in the running order – enables them to aim for a podium spot.

There are still many difficulties ahead, however, with Saturday's leg featuring another nine stages and a competitive distance of more than a hundred and forty kilometres.

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"It has been a great day for our team! No offence intended to Sébastien and Daniel but I think it's fair to say they were not expected to produce such a strong performance. They had an exceptional day in the C3 WRC, which clearly suits them very well. Kris and Paul are also right in the mix, and despite a couple of spins, they managed to put themselves in a good position for the huge battle that tomorrow's leg promises to bring. But there is so little between the crews and there are so many difficulties ahead that in some ways, it's a new race that is about to start."

Kris Meeke
"Without the less-than-perfect tyre choice this morning and my two silly mistakes this afternoon, we could have been right up there at the front, so it's a bit frustrating. But that's life. The main thing is that our speed is good and I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC. There is still a long way to go. I'm certainly going to keep pushing and let's see how things work out."

Sébastien Loeb
"Overall, clearly, it has been a very good opening leg! I didn't know what to expect before coming but we are here in second, not far off the lead, so I'm delighted to be on the pace after six years away from Mexico. We're now going to try and maintain the same pace, but I know it won't be easy. Tänak is very close behind, in particular, and we know he's very good in the quick stages!"

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:47:55.4
2. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) + 7.2
3.Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 11.0
4.Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 25.0
5.Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 30.2
6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 31.7
7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:01.9
/. Tidemand / Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) + 5:05.6
18-03-10 Vanskelig løp for Mikkelsen
Andreas Mikkelsen ligger på sjetteplass i Rally Mexico etter nattens etapper. – Vi er egentlig ganske fornøyd med kjøringen, men det er et vanskelig løp, sier han.

Hyundai-føreren visste på forhånd at årets tredje VM-runde ville bli en tøff utfordring. Rally Mexico er et løp hvor han ikke har de beste resultatene fra – selv om han har vært innom pallen. Etter første dag av løpet ser det ut til at det blir tøft å komme på pallen, men han ligger bare sju sekunder bak fjerdeplassen.
– Jeg tapte mye på åpningsetappen, uten at jeg helt vet hvorfor, for jeg synes vi kjørte bra. Men utenom det, så er jeg egentlig godt fornøyd med Mexico så langt. Skal man pushe i dette løpet så er det høy risiko. Jeg føler jeg ligger å balanserer på denne risikoen, men likevel på rett side av grensen. Jeg har gjort mange feil i dette løpet før, og prøver å unngå det denne gangen her. Jeg skulle selvsagt ønsket at vi var litt høyere på resultatlista, slår han fast.

Etter at de siste etappene på åpningsdagen ble avsluttet i natt norsk tid, ligger han og kartleser Anders Jæger på sjetteplass. Det er drøyt halvminuttet opp til teamkamerat Dani Sordo som leder, mens rallylegenden Sebastien Loeb virkelig imponerer i sin gjesteopptreden. Mannen som er blitt verdensmester ni ganger, ligger på andreplass.
– Det er absolutt imponerende hva Loeb viser. Jeg sa før løpet at hvis han henger med i toppen, så blir jeg imponert – det har han til de grader gjort. Han kan kjøre bil den gutten der, sier Andreas med et smil.

For Andreas ligger det an til å bli en duell om fjerde-femteplassen. Kris Meeke ligger på fjerdeplass, drøyt sju sekunder foran nordmannen, mens Sebastien Ogier ligger halvannet sekund foran på femteplass. Ned til Thierry Neuville på sjuendeplass er det halvannet minutt. Andre dag av Rally Mexico starter i ettermiddag, norsk tid.
– Da vil jeg være bil nummer to på veien, og det er ingen gunstig startposisjon. Jeg ser på det som umulig å ta igjen de helt i toppen, men ser frem til en duell med Ogier, sier Andreas.
18-03-10 Mäktig ledning för Tidemand i Mexiko
Med Rally Mexicos tio första sträckor avverkade, har Pontus Tidemand kört till sig ett övertag på mer än tre och en halv minut och har därmed en dominant ledning i WRC 2-klassen.

I feststämningen som rådde på Gunajuatos gator när årets upplaga av Rally Mexico drog igång på torsdagskvällen gasade sig Pontus Tidemand och hans co-driver Jonas Andersson rakt upp i ledning. Öppningssträckan tog dem genom tunnlar under staden och lät dem susa fram på gatorna med tusentals rallyfans på plats. Med ett försprång på 2,4 sekunder lade de en bra grund för fortsättningen.

Ett par sekunders ledning växte snabbt under fredagen, där de tuffa sträckorna bland annat krävde teknisk precision i hårnålarna som ledde tävlingsbilarna uppför bergen för att tillslut nå VM-seriens allra högsta punkt på mer än 2700 meter över havet.
- Jag är väldigt nöjd, vi har klarat oss utan incidenter trots att vägarna inte är helt lättkörda, säger Pontus. Teamet har sett till att bilen går perfekt trots att vi tappar några hästkrafter på hög höjd och vi gjorde ett grundligt jobb på rekognoseringen, vilket är ett måste om man vill ta sig igenom det här rallyt. Jag gillar verkligen sträckorna, de är utmanande och det går inte att bara glida igenom oavsett position i tävlingen.

Fredagen avslutades på racingbanan Autódromo de León med en superspecial som kördes två gånger. Även där var Pontus snabbast och tog sträckseger 9 och 10 av hittills lika många möjliga. Det placerar honom i en WRC 2-ledning på en bra bit över tre minuter före britten Gus Greensmith och även på en åttondeplats totalt i tävlingen.
- Vi har en stor ledning just nu, men vi ska ända till mållinjen och på vägen finns många risker - inte minst punkteringar med alla sten som dras ut i vägen. Det gäller att fortsätta med samma fokus och ha precis lika kul som vi haft idag, det är knepet, säger Pontus.

Rally Mexico WRC 2 topp 3 efter dag två/SS10:
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 1:53:01.0
2. Gus Greensmith (GBR) +3:38.3
3. Pedro Heller (CHL) +7:28.2
18-03-09 The Citroën crews on the pace!
Contested in warm, sunny conditions, the Rally Mexico shakedown saw Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle top the timesheets in the traditional pre-event dress rehearsal as they found the same good feeling as at last year's event. Only 2.6s behind their team-mates on their return to the WRC, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena confirmed that they were getting to grips with the C3 WRC quickly.

Despite being narrower and more technically demanding than most of the stages, today's 5.31 kilometre shakedown – held in Llano Grande – provided the crews with the opportunity to reacclimatise themselves with the various difficulties that they can expect to face this weekend.
With the stage held at close to 2,200 metres above sea level, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT took advantage of the session to conduct a final review of several engine mappings, whilst also confirming their selection of chassis set-up options, depending on how the roads develop and how much they clean as more cars complete the stages.

Last year's winner, Kris Meeke quickly found his bearings again on the Mexican roads that he loves, setting the fastest time on his third run. On his return to the WRC, six years after his last appearance at this event, Sébastien Loeb gradually upped his pace in the C3 WRC. The nine-time rally world champion took the ninth fastest time on his fourth attempt, finishing the session just five tenths of a second off the top five.
Although the rally officially gets underway this evening with a super special stage (2.53km) in the streets of the former mining city of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the real action does not start until tomorrow. Friday's leg will be the longest of the rally (155.15km in 9 stages), featuring the iconic El Chocolate test (31.44km) – a genuine test of guts and bravery – that Kris and Sébastien will be tackling in seventh and eleventh positions in the running order.

WHAT THEY SAID
Kris Meeke
"We had a productive shakedown this morning and I felt comfortable in my C3 WRC. This is an event where we were able to produce a solid performance last year and I have felt good since we arrived here in Mexico. Even in recce, I enjoyed driving through these stages again. It was nice to see a bit sun after two winter rallies. I hope the feeling will be the same in the race, but you must bear in mind that this is an event where you have to remain alert to make sure you don't get caught out by something, especially a large stone or rock."

Sébastien Loeb
"I didn't know the route and I hadn't seen any onboard videos beforehand so I initially just focused on getting my bearings on this stage, without taking any risks. We also had to change my driving position because to start with, I couldn't see very well. But I gradually found some rhythm as we completed the five runs. It's still difficult for me to know whereabouts I'm going to be in the standings. In any event, we'll need to be comfortable straight away!"

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:41.0
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:41.4
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:42.8
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:42.8
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:43.1
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:43.3
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:43.4
Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:43.4
Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:43.6
Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:45.3
18-03-05 Tidemand siktar mot toppen på Mexikos heta höjder
Han slog aldrig av på tempot efter säsongspremiären - och årets första pallplats - i Rally Sweden. Med otaliga testkilometer i kroppen är titelförsvarande SKODA-föraren Pontus Tidemand mer än redo för nästa VM-uppdrag på svindlande höjder i Mexiko.

Från snö till grus, kyla till värme och från plana landskap till bergskedjor - Rally Sweden kunde inte vara längre från Rally Mexico varken i miljöer eller distans. Regerande WRC 2-mästaren Pontus Tidemand har haft en intensiv uppladdning de senaste veckorna och ser fram emot att ta sig an VM-seriens kanske mest färgstarka event.
- Jag hann bokstavligen knappt komma ur rallybilen i Sverige förrän det var dags att hoppa på ett flyg ner till södra Europa för en veckas testande, berättar Pontus, som är van att ha ett högt tempo både under och mellan tävlingar och snabbt laddar om inför det som komma skall.
- Det känns definitivt som en fördel att vi fortfarande är varma i kläderna och har fått en massa tid bakom ratten. När vi startade Rally Sweden hade vi inte tävlat på nästan fyra månader och den första stora uppgiften var att komma in i tävlingstempot igen. Nu är vi tillbaka i gamet med full kraft och det är en skön känsla att ta med till Mexiko.

