The tactics were fairly straightforward for the Citroën Total World Rally Team on today’s remaining 38.62 kilometres. Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm’s job was to maintain a decent pace so as to secure second place and avoid the risk of being caught out. Meanwhile, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia needed to confirm their pace notes on Marmaris (7.05km), the day’s opening speed test that would also be used as the Power Stage. They then had to look after their tyres on the next two stages so they could push as much as possible on the final test in the hope of collecting a few bonus points. Citroën’s crews stuck to the plan, securing the