Rally Mexico har sin bas i staden Léon, 40 mil nordväst om Mexico City, medan de riktiga utmaningarna ligger i bergskedjorna Sierra de Lobos och Sierra de Guanajuato. Tävlingen når världsmästerskapets högsta höjder på över 2700 meter över havet, vilket gör det extra krävande för bilarnas motorer som får upp mot 20% mindre effekt i den tunna luften. Samtidigt gör temperaturerna på omkring 30 grader det tufft för såväl material som förare.
- Det är en tävling som innehåller allt, säger Pontus. Snabba partier, smala och tekniska partier, hårnålar och krokar. Stigningarna uppför bergen är ansträngande för motorerna och skulle man göra ett misstag märker man snabbt att det kostar mer än vanligt eftersom det tar längre tid att få upp farten igen så det gäller att hålla koncentrationen uppe.

Pontus gjorde sin debut i Mexiko förra året och trots det kunde han tillsammans med sin erfarne kartläsare Jonas Andersson ta hem vinsten, som blev den andra av årets totalt fem förstaplaceringar.
- Vi siktar självklart på att upprepa fjolårets seger. Jag känner överlag att det är en tävling som passar oss och i år har jag dessutom lite mer erfarenhet jämfört med fjolåret då allt var nytt. Men vi kommer få kämpa för det mot tuffa motståndare. Vår finske teamkompis i SKODA Motorsport, Kalle Rovanperä, är grymt duktig och Jari Huttunen är snabb, precis som mexikanske Benito Guerra som är väl bekant med vägarna och slutade trea förra året. Det känns som vi kan få en spännande fight här också, vilket jag hoppas på, säger Pontus.

Tjecken Jan Kopecký och japanske Takamoto Katsuta toppar just nu ställningarna i WRC 2-mästerskapet med 25 poäng vardera efter segrarna i Monte-Carlo respektive Sverige. Alldeles bakom kommer Pontus efter andraplatsen i Rally Sweden och italienaren Eddie Sciessere, båda med 18 poäng. Än så länge har ingen WRC 2-förare deltagit i fler än en deltävling så den totala sammanställningen förväntas ändras både en och två gånger under de nästkommande eventen.

Tidsschema Rally Mexico 2018 (7 timmar efter svensk tid)
Torsdag 8 mars
20:08 SS1 Monster Street Stage GTO (2,53km)

Fredag 9 mars
10:33 SS2 Duarte – Derramadero 1 (26,05km)
11:21 SS3 El Chocolate 1 (31,44km)
12:14 SS4 Ortega 1 (17,23km)
14:02 SS5 Street Stage Leon 1 (1,11km)
Service
16:00 SS6 Duarte – Derramadero 2 (26,05km)
16:48 SS7 El Chocolate (31,44km)
17:41 SS8 Ortega 2 (17,23km)
20:05 SS9 SSS Autodromo de Leon 1 (2,30km)
20:11 SS10 SSS Autodromo de Leon 2 (2,30km)
Service

Lördag 10 mars
08:33 SS11 Guanajuatito 1 (30,97km)
10:11 SS12 Otates 1 (26,37km)
11:08 SS13 El Brinco (9,98km)
Service
14:21 SS14 Guanajuatito 2 (30,97km)
15:54 SS15 Otates 2 (26,37km)
16:38 SS16 El Brinco 2 (9,98km)
17:38 SS17 SSS Autodromo de Leon 3 (2,30km)
17:43 SS18 SSS Autodromo de Leon 4 (2,30km)
Service
20:26 SS19 Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11km)

Söndag 11 mars
08:18 SS20 Alfaro (24,32km)
10:08 SS21 Las Minas (11,07km)
12:18 SS22 Las Minas Power Stage (11,07km)
18-03-05 Mikkelsen kjører for seier i Mexico
Rally Mexico er sesongens første grusløp. Andreas Mikkelsen har ambisjoner om å kjempe om seieren i sesongens tredje VM-runde.

VM-runden i Mexico er et spesielt løp, hvor flere av etappene kjøres på over 2600 meter over havet. Her er det tynn luft, som sliter på motoren. Sjåførene kan også merke at de sliter med konsentrasjonen på de lange prøvene på grunn av den tynne luften. Derfor har Andreas Mikkelsen forberedt seg ekstra godt til dette løpet. Den siste uken før avreise til Mexico var han på Tenerife og syklet opp og ned fjellene hver dag.
– Det ble noen høydemetre i løpet av uka, sier han med et smil.
Oslo-gutten har kommet fint inn som fabrikkfører for Hyundai Motorsport. Han tok sin første pallplass i Sverige i forrige VM-runde, og har vunnet fartsetapper i samtlige fem løp han har kjørt for Hyundai. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger håper han å følge opp med et nytt godt løp i Mexico.
– For oss er VM-sammenlagt det viktigste denne sesongen. Derfor kjører vi for å vinne, eller i hvert fall komme på pallen. Jeg starter som bil nummer seks på fredag, og har sånn sett en bra startposisjon på veien. Planen er å utnytte det best mulig, og gjerne lede etter første dag – for så å holde på ledelsen løpet ut, sier han.

Det er en offensiv plan, for Andreas Mikkelsen har tidligere slitt litt i Mexico. Men sist han kjørte der, i 2016, skjedde det noe som gjør at han er optimistisk.
– Vi har ikke de beste resultater fra Mexico, selv om vi har kommet på pallen. Men jeg føler vi knakk noen koder her i 2016, så det er et grusløp jeg liker, poengterer han.
– I Mexico er det viktig og ha en ren og presis kjørestil, man må fort finne balansen mellom å være rask og ikke for mye sideveis. Det er mange steiner som ligger i veikanten, så du kan ikke komme bredt i svingene. Du må hele tiden passe deg for farene som lurer langs veikanten. Det er ikke et løp hvor vi kan kjøre flat-out fra start. Vi må bruke hodet og passe på bil og dekk hele veien, forteller han.
Dette blir hans sjette løp i Hyundai, og han begynner å kjenne bilen veldig godt. Men fortsatt er det litt å gå på.
–Vi har litt mer og gå på når det gjelder å kjenne bilen optimalt. Det handler om fin-tuning av oppsett for å få den helt perfekt for oss. Det blir imidlertid gøy å komme på grus igjen. Vi klarte jo det bra med ny bil i løpene vi kjørte på slutten av fjoråret, spesielt i Australia, sier han.
18-01-29 The true unsung heroes of WRC
Séb Ogier couldn't have won without his ice-note crew. But who exactly are they?
See that patch of ice? Yes, the one the sun’s just starting to catch the corner of. The ambient temperature is -2°C and I need to know whether that ice will be melted in precisely one hour.

Tell me now. Now.
Welcome to the world of the ice-note crew in the World Rally Championship. These are the genuine unsung heroes of the sport who have a very real input into the chances of a crew winning Rallye Monte-Carlo. By their own admission, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia couldn’t have won the event for a fifth consecutive – and sixth in total – time on Sunday without them.

Here is everything you need to know about them:
-Ice-note crews? They do what it says on the tin: they note where the ice is on the stages running through the French Alps.

-They? Just like the real-time rally crew, there’s a driver and a co-driver in the ice-note crew. All of the factory drivers have their own crew.

-The ice-noters are usually very experienced rally drivers and co-drivers – but almost as important is the personal relationship with the rally crew, their lives are in the ice-noters’ hands. Ogier and Ingrassia use Simon Jean-Joseph, a former Ford and Subaru factory driver and Jack Boyere, a super-experienced French co-driver.

-The ice-note crews are allowed through the stage one hour before the first car starts competing, but there’s always some jockeying for position at the start – everybody wants to be last in so they can offer the most up-to-minute, accurate weather information.

-The co-drivers in the rally car photocopy their pacenotes and their opposite number in the ice car will read the notes through the stage, marking the notes with changes voiced by their driver. These changes are then dictated from the ice car to the rally car before each stage.

-The ice car is the car used by the rally crew on the recce. It’s a standard, production car with full safety kit including roll cage and safety harnesses.

-Last week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo was an absolute nightmare for the safety crews. Ice on the first night, rain and mud on the first full day, then heavy snow and finally plenty of ice on the Col de Turini on the last day. The ice-note crews were making hundreds of changes to the pacenotes.

-The worst thing that can happen is a sudden drop in temperature – which happens regularly just as the sun’s coming up – which freezes a puddle in the braking zone. The consequences of that are a rally-ending crash. On the flip side, being too cautious and marking ice which has melted will slow the rally car down too much.

-Ice-note crews become gravel-note crews on the other asphalt WRC rounds. Instead of looking for ice, they’re looking for patches of gravel, mud or standing water which will affect corner speed after the rally crews have completed their pre-event recce.

-The lot of an ice-note crew is not always a happy one. They’re usually up and out at 0400 and the pressure is enormous, not just to get the changes right, but to deliver the changes as well. Ever tried using your mobile phone from the middle of the mountains?
18-01-29 Tuff inledning på 2018 WRC för Hyundai Motorsport i Rallye Monte-Carlo
Hyundai Motorsport avslutade ett tufft Rallye Monte-Carlo och inledning på 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) med endast en bil inom topp fem och några starka resultat i de avslutande fyra etapperna.

Dani Sordo tvingades dra sig tillbaka under lördagen efter att ha kört av vägen och utan möjlighet att dra nytta av Rally 2. Det lämnade Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team med endast två bilar under den sista dagen. Thierry Neuville och Andreas Mikkelsen siktade båda mot att avsluta rallyt på topp efter att ha stött på en del egna motgångar under helgen i Monte-Carlo.

Neuville sammanfattade teamets etappsegrar till sex efter att Neuville kört snabbast på SS15 och SS16 under söndagen. Dessutom körde han hem fyra poäng med en andraplats i Power Stage. Belgaren som tillsammans med kartläsare Nicolas Gilsoul redan kämpat sig tillbaka upp till sjundeplats under lördagen, tog sig till slut om Evans med en sekund. Tack vare ett misstag av Lappi slutade Neuville sedan på femte plats.
Mikkelsen hade redan startat om rallyt under Rally 2-regler på lördagen. Något som gjorde att han satte sitt fulla fokus på en stark avslutning i Power Stage. Norrmannen bestämde sig för att köra på fem mjuka däck under de fyra avslutande etapperna (vilka saknade servicestopp eller zon för däckbyte). Hans fart begränsades därför på de isiga vägarna upp mot Col de Turini, men därefter körde Mikkelsen starkt i SS15 för att ge Hyundai Motorsport en 1-2-position. Avslutningsvis körde han in som trea i Power Stage.

För Hyundai Motorsport blev första omgången av 2018 inte alls som planerat men Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC visade rejäl potential mot ett konkurrenskraftigt motstånd. Något som gör att man ser positivt på säsongen.

Nästa stopp i WRC-cirkusen är Rally Sweden den 15-18 februari. Hyundai Motorsport har tidigare tagit hem två pallplatser i Sverige med Thierry Neuville 2015 och Hayden Paddon 2016. Teamet ställer här upp med tre bilar där Mikkelsen och Neuville får sällskap av Paddon.

Slutresultat - Rallye Monte-Carlo
1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 4:18:55.5
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +58.3
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:52.0
4 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:43.1
5 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:53.8
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +4:54.8
7 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:57.5
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +7:39.5
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +9:06.7

2018 FIA World Rally Championship - Förarmästerskapet
Efter omgång 1
1 S. Ogier 26
2 O. Tanak 18
3 J.M Latvala 17
4 K. Meeke 17
5 T. Neuville 14
6 E. Evans 8
7 E. Lappi 6
8 B. Bouffier 4
9 A. Mikkelsen 3
10 C. Breen 2
11 J. Kopecky 1

2018 FIA World Rally Championship – Konstruktörsmästerskapet
Efter omgång 1
1 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 33
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 33
3 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 18
4 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 14
18-01-28 Five in a row for Ogier
Frenchman holds off Tänak for home win at Rallye Monte-Carlo season opener. Defending FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has made the perfect start to his bid to clinch a sixth drivers’ crown by mastering the elements to clinch his fifth Rallye Monte-Carlo in a row on home soil.

The M-Sport man began the final day of the season curtain-raiser 33.5sec ahead of the pursuing Ott Tänak following a sustained push from his Toyota rival, but he immediately quelled any thoughts the Estonian may have had of launching a late bid for glory by going 11.5sec faster than the Toyota Yaris driver on SS14 (La Bollene Vesubie - Peira Cava).

The tone was set, and with Tänak thereafter backing off to secure a superb second place on his debut for his new employer, Ogier could pace himself to the finish for a fifth consecutive victory in the principality.

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is a special event for me,” the Frenchman reflected. “I’ve always done well here – I seem to have a really good connection with my home rally – and I’m super happy to take another win.

"It's been a difficult weekend. You often have to face tough conditions here, but this one was extremely tricky. I've never struggled so much with tyre choice. It was all about trying to minimise mistakes, and I managed to make fewer than the others.

"I need to thank the team for the best possible start to the season, but it has also shown that the competition will be huge this year. It’s wide open – and I’m looking forward to it.”

Tänak was delighted to seal the runner-up spoils on his first outing with Toyota, 58.3sec adrift of Ogier but 53.7sec clear of Jari-Matti Latvala, who made it a podium double for the Japanese manufacturer.

Although unable to match his team-mate’s speed, the Finn was consistent throughout and happy to banish the memories of the Power Stage accident that cost him second place on the final event of 2017.

The Power Stage this time was dominated by Kris Meeke, who salvaged some consolation for Citroën at the end of a troubled weekend with fourth overall – 2min 51.1sec behind Latvala – and five additional points.

Meeke’s position had initially looked like going the way of Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi, but the young Finn made a costly mistake on SS17 (La Cabanette - Col de Braus), dropping him behind not only the Ulsterman but also Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans.

Neuville was the architect of a remarkable recovery in his Hyundai i20, battling back from opening day misfortune to overhaul Evans and Lappi with a determined effort. The Belgian ultimately fell just 10.7sec shy of similarly passing Meeke, finishing 1.0sec clear of Evans overall and 3.7sec ahead of Lappi.

2011 winner Bryan Bouffier came home eighth – the Frenchman losing time in a snow bank on SS16 (La Bollene Vesubie - Peira Cava) – with Craig Breen ninth in the second Citroën C3, the Irishman never recovering from a significant time loss as the ‘snow plough’ on Saturday morning. WRC 2 winner Jan Kopecky completed the final top 10.

Leading positions:
1. S Ogier FRA Ford Fiesta 4hr 18min 55.5sec
2. O Tänak EST Toyota Yaris + 58.3sec
3. J-M Latvala FIN Toyota Yaris +1min 52sec
4. K Meeke GBR Citroën C3 + 4min 43.1sec
5. T Neuville BEL Hyundai i20 +4min 53.8sec
18-01-28 Kris Meeke finishes just shy of podium
Today's fourth and final leg enabled the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews to showcase their skills. Whilst Craig Breen and Scott Martin set a third fastest time, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle snatched fourth place as they took maximum points on the Power Stage, claiming the C3 WRC's very first such win of its career. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT leaves the Principality in third position in the manufacturers' championship whilst and Kris Meeke lies fourth in the drivers' standings.
Peaking at just over 1,600 metres above sea level, the Col de Turini is one of the highlights of the event. The excitement surrounding this stage owes much to the atmosphere created by the large numbers of fans that line the roads and the invariably unpredictable weather. This year's running of the iconic Monte stage proved to be no exception, with twenty percent of the roads on the first loop covered in frost, mainly found on the Col de Turini's ultra-fast downhill section leading to Peira Cava.

An ability to read the level of grip accurately was necessary to keep out of trouble. Of the two Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews, Kris Meeke managed negotiate the loop best, with two studded Michelin tyres and two super softs, whilst Craig Breen opted for a mix of soft-compound tyres (4) and super softs (2). Both drivers then produced strong performances on the stage contested between La Cabanette and the Col de Braus, grouped together in third and fourth places.

Craig Breen confirmed his good form with a third fastest time on the second run over the legendary Col de Turini. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke showed strength and consistency to hold off some of his determined rivals, whilst helping himself to fourth place after claiming an encouraging win on the Power Stage. A positive end to the rally that meant he put seventeen points on the board in the drivers' standings and therefore made a good start to the season, whilst Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT scored eighteen points to end this opening round in third place in the manufacturers' championship.

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"We had two different targets for Kris and Craig today: for Kris, the idea was to hold onto his position, whilst Craig was hoping to do well on the Power Stage, which is why they opted for differing tyre strategies. I'm pleased that Kris did what we asked of him – and more – in securing maximum points on the Power Stage. Craig was also on course for a good result in the Power Stage, but he lost a few seconds when he stalled on a hairpin. If it hadn't been for that, he would also have set a very good time."

Kris Meeke
"It was the hardest Monte-Carlo that I have ever experienced. We had everything: sheer ice on slick tyres on Thursday evening, rain on Friday, snow on Saturday and frost on the Col de Turini today. I'm surprised to finish the rally with seventeen points, but I'll certainly take them! We now have to stay humble and keep working hard to try and improve."

Craig Breen
"The weekend got off to a difficult start, with our mistake on Thursday evening. And then things went from bad to worse with the brake problems on Friday, which left us opening the road as something of a snow plough on Saturday. But we produced some good performances on a good few occasions, and did so again today on the dry tarmac. We now need to keep working in more changeable conditions, like those you typically get in Monte-Carlo."

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:18:55.5
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 58.3
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:52.0
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 4:43.1
Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 4:53.8
Evans/Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4:54.8
Lappi/Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 4:57.5
Bouffier/Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 7:39.5
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 9:06.7
Kopecky/Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 16:43.0

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Sébastien Ogier – 26 points
Ott Tänak – 18 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 17 points
Kris Meeke – 17 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 17 points
Thierry Neuville – 14 points
Elfyn Evans – 8 points
Esapekka Lappi – 6 points
Bryan Bouffier – 4 points
Andreas Mikkelsen – 3 points
Craig Breen – 2 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
M-Sport Ford WRT – 33 points
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 33 points
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 18 points
Hyundai WRT – 14 points
18-01-28 Uheldig Mikkelsen med sterk avslutning
Andreas Mikkelsen var svært uheldig i Rallye Monte-Carlo da han fikk løpet ødelagt med dynamoproblemer. Men 29-åringen slo hardt tilbake på den avsluttende etappen, og fikk med seg tre verdifulle VM-poeng.

Nordmannen, som er fabrikkfører for Hyundai Motorsport, gikk offensivt ut før årets sesong og uttalte at målet for 2018 var å bli verdensmester. Derfor var skuffelsen stor da han måtte bryte fredag med en ødelagt dynamo, etter å ha startet Rallye Monte-Carlo på en god måte. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger, kjempet de helt i toppen etter de tre første etappene, men fikk dynamoproblemer på vei til den fjerde fartsetappen.

De var tilbake på start lørdag, og det eneste det handlet om da var å sikre seg ekstra VM-poeng på den avsluttende fartsetappen søndag.
– Derfor tok vi et dekkvalg som kun var ideelt for power stage. Jeg synes vi gjorde en god jobb på den etappen, men veien tørket opp for hver bil som kjørte – og det gikk raskere og raskere. I og med at vi var første bil på veien, så var ikke det optimalt for oss. Kjøremessig fungerte det imidlertid bra, og jeg er veldig fornøyd etappen. Det holdt til tredjetid og tre VM-poeng, som er bedre enn null. Jeg lover å komme sterkere tilbake, sier Mikkelsen.

Neste mulighet er VM-runden i Sverige i midten av februar. Til uka skal han testen bilen på snø for første gang, og han tror det blir en positiv opplevelse.
– Jeg liker bilen veldig godt på grus, og det lover bra. For når en bil fungerer bra på grus, så er den som regel det også på snø. Det viste for øvrig også Thierry Neuville i Sverige i fjor. Så utstyret er nok i orden, sier han med en smil.
Sebastien Ogier, som har vunnet VM fem år på rad, åpnet årets sesong med seier i Rallye Monte-Carlo, foran Ott Tanak og Jari-Matti Latvala.

18-01-27 Estonian hot on tail of Frenchman heading into Rallye Monte-Carlo finale
Tänak gives chase to Ogier
Sébastien Ogier is just four speed tests away from a popular home WRC victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo, but the Frenchman will need to hold his nerve in the Sunday finale after impressive Toyota debutant Ott Tänak kept him on his toes throughout Saturday.

Ogier and Tänak began leg three of the season curtain-raiser separated by just under 15 seconds. Although the Frenchman had more than doubled that advantage come day’s end, the figures do not paint the full picture of a see-saw scrap that at one point saw him more than a minute clear.

The M-Sport man produced a virtuoso performance on the SS9 opener, maximising his favourable road position in treacherously snowy conditions to extend his lead over Tänak to 1min 18.4sec – but then the Estonian fought back.

Fastest on both SS10 and SS11 – notwithstanding an excursion into a field – by the time the cars headed back to evening service, the gap between the pair was just 33.5sec.

“Losing six seconds (to Tänak) on SS13 was what we had allowed for – I wanted to have at least 30 seconds in hand tonight, and that’s what we have,” reflected Ogier.

“We perhaps didn’t make the perfect tyre choice for today’s final stage – it was very dirty and we were a bit on the limit – but it’s ok.”

Tänak’s Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala briefly flirted with second spot himself – closing to barely 20 seconds shy after SS9 – before falling away and settling into a solid and lonely third place. The Finn’s cause was aided when Hyundai rival Dani Sordo crashed out of a podium position.

Latvala overhauled compatriot Esapekka Lappi in another Yaris as he moved up the order, with the younger Finn falling behind Britain’s Kris Meeke when a mistake precipitated a puncture on SS11.

Lappi spent the remainder of the day playing catch-up, with his dogged determination paying off as he narrowly reclaimed fourth spot from his Citroën rival on the final stage (SS13).

Elfyn Evans sits sixth overnight as the Welshman continues to battle back from opening day misfortune in his Ford Fiesta, with Hyundai’s similarly delayed Thierry Neuville recovering to seventh.

Bryan Bouffier has slipped to eighth ahead of Citroën’s Craig Breen, who suffered for being the ‘road-sweeper’ through the snow of SS9. WRC 2 pace-setter Jan Kopecky completes the overall top 10.

On Sunday, crews will tackle two identical loops of two stages totalling 63.72km in the steep Alpes-Maritimes hills – including the legendary Col de Turini and the points-paying Power Stage – with no service break in-between.

Leading positions:
1. S Ogier FRA Ford Fiesta 3hr 30min 30.9sec
2. O Tänak EST Toyota Yaris + 33.5sec
3. J-M Latvala FIN Toyota Yaris +1min 32.7sec
4. E Lappi FIN Toyota Yaris + 4min 38.5sec
5. K Meeke GBR Citroën C3 + 4min 40.1sec
18-01-27 The C3 WRCs move up the standings
Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle and Craig Breen – Scott Martin successfully negotiated the day's snow-covered roads, as they moved up to fifth and ninth place respectively in their C3 WRCs ahead of tomorrow's final leg, where racing conditions may be well-suited to the qualities of their machines.

There was a mix of tension and excitement in the air early this morning: Champsaur, the setting for today's third leg, had been covered with a blanket of fresh snow overnight. Unlike yesterday, however, tyre choice proved to be rather straightforward: studded tyres would be needed to get through the forty-five or so kilometres of the first two stages, and both Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews opted to take six tyres for the loop.

First on the stages after ending day two tenth overall, Craig Breen acted as something of a snow plough for the crews behind him, and had no chance of setting good times in the conditions. This was especially true given by the time the stages got underway, a combination of rising temperatures and light rainfall meant the snow had melted and turned into treacherous slush. Fifth in the running order, Kris Meeke enjoyed clearer roads, but the grip was much better for those coming after him. Both Citroën drivers nonetheless performed admirably, moving up into ninth and fifth places respectively.

For the second pass on this loop of stages, this time a mix of four winter tyres and two studded tyres was required. Although the snow and slush on the road – of which there was still plenty – prevented Craig Breen from producing any fast times, Kris Meeke showed his pace in the tarmac lines that appeared as more cars completed the stages. The Northern Irishman was third fastest at the second split on SS11, pointing to the potential of the C3 WRC, but then dropped eight seconds by running straight on into a field.

After briefly moving into fourth overall, Kris Meeke – who is determined to score good points this weekend and get his season off to a strong start – was unable to hold off Lappi's comeback on the day's final stage. Craig Breen, finally enjoying decent conditions, then reminded everyone of his pace, setting a fine third fastest time on SS13, just 2.2s behind the stage winner.

Everyone decamps to Monaco and the Alpes Maritimes department for tomorrow's final four stages. Although the drivers will have to watch out for patches of ice left by the overnight frost, the stages are expected to be contested mostly on dry tarmac roads. Conditions in which the C3 WRC has already proven its worth, whilst Kris Meeke is only 1.6s off fourth place…

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Hats off to Craig for having got the car back in one piece this evening despite opening the road today, which meant he had to cope with very low-grip conditions for most of the leg. Especially as he finished the day in style on SS13. Meanwhile, Kris held his position well until Lappi picked up a puncture, which then put him into a fight for fourth place. Our target, however, is above all that he scores big points tomorrow and that he keeps growing in confidence behind the wheel."

Kris Meeke
"On the first pass this morning, the grip was bound to improve as time went by, but on the second loop, there were two narrow lines of tarmac visible. Of course, when you're driving at close to 170kph, you absolutely cannot afford to step out of the lines, or else you're off. I don't know if we'll be able to fight for fourth place, but getting to the end in fifth position would be a good start to the season in itself, given our misfortune on Thursday evening."

Craig Breen
"The first two loops proved to be very difficult for us, due to our road position. But I'm pleased to have shown our pace on the day's final stage, which was drier, and I hope the conditions are like this tomorrow."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 3
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:30:30.9
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 33.5
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:32.7
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 4:38.5
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 4:40.1
Evans/Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 5:00.2
Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 5:33.6
Bouffier/Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 5:43.4
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 8:49.0
Kopecky/Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 14:04.4
18-01-26 Fikk erfare hvor brutalt Monte er
Ole Christian Veiby fikk erfare hvor brutalt Rallye Monte-Carlo kan være – og måtte bryte etter en avkjøring lørdag.

Rallytalentet uttalte før løpet at målet var å fullføre den vanskelige VM-åpningen for å høste mest mulig erfaring. Dessverre lyktes han ikke med å ta seg til mål, men sammen med kartleser Stig Rune Skjærmoen rakk han likevel å markere seg med meget god kjøring.
– I dag var det ekstreme forhold. Det kom snø i løpet av natta, og det la seg flere centimeter med snø på veien – noe som gjorde det utrolig glatt. Jeg forsøkte bare å kjøre kontrollert og holde meg i sporene. Men plutselig så slapp rompa på bilen, og vi måtte bare være med på ferden. Bilen smalt inn i autovernet på venstresiden og traff en bergknaus på høyresiden. Jeg vet ikke helt hva som skjedde, men tror bakhjulene må ha kommet utenfor sporet og mistet grepet, forklarer han.

Dette var hans tredje deltakelse i verdens kanskje mest berømte og fryktede rally. Men det var første gangen han ikke kom til mål.
– Selvsagt er det kjedelig ikke å fullføre, som var målet. Samtidig er det mye positivt å ta med seg. Jeg har kjørt store deler av løpet, og fått mange kilometer med erfaring under ekstremt vanskelige forhold. I tillegg har jeg kjørt bra, spesielt fredag. Vi kjørte veldig bra på starten av dagen da det var tørt. På ettermiddagen kom regnet, og forholdene ble mer utfordrende. Men da kjørte vi veldig fornuftig og klarte oss bra, mens andre gjorde feil, forteller han.
Under de tørre forholdene på starten av fredagen var han raskere enn flere av toppførerne på enkelte etapper.
– De viser at vi holder et bra tempo, konkluderer han.

Nå har han rettet fokuset mot neste VM-runde i Sverige, hvor han som Skoda Motorsport-fører skal kjempe om VM-poeng. Han skal kjøre Rally Finnskog 3. februar som forberedelse til Rally Sweden.
– Vi skal ha en liten test på onsdag for å komme inn i ordentlige vinterforhold igjen. Rally Finnskog blir en viktig oppkjøring for oss, sier han.
18-01-27 Mikkelsen vil slå tilbake på power stage
Andreas Mikkelsen kjørte kontrollerte under dagens svært vanskelige forhold i Rallye Monte-Carlo. Nå satser han alt på å gjøre det bra på den avsluttende power stage-etappen.

Nordmannen var svært uheldig og måtte bryte med dynamoproblemer fredag. Dermed var en god plassering i sammendraget lagt i grus. Han var imidlertid tilbake på startstreken i dag, og åpnet like godt med en sterk etappeseier.
– Der hadde jeg en snurring i høy hastighet, men det gikk heldigvis bra og jeg var raskest på etappen. Det har vært veldig, veldig vanskelige forhold i dag, med mye snø og is. Derfor har jeg kjørt så trygt og kontrollert som det er mulig for å komme gjennom dagen. Hadde jeg brutt også i dag, ville jeg ikke fått mulighet til å kjøre power stage – og dermed heller ikke hatt mulighet til å kjempe om VM-poeng, forteller Hyundai Motorsport-føreren.

Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger tok han seg greit gjennom etappene og høstet mer erfaring med bilen.
– For oss er det viktig å få så mye tid som mulig i bilen. Og med det som utgangspunkt, har det vært en viktig og lærerik dag for oss, sier han, og retter blikket mot den avsluttende etappen.
– Rallye Monte-Carlo ble ikke den starten på sesongen som vi håpet på, derfor blir det viktig å gjøre det bra på power stage-etappen for å få med oss så mange VM-poeng som overhodet mulig. Dette er mitt eneste fokus nå, forklarer han.
De fem siste års verdensmester, Sebastien Ogier, har festet et grep om seieren. Han leder med over halvminuttet på estlenderen Ott Tanak.

18-01-26 Diverse fortunes for the C3 WRC crews
Seventh and ninth overall this morning, Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle experienced contrasting fortunes on day two. Whilst the former crew suffered poor luck, falling back to tenth position after a brake problem, the latter pair moved up the standings to end the day in sixth place, ready to seize any opportunities on day three, during which the snow that has been forecast all week is finally due to make an appearance…
With or without snow, the Rallye Monte-Carlo is a real challenge from start to finish. There was plenty evidence of this today, as extremely difficult road conditions prevailed with dampness in the air throughout the morning loop, and then rain in the afternoon. However, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews were not caught out by the changeable weather, opting to run with four Michelin soft slicks (S6) and two super softs (SS6) in the morning, before deciding to go with six SS6s for the second loop.

Craig Breen made a strong start this morning, setting the third fastest time through the final split on the opening stage. Unfortunately, he then suffered a stroke of bad luck, a stone lodging itself in the wheel rim and damaging the brake calliper's bleed nipple, which meant that he gradually lost braking power. With advice from the team, he managed to perform makeshift repairs in the time allowed between stages, but lost more time on the next two speed tests, dropping down to tenth overall at the end of the opening loop.

With his hopes dashed of achieving a strong points finish, he will now treat the rest of the rally like an in-competition test for future outings. He nonetheless set a fourth fastest time on the second pass on Roussieux-Eygalayes (30.54km), the wettest stage of the afternoon loop, thus confirming his good pace on this atypical road surface.

Meanwhile, following his misfortune yesterday evening, Kris Meeke made a relatively cautious start to the day, but changes made to the set-up of his C3 WRC during midday service enabled him to increase his confidence for the second pass. He showed his renewed confidence after lunch, setting the fifth fastest time on Vitrolles-Oze (26.72km), just 8.2s off the pace. His time was all the more impressive given he was running seventh, a less than ideal position given all the mud dragged onto the line by those tackling the stage before him. Back up to sixth overall this evening, the Ulsterman ended the day on a high note, with another fourth fastest time.

With substantial gaps already established between the competitors, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews hope to take advantage of the rain and snow forecast for tomorrow in Champsaur, to the north of Gap, to show what they can do…

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, I'm disappointed for Craig, who deserved better. After his problems, we decided to concentrate our efforts on the future, the aim now being for Craig to get as many miles as possible under his belt whilst we focus on improving the set-up. I'm pleased to finally see Kris gradually grow in confidence, and move back up the standings. We are going to try to keep moving in this direction, whilst remaining ready to seize any opportunities that may come our way."

Kris Meeke
"Snow is forecast for the rest of the rally and when it comes, it might just shake everything up, so I hope that it works in our favour! Although it's not quite perfect yet, I'm pleased to have got a better feeling in the car this afternoon, especially as the level of grip was particularly low, with a lot of rain, mud and patches of blacktop…"

Craig Breen
"We didn't have a lot of luck this morning with the brake issue. It has never happened to me before, but it ruined our loop. The afternoon was much better, particularly with the good time on SS7, although it's really difficult to get among the leaders when you're driving on stages at full racing speed for the first time. I hope we manage to make the most of our strengths in the conditions tomorrow, which are expected to be really tough again."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 02:07:15.4
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 14.9
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 59.7
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:09.9
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:10.1
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:45.5
Bouffier/Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 3:34.6
Evans/Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4:01.7
Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 4:04.1
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 5:06.6
18-01-26 Monte-Carlo escape for Ogier
Lucky Frenchman keeps Tänak and Sordo at bay during WRC season opener. Rallye Monte-Carlo master Sébastien Ogier escaped an uncharacteristic second error to remain on target for a fifth consecutive WRC win on Friday night.

He spun his Ford Fiesta into a ditch on Friday’s penultimate speed test and watched his lead of almost 40sec dwindle as fans manhandled it back onto rain-soaked mountain roads in the French Alps.

The incident followed a previous spin on an icy bend during a crazy opening night of the four-day event on Thursday, but the reigning champion still led this opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 14.9sec from Ott Tänak.

“It was a difficult day but we’re here and still leading,” said Ogier. “It would have been better without the spin, we would have been a minute ahead. Tomorrow must be better.”

Tänak climbed from fifth overnight, but lacked the confidence to push hard in the heavy rain on his Toyota Gazoo Racing debut. Driving a Yaris, the Estonian won two of the day’s six speed tests and was one of three drivers to take on the mantle of Ogier’s closest pursuer.

Andreas Mikkelsen, second overnight, conceded the position after overshooting a junction in the opening stage before retiring on the following liaison section with a broken alternator in his Hyundai i20.

Team-mate Dani Sordo moved up but fell back to third, after a mix-up in tyre selection and a misted windscreen delayed the Spaniard. He ended 59.7sec behind Tänak.

Toyota’s Finns, Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala, were fourth and fifth to complete an impressive showing by the Japanese manufacturer. Lappi trailed Sordo by 10.2sec and was just 0.2sec ahead of his colleague, who struggled with understeer this morning.

Kris Meeke was a lonely sixth, the Northern Ireland driver 1min 35.4sec further back in his Citroën C3 and admitting he needed those ahead to hit problems to give him any chance of climbing higher.

Bryan Bouffier was seventh ahead of fellow M-Sport Ford driver Elfyn Evans, who won two stages as he recovered from a time-consuming puncture on Thursday night.

Thierry Neuville, who dropped more than four minutes on Thursday after sliding into a snow bank, climbed to ninth in his i20. The Belgian has set himself the target of a top-six finish.

Craig Breen was a deflated 10th, the Irishman losing more than three minutes on Friday morning with a brake problem in his C3.

Saturday's drivers will face two identical loops of two stages north of Gap before a repeat of Thursday night’s Bayons - Breziers test. After 117.55km of action, they make the long journey south to Monaco ahead of Sunday’s finale in the mountains above the Principality.

Leading positions:
1. S Ogier FRA Ford Fiesta 2hr 07min 15.4sec
2. O Tänak EST Toyota Yaris + 14.9sec
3. D Sordo SPN Hyundai i20 + 59.7sec
4. E Lappi FIN Toyota Yaris + 1min 09.9sec
5. J-M Latvala FIN Toyota Yaris +1min 10.1sec
18-01-26 Dynamoproblemer ødela for Mikkelsen
Felt av tekniske problemer
Andreas Mikkelsen lå an til å få en god start på rallysesongen. Men en kranglete dynamo ødela Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Hyundai Motorsport-føreren fikk en fin åpning på sesongens første VM-runde. Sammen med kartleser Anders Jæger kjørte han godt under de vanskelige forholdene torsdag kveld, og lå på andreplass – med kun Sebastien Ogier foran seg på sammenlagtlista. De norske guttene var godt fornøyd med åpningsetappene, og var optimistiske foran fredagens etapper. Dessverre måtte de kaste inn håndkleet før SS4. De fikk problemer med dynamoen på transportetappen, og gjorde alt som sto i deres makt for å fikse problemet, uten å lykkes.
– Selvsagt utrolig skuffende, og fryktelig synd med alle VM-poengene som nå går tapt, sier Andreas Mikkelsen – som retter blikket fremover mot neste VM-runde i Sverige.
– At vi får en så dårlig start på sesongen kan gi oss en bedre startposisjon i Rally Sweden, selv om det er en veldig mager trøst, poengterer han.
Han beskriver torsdagens etapper som vanskelige. Han startet sent i feltet, og bilene foran hadde kuttet svinger og dradd ut mye grus i veien.
– Kjøringen fungerte veldig bra, til tross for utfordrende forhold. Bilen kjentes også fin ut, og vi var veldig motiverte for fortsettelsen av løpet, sier han.
Fredagens veier var tørre og fine, og alt lå til rette for en god dag.
– Vi var forberedt på at det skulle komme nedbør i ettermiddag, men dessverre måtte vi takke for oss. Bilen blir imidlertid reparert, og vi stiller til start igjen i morgen, sier en skuffet Andreas Mikkelsen, som selvsagt et sjanseløs til en god plassering i sammendraget.

Tidsplan Rallye Monte-Carlo 24.-28. januar 2018

Onsdag 24. januar
16:00 Shakedown Gap (3,35km)

Torsdag 25. januar
21:43 SS1 Thoard-Sisteron (36,69km)
22:51 SS2 Bayons-Breziers 1 (25,49km)
23:56 FlexiService Gap

Fredag 26. januar
08:51 SS3 Vitrolles-Oze 1 (26,72km)
10:04 SS4 Roussieux-Eygalayes 1 (30,54km)
11:37 SS5 Vaumeilh-Claret 1 (15,18km)
12:52 Service Gap
13:58 SS6 Vitrolles-Oze 2 (26,72km)
15:11 SS7 Roussieux-Eygalayes 2 (30,54km)
16:44 SS8 Vaumeilh-Claret 2 (15,18km)
17:49 FlexiService Gap

Lørdag 27. januar
08:08 SS9 Agnieres en Devoluy-Corps 1 (29,16km)
09:16 SS10 St Leger Les Melezes-La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87km)
10:31 Service Gap
11:57 SS11 Agnieres en Devoluy-Corps 2 (29,16km)
13:08 SS12 St Leger les Melezes-La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87km)
14:23 Service Gap
16:09 SS13 Bayons-Breziers 2 (25,49km)
17:29 Service Gap
22:17 Parc Fermé Monaco

Søndag 28. januar
08:32 SS14 La Bollene Vesubie-Peira Cava (18,41km)
09:08 SS15 La Cabanette-Col de Braus (13,58km)
10:55 SS16 La Bollene Vesubie-Peira Cava (18,41km)
12:18 SS17 La Cabanette-Col de Braus (13,58km) Power Stage

18-01-26 Ogier overcomes early scare
WRC champion leads Mikkelsen and Sordo in Monte-Carlo season opener. World champion Sébastien Ogier recovered from a spin on the opening stage at Rallye Monte-Carlo on Thursday night to secure a handy 17.3sec lead heading into day two. A number of his rivals weren't quite so lucky as patches of black ice and snow shook up the early leaderboard.

The Frenchman, who was born close to the host town of Gap, used his local knowledge to master the asphalt stages that were smattered with patches of ice that could barely be seen in the darkness.

Despite a slow half spin in the 36.69km Thoard - Sisteron stage, Ogier was fastest through both of the opening speed tests in his M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Fiesta WRC.

He was happy with his start as he went in search of his sixth Rallye Monte-Carlo win. "We knew on the first stage it would be difficult to pass the icy section. Before the spin I was right in the middle of the road doing 10kph. Luckily I managed to stay on the road," he explained.

"The information we got from the ice note crew was correct. We have some small things to improve but it's not a bad start."

Andreas Mikkelsen emerged from the darkness as the second fastest driver overall. The Norwegian managed to keep his Hyundai i20 pointing in the right direction across both opening stages but complained that it was hard to know how hard he could push – without doing anything he would later regret.

Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo was a further 8.3sec behind as he made a positive start to the first rally of the 2018 WRC season. The Spaniard was 11.8sec ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing's fastest driver, Esapekka Lappi.

The Finn beamed: "We are on a mission. No mistakes, that was the target tonight. The pace was not the best but it's not so easy to drive on these stages. I need to build up the confidence step-by-step."

Team-mates Ott Tänak and Jari Matti Latvala completed the top six in their respective Yaris WRCs but both men had endured a fraught opening night of competition. Tänak dropped 37.3sec in the opening test when he spun and got stuck, while Latvala slid off the road twice in the same stage and dropped even more time.

"It was very difficult. The road was icy so I went into the snow to try and get some more grip. But it was worse and we spun a couple of times. That's Rallye Monte-Carlo," Latvala said philosophically.

Craig Breen guided his Citroën C3 to seventh place despite getting it stuck when he too suffered a first stage spin. He was 48.7sec clear of 2011 winner Bryan Bouffier who filled eighth spot.

Kris Meeke, Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville all suffered a disastrous first night at Rallye Monte-Carlo and found themselves in ninth, tenth and 11th places respectively.

Meeke and Neuville both spun off the road and got stuck in the opening stage while Evans had to stop his Fiesta to change a puncture after only 12km of the same stage. Meeke ended the day 2m 12.7sec off Ogier's lead while Evans and Neuville were already more than four minutes off the pace as the opening night drew to a close.

The rally resumes on Friday, when crews will tackle six more mountain stages covering a total distance of 144.88km.
18-01-26 A constrasting start for the C3 WRCs
At the end of this evening's short but very difficult opening leg, during which almost all the drivers ran into trouble of some kind, Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle made it to the Gap service park in seventh and ninth places respectively. Their positions were not a fair reflection of the pace of the cars, as once again, Monte lived up to its reputation for unpredictability.

Only 62.18 kilometres of timed stages, i.e. barely 16% of the total competitive distance, were contested this evening. However, these first two stages came with the difficulty of being held after nightfall, with only the lamp pods to guide the cars. First up, a genuine test of guts and bravery: contested this year for the first time in the opposite direction, the opening stage between Thoard and Sisteron has made plenty of rallying history over the years, due to the snow that is ever present around the Col de Fontbelle.

Covering the tarmac over almost three kilometres on this opening stage, and mostly on the downhill section, the snow provided the teams with a real headache in terms of tyre choice in service before the start in Digne-les-Bains. Although feedback from the safety crews suggested that that the loop was predominantly dry, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews decided to play it safe in opting to take six Michelin super soft slicks (SS6).

However, Craig Breen and Kris Meeke needed all of their acrobatic talents to get through this critical section, where they both lost time, after briefly getting stuck in ditches like many of their WRC rivals. In setting the fifth fastest time, just 24.6s off the leader, Breen got off the lightest, whilst the cost was heavier for Meeke, who finished tenth, some 1:44.7 off the pace.

The trouble encountered on the first stage then made it difficult for them to be completely relaxed on the second, especially as Craig Breen – who had trouble contacting his safety crews – arrived late at time control and set off on stage without the correct pressure in his front tyres.

Featuring six stages in the Hautes-Alpes, Drôme and Alpes de Haute Provence departments and covering a competitive distance of 144.88 kilometres, i.e. 37% of the total distance, tomorrow's leg will be the longest day of the rally for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. The team is determined for its crews to show what they can do, especially as the weather looks set to shake things up...

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, this wasn't the start we were hoping for, especially as we had made the right call on tyre choice. There was a difficult section on the first stage, which proved more costly for us than many of the others. Inevitably, our crews were then on the back foot on the next stage. I nonetheless note the positive feedback from the drivers about the handling of the C3 WRC, and I have high hopes that we'll back able to show that over the course of remaining three long legs."

Kris Meeke
"On the snow, I understeered slightly, so I pulled the handbrake and ended up spinning in the middle of the road. Most of the time, you'd just turn round with the handbrake and set off again. This time, I decided to stay calm and just reverse to get the car facing the right way but, unfortunately, we slipped into a ditch. It was a stupid and very frustrating mistake. The feeling wasn't great on the next stage either. But there's still a long way to go in the rally."

Craig Breen
"On the first stage, we got stuck on a verge for almost thirty seconds, and we needed help from the spectators to get going again. Without that minor error, we'd have grabbed the stage win. And then on the road section to the next stage, we lost time getting corrections from our safety crew and arrived late at time control, which meant we picked up a ten-second penalty, and we didn't have the correct pressure in the tyres because we didn't have time to adjust them before the start. It's not been a dream start, but I'm really pleased with our pace when everything was going well."

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 38’09’’8
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 17’’3
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 25’’6
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 37’’4
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 42’’4
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 55’’4
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1’02’’3
Bouffier/Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1’51’’0
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2’12’’7
Camilli-Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5) + 2’42’’2
18-01-24 A constructive final outing before the start
The Rallye Monte-Carlo shakedown provided the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews with the opportunity to complete a final dress rehearsal before the real action gets underway tomorrow evening. Benefiting from generally dry conditions, which are not expected to hold for the whole of the rally, Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle and Craig Breen – Scott Martin completed final testing in their C3 WRCs, finishing with the fourth and ninth fastest times respectively.

The Rallye Monte-Carlo's 3.35km-long shakedown stage wasn't necessarily representative of the difficulties to come over the weekend. This was particularly due to the different tarmac of the surface and its deep cuts, which led to rapidly deteriorating road conditions as more cars came through the stage and dragged mud onto the racing line.

As grip levels gradually decreased, most of the crews set their best times on one of their first two passes on the stage. Among the last of the WRCs to head out and tackle what were already dirty roads, Craig Breen set his fastest time on his first run, finishing ninth overall. The Irishman went on to complete another four runs. Fourth fastest on the stage, Kris Meeke was the only driver to improve his time on his third pass, before completing a final run after nightfall.

The various WRC drivers opted to run on Michelin's brand new soft slick tyre (Pilot Sport S6), the super soft version (Pilot Sport SS6) or a mix of both. Running on soft-compound slicks on their first attempt, when the quickest crews opted for four super soft tyres, Kris Meeke and Craig Breen then completed the rest of their session with a combination of the two compounds. Meeke ended up by also testing a set-up with four SS6s. The later runs gave both drivers the chance to note the improved capabilities of the French manufacturer's latest tyres on greasy, damp roads.

Pleased with the variety of conditions they faced during their winter testing, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT mainly used this final test session to give their drivers some time in the car, check that the headlamps were working properly and confirm the handling of the C3 WRC with versatile settings in conditions that called for a more tarmac-like set-up.

After a good night's rest, the crews have a busy schedule ahead of them tomorrow, with VIP car experiences in the hills above Monaco, followed by interviews and more photo sessions on the famous Place du Casino. Place du Casino is where the ceremonial start will be held at 5.50pm, whilst the competitive action kicks off at 9.43pm with the famous Thoard-Sisteron stage, contested this year in the opposite direction for the first time ever.

WHAT THEY SAID
Kris Meeke
"The shakedown was generally dry at the start, although there were a few muddy corners. The level of grip then gradually dropped off as more cars came through the stage, but we nonetheless used the session to review the various tyres one final time and try out one or two things. I'm pleased with this final test, the times weren't especially representative, but the feeling is always a good indicator, and it was good this evening. "

Craig Breen
"We went with soft tyres on the first run, which probably weren't the quickest option, but having said that, this evening wasn't really about setting fast times. The shakedown provided some very useful information for the rest of the rally and the positive point is that I really felt confident behind the wheel of my Citroën C3 WRC. "

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS
1.Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2’00’’2
2.Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2’00’’3
3.Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2’00’’7
4.Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 2’00’’9
5.Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2’01’’0
6.Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2’01’’5
7.Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2’01’’6
8.Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2’02’’1
9.Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 2’02’’9
10.Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2’02’’9
18-01-24 Frenchman begins push for sixth straight FIA World Rally Championship title
Sébastien Ogier will begin his push for a sixth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title on home ground tomorrow (Thursday) at Rallye Monte-Carlo [25-28 January].

The iconic winter asphalt rally is the first of 13 events on the 2018 calendar and has special significance for Ogier, who was born near the host town of Gap.

The 34-year-old M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver will start with the best Monte record of this year's crews, with five wins and unbeaten here in the WRC since 2014.

But the Monte's notoriously tricky mix of wet and dry asphalt, often covered in slippery ice and snow, mean nothing can be taken for granted. Tyre strategy plays a decisive role with conditions varying dramatically, often within a single stage.

Ogier warned Thursday night’s opening speed test could prove decisive in his bid to repeat his win 12 months ago. The classic Sisteron special stage, the longest of the four-day event, will be driven in darkness and in the reverse direction to normal.

“We’ll start this year with what could be the biggest challenge of the entire rally. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, but that’s Monte. It’s always a challenge and that will be the case from the very first stage this year." Ogier explained.

Ogier's closest rival could be last year's championship runner-up, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. The Belgian was a sensation in 2017, and led until the penultimate day, when broken suspension shattered his hopes of a maiden Monte win.

"That’s what Monte is all about; it’s a tough challenge to start the year," Neuville reflected. "We will aim to put all the lessons learned from our participation in the recent editions of this event to good use."

The rally marks the first appearance in a Toyota Yaris for Estonia's Ott Tänak, who collected two wins last year with M-Sport Ford. Welshman Elfyn Evans replaces Tanak as Ogier's team-mate.

The event will get underway on Thursday night from Casino Square in Monte-Carlo, and finishes back in Monaco on Sunday afternoon after 17 stages covering 388.59km in the French Alps.
18-01-24 Hyundai Motorsport siktar mot toppen när 2018 FIA World Rally Championship startar i Monte-Carlo
Nu till helgen är det äntligen dags för starten av 2018 FIA World Rally Championship. Öppningen med Rallye Monte-Carlo är det första av totalt 13 rallyn markerade i årets WRC-kalender.

Hyundai Motorsport har ställt siktet mot och uttalat tydliga ambitioner att köra för seger i både Förar- och Konstruktörsmästerskapet det här året. Rivalerna hos M-Sport, Toyota och Citroën kommer garanterat sträva efter samma mål så ännu en spännande och jämn säsong är att vänta.

En trio av uppgraderade Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC kommer tillsammans med sina besättningar representera Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team i Rallye Monte-Carlo. Andreas Mikkelsen och Anders Jæger attackerar de 17 etapperna i bil #4, Thierry Neuville och Nicolas Gilsoul siktar på seger i bil #5 medan Dani Sordo och Carlos del Barrio kör #6.

Neuville ledde stort i Monte-Carlo förra året med imponerande körning. Något som tyvärr slutade i en incident vilken tvingade honom till att bryta under näst sista dagen. Belgaren fortsatte sedan dominera i Power Stage där han tog hem maximala fem poäng.

2018 års version av Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC har genomgått ett omfattande utvecklingsprogram under vintern. Tre dagars tester hölls norr om Nice i Frankrike under december, följt av ytterligare tre dagar nära Gap under nyår. Därefter åkte teamet till Spanien för några sista dagar av utvärdering i en mängd olika förhållanden. Alla besättningar som tävlar i Monte-Carlo fick chansen att bekanta sig med bilen på torr och blöt asfalt likväl som på snö och is. Allt för att vara förberedda på de olika scenarion som Monte-Carlo kan ställa dem inför.

Team Principal, Michel Nandan kommenterar: ”Vi är så förberedda vi bara kan inför kommande säsongen och redo för en ny kamp om mästerskapstiteln. Bilens fina prestationer under förra säsongens sista omgångar, speciellt segern i Australien gav oss en bra start inför vinterns tester.
Vi har haft både bilar och team i Frankrike och Spanien för utveckling den senaste månaden. Allt för att försöka återskapa de väderförhållanden och underlag som vi kan vänta i Monte-Carlo. Vad som är så spännande med det här öppningseventet är just oförutsägbarheten. Därför måste vi vara förberedda på allt. Vi vet att våra rivaler kommer vara enastående och obevekliga så vi måste hela tiden vara på topp. Nu river vi av omgång ett och hoppas på ännu ett klassiskt Rallye Monte-Carlo.”

Den norska duon bestående av Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) inleder sin första kompletta WRC-säsong för Hyundai Motorsport i Monte-Carlo. De siktar på att bygga vidare på en imponerande debut under de sista tre omgångarna 2017 där duon var uppe i ledningen under både Spanien och Australien samt slutade fyra i Wales Rally GB.

Mikkelsen berättar: ”Det är en fantastisk känsla att få köra en hel WRC-säsong tillsammans med Hyundai Motorsport. Förra året var lite frustrerande så jag siktar på ett mer konsekvent 2018 med massor av rallyn och vara med i kampen om mästerskapstiteln. Monte är förstås ett extremt utmanande rally att starta året på då det bjuder på alla möjliga förhållanden, inklusive nattetapper som med blåis som snabbt kan sätta bilen ur spel. Tillsammans med Anders är jag extremt laddad på att få dra igång säsongen.”

Belgarna Neuville och Gilsoul ledde förra årets Rallye Monte-Carlo med 51 sekunder innan en olycka i SS13 satte dem ur spel. De hoppas nu att erfarenheterna de samlat under senaste säsongerna skall placera dem högst upp på pallen 2018 och med starkt resultat redan i inledningen.

Neuville säger: ”Spänningen inför den här WRC-säsongen är extrem! Lanseringseventet i Birmingham för några veckor sedan gjorde oss väldigt taggade och skapade en härligt positiv känsla. Monte-Carlo är ett väldigt unikt rally där minsta lilla fel kan bli ödesdigert. Precis vad som hände oss förra året då vi ledde överlägset, till näst sista dagen då ett litet misstag satte oss ur spel på ett väldigt frustrerande sätt. Men det är precis vad Monte handlar om; det är en tuff utmaning som rivstartar året. Vi kommer använda alla de läxor vi lärt oss under tidigare WRC-upplagor för att ta oss till seger.”

Monte-Carlo blir första av sju planerade WRC-event för den spanska duon Sordo och Bel Barrio.
De delar säsongen och #6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC med Hayden Paddon och Seb Marshall som gör sin debut under Rally Sweden. Sordo var den bäst placerade föraren från Hyundai Motorsport i Monte-Carlo förra året då han slutade på fjärde plats. En pallplats i år är därför ett väldigt realistiskt inledande mål.

Sordo berättar: ”Jag är glad över att köra min femte säsong för Hyundai Motorsport och få möjligheten att starta i ett av de mest krävande eventen för säsongen – Monte-Carlo. Tillsammans med Hyundai Motorsport har vi utvecklat ett starkt samarbete och trots att jag bara kommer köra sju rallyn i år siktar jag på att få ut så mycket jag bara kan av dem. Jag har en ny kartläsare för säsongen - Carlos, så det kommer vara områden utveckla ihop men vi är optimistiska och skall ge våra rivaler en rejäl match.
18-01-22 A regal return for the Citroën C3 WRC
The countdown has begun: in a few days' time, the World Rally Championship returns to action on the wintry roads of the Rallye Monte-Carlo. On its second season in the category with the C3 WRC, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT has opted for stability, its driver line-up once again consisting of Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle and Craig Breen – Scott Martin.

AT ONE WITH YOUR CAR
At Monte, more so than elsewhere, the crews and teams really must know their cars inside out. They need to be truly at one with the car, anticipating each of its reactions as precisely as possible, so as not to get caught out by the tricky conditions. Because sometimes, there can be a patch of black ice that suddenly appears on a bend, other times there is a heap of soft snow or even a puddle of water. Having developed the Citroën C3 WRC in 2016 and then competed in it last year, Kris Meeke and Craig Breen have racked up a lot of miles in the car, in a wide variety of conditions and on various road surfaces. This experience represents a clear advantage for the brand at this, the 86th Rallye Monte-Carlo and the setting for the start of the 2018 season, which will see the C3 WRC tackle its second year in the WRC. After spending its first year back in the category learning and improving, secured two promising wins (Mexico and Catalonia) and finishing as runners-up once (Germany), this campaign will be all about confirmation for the team.

The team's greatest hopes of success in Monte-Carlo rest with Kris Meeke, who claimed both of Citroën's rally wins last year and is particularly experienced at this event. Buoyed by what he learned in 2017, the Ulsterman is determined to make the most of his experience and feature consistently among the leaders this year. Finishing Monte without incident invariably means you have made a good start to the season. Over the years and his numerous appearances in the Principality, Kris has developed the ability to spot changes in grip, and to drive with a mix of tyre compounds. Although not as familiar with the roads around Monaco as his team-mate, Craig Breen does not intend to be outdone. Having finished an excellent fifth overall at last year's rally in the DS3 WRC, he has the potential to do even better this season in the C3 WRC. In order to get the most out of the car, he – like Kris Meeke – completed three days of intensive testing, split across two sessions. The first session, held before Christmas, provided the team with the chance to work on tarmac, varying from bone dry to absolutely soaking wet, whilst the second session, held this week on roads around Gap, was intended to test the C3 WRC in conditions as close as possible to those the crews will experience next week, as well as on snow. These sessions also provided an opportunity to continue with work done to maximise the car's operating window.

NO SHORTAGE OF DIFFICULTIES AHEAD
Anyone harbouring hopes of finishing on the podium opposite the Palais Princier on Sunday will first of all need to successfully negotiate many hazards throughout the event's four days of racing. Four legs that will see the competitors tackle some of the most demanding roads in the Isère, Drôme, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes de Haute Provence and Alpes-Maritimes departments. The action gets underway on Thursday evening with one of the rally's truly iconic stages, Thoard-Sisteron. Always tricky around the Col de Fontbelle, this year the stage is contested in the opposite direction to usual, an unprecedented move, and in the dark. The rally concludes with equally famous Col de Turini, on which the C3 WRC claimed its very first stage win last year.

Initially contested in the dry, a thin layer of fresh snow fell on the stage two hours later for the second pass. And therein lies the true challenge at Monte-Carlo: its wintry nature, and the fact that road conditions can change so quickly from one side of the mountain to the other, mean that tyre choice is of absolutely critical importance. Based on experience from previous years, with assistance from the ice and snow crews, and on-the-ground informants, it is a matter of estimating what will be the best compromise on tyre choice for the next loop of stages, whilst also adapting the car’s settings accordingly. It's a huge challenge.

WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"The new season is upon us, which obviously means both excitement and uncertainty. After claiming second place in Germany and winning in Spain in the second part of 2017, which confirmed the growing strength of the team, I am determined to continue the work begun by Yves Matton, so that the team picks up in 2018 where it left off at the end of last year. This is especially the case since the C3 WRC has been further improved during the off-season, with intensive work put into widening its operating spectrum. Kris Meeke has the required experience to fight at the front at this unique event, as he showed in 2016, whilst Craig gained a lot of confidence from last year's appearance and is determined to use it to push for a good position. They both also know that you can't approach this rally just like any other: you must remain composed and treat the stages with the respect they deserve to avoid getting caught out by one of the many tricky sections."

Christophe Besse, Technical Director
"Rallye Monte-Carlo is above all about the drivers and the tyres. You need a car that is easy to drive, smooth in terms of its reactions, so that the driver feels confident behind the wheel regardless of the level of grip encountered. That's what our work focused on during the tests. The stages are generally held on bumpy, uneven roads, which is why we also worked on making further improvements to the C3 WRC's damper system. We equally tried to run through a large number of potential conditions, be it ice or snow, in the rain or on tarmac that was just cold and wet. On the one hand, the idea was to try out the two new Michelin tyres, and on the other hand, it was a matter of reviewing as wider range of tyre options as possible. As the stages are grouped together in loops, you never really have the right tyres at the right time. The challenge, therefore, is knowing how much time you'll lose with studded tyres on dry tarmac in order to opt for the best compromise."

Kris Meeke
"Monte is probably one of the season's hardest rallies, because of the constant changes in grip, but I've always really enjoyed it. I've also been quick here. I won the event in the Junior WRC class in 2005, I picked up a podium (3rd) on my full-time return to the WRC with Citroën in 2014 and I fought for the win in 2016… So I think that we can do a good job here, especially since our off-season tests were held on roads that are fairly representative of what we'll be facing during the rally, with a good variety of weather conditions. The test sessions also enabled us to keep improving the ability of our C3 WRC to adapt to changes in road surface, particularly by heading back to the Col de Faye, which is where we were least comfortable last year."

Number of appearances at the event: 9
Best result: 3th (2014)

Craig Breen
"Monte-Carlo is a rally that I love. It's a unique challenge, something you don't get on any of the other events. Until 2017, however, I never felt sufficiently confident in the kind of changeable, slippery conditions you get here. But last year, with the old car, we surprised ourselves. With a bit more horsepower, we could have aimed for the podium, so that gives me confidence. I'd like to think we can do it this time around, even though I'm not the most experienced driver in the line-up. Especially in that based on what we learned in 2017, we come into this event better prepared and with a C3 WRC that is even more versatile."
Number of appearances at the event: 3
Best result: 5th (2017)

KEY FIGURES
•17 timed stages covering a total of 388,59 km
•4 types of Michelin tyres : snow tyre (Pilot Alpin A41), snow tyre with studs (Pilot Alpin A41 CL), soft tyre (Pilot Sport S6) and super soft tyre (Pilot Sport SS6). Both Pilot Sport S6 and Pilot Sport SS6 are brand-new ones.
•7 wins for Citroën and Loeb-Elena in Rallye Monte-Carlo (2003-2005 in Xsara WRC, 2007-2008 in C4 WRC, 2012-2013 in DS3 WRC)
•2 wins for the Citroën C3 WRC until now (Mexico and Spain 2017)

A RALLY, A CHALLENGE
The importance of the relationship between the crews and the ice/snow crews
At Monte-Carlo, the crew and their ice/snow crews must have a perfectly developed understanding. The ice/snow crews run through the stages around two hours before the WRC crews, armed with a copy of their pace notes in order to make any corrections. The changes can be substantial on these stages if, for example, it has snowed between recce and the start of the stage. The road conditions also tend to change a lot between the first and second pass on a stage. The difficulty for the ice/snow crews therefore involves having the same view of the road as the crew would have, and also keeping the same, specific language as the crew. Which is why an incredible amount of trust and knowledge of one another is called for. Craig Breen has been working with Mikko Hirvonen (with co-driver Andy Hayes) since 2016 whilst Kris Meeke has used the services of Stephen Whitford and Derek Brannigan since 2014 and 2009 respectively.

CITROËN SECRETS
Didier Clément, now Technical Coordinator and Customer Racing Manager, recalls…
"I remember when we won here in 2012 with Sébastien and Daniel. They only really secured the win on the third leg, due to making the right call on tyres, as is often the case at Monte-Carlo. That day, we had to contest the Saint Jean en Royans stage, which was mostly damp or wet, and then Cimetière de Vassieux, where there was snow and ice on the stage. So we needed soft-compound slicks for the first stage, and studded tyres for the next one. But Seb was worried about losing a lot of time on Saint Jean en Royans by going with a mix of these two types of compound. Right up until a minute before the start, there were only two soft-compound slicks on the car and two studded tyres in the boot. But our analysis showed that we had to give preference to Cimetière de Vassieux, by going with four studded tyres. He let me choose the two missing tyres, which were of course two studded tyres. He produced an incredible performance on Saint Jean en Royans, losing only sixteen seconds with his inappropriate tyre set-up, before securing overall victory on the following stage thanks to his four studded tyres."

RALLYE MONTE-CARLO SCHEDULE (GMT+1)
WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY
4.00pm : shakedown (Gap)

THURSDAY 25 JANUARY
5.50pm : Start day 1 (Monaco – Place du Casino)
9.43pm : SS 1 – Thoard – Sisteron (36,69 km)
10.51pm : SS 2 – Bayons – Bréziers 1 (25,49 km)
11.56pm : Flexi Service A (Gap – 48')

FRIDAY 26 JANUARY
8.00am : Start day 2 and Service B (Gap – 18')
8.51am : SS 3 – Vitrolles – Oze 1 (26,72 km)
10.04am : SS 4 – Roussieux – Eygalayes 1 (30,54 km)
11.37am : SS 5 – Vaumeilh – Claret 1 (15,18 km)
12.52pm : Service C (Gap – 33')
1.58pm : SS 6 – Vitrolles – Oze 2 (26,72 km)
3.11pm : SS 7 – Roussieux – Eygalayes 2 (30,54 km)
4.44pm : SS 8 – Vaumeilh – Claret 2 (15,18 km)
5.49pm : Flexi Service D (Gap – 48')

SATURDAY 27 JANUARY
6.57am : Start day 3 and Service E (Gap – 18')
8.08am : SS 9 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 1 (29,16 km)
9.16am : SS 10 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87 km)
10.31am : Service F (Gap – 33')
11.57am : SS 11 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 2 (29,16 km)
1.08pm : SS 12 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87 km)
2.23pm : Service G (Gap – 33')
4.09pm : SS 13 – Bayons – Bréziers 2 (25,49 km)
5.29pm : Service H (Gap – 48')
10.17pm : Parc ferme (Monaco)

SUNDAY 28 JANUARY
6.49am : Start day 4
8.32am : SS 14 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 1 (18,41 km)
9.08am : SS 15 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 (13,58 km)
10.55am : SS 16 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 2 (18,41 km)
12.18pm : SS 17 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 (13,58 km)
1.58pm : Parc ferme (Monaco)
3.00pm : Prize giving (Place du Palais Princier – Monaco)
18-01-16 Emil Bergkvist kör Junior-VM i rally 2018
2015 blev Torsåkers Emil Bergkvist Europeisk Juniormästare i Rally för Opel Motorsport. Efter det har Emil kört två tuffa säsonger i Rally-VMs ’s fyrhjulsdrivna klass WRC2 med mycket problem och uteblivna framgångar. Nu nysatsar Emil och kommer köra Junior-VM, JWRC, i en tvåhjulsdriven Ford Fiesta ihop med kartläsaren Ola Floene.

– Jag är oerhört tacksam över att få chansen att köra Junior-VM, säger Emil.
– Framför allt vill jag tacka Jourdan Serderidis och J-Motorsport, utan dom skulle det inte vara möjligt.

JWRC drivs av det Brittiska Ford-teamet M-Sport och alla deltagare kör i identiska Ford Fiesta R2T. 2018 görs mästerskapet över fem deltävlingar och startar i Sverige genom Rally Sweden i mitten på februari.

Emil, som haft stora framgångar i R2-bilar tidigare, ser fram emot utmaningen.
– Detta känns som helt rätt steg i min karriär, nu kommer jag kunna fokusera mer på körningen och hoppas att resultaten ska komma, fortsätter Emil.

Junior-VM bjuder i år på en stor prispott där vinnaren får en egen Ford Fiesta R5 med fria startavgifter, däck och bränsle i 2019-års WRC2-mästerskap.
– Vi är ödmjuka inför uppgiften och är beredda på en tuff utan i och med att alla kör likadana bilar.
Jag kommer ta med mig mina tidigare erfarenheter från både EM och VM och hoppas dra nytta av det för att kunna slåss om VM-titeln, avslutar Emil.

Förutom Emil Bergkvist tävlar även Värmlänningen Dennis Rådström i JWRC. Dennis, som slutade femma i serien förra året, blir en av de tuffaste konkurrenterna i mästerskapet.

Junior-WRC 2018 avgörs över fem tävlingar; Sverige, Korsika, Portugal, Finland och Turkiet.
18 -01-11 Ford storsatsar på rallyteamet M-Sport inför FIA World Rally Championship 2018
Ford utökar sitt samarbete med rallyteamet M-Sport, vinnare av FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Teamet kommer erbjudas ett utökat tekniskt och finansiellt stöd, lett av Mark Rushbrook, global chef för Ford Performance.

Ford utökar nu samarbetet med rallyteamet M-Sport under 2018, med tekniskt och finansiellt stöd. Teamet kommer köra rallybilen Ford Fiesta WRC, baserad på den nya Fiestan, försedd med Fords 1,6-liters EcoBoost-bensinmotor.
– Ford har haft en relation med M-Sport i över 20 år, vilket bidragit till en rad framgångar på olika nivåer inom rallysporten, och det är vi väldigt stolta över. Samarbetet har också etablerat Fiestan som en klassiker inom rallyvärlden. Förra året stöttade vi M-Sport med utvecklingen av den nya Fiestan, som senare kom att vinna FIA World Rally Championship. Vi hoppas nu kunna ge ännu mer uppbackning under 2018, säger Mark Rushbrook, global chef för Ford Motorsport.
– Vi har en fantastiskt bra relation med Ford och har haft det under många år, därför känns det extra kul att samarbetet utökas under 2018 när vi ska försöka försvara våra titlar i FIA World Rally Championship, säger Malcolm Wilson OBE, vd för M-Sport.

Bakgrund Ford Performance
Ford Performance fungerar som ett innovationslaboratorium och testcenter för att kunna skapa unika prestandafordon, delar, tillbehör och upplevelser för Fords kunder. Det omfattar utveckling av innovationer och tekniker inom aerodynamik, lättviktsmaterial, elektronik, drivlineprestanda och bränsleekonomi som sedan kan implementeras ännu bredare i Fords produktportfölj.


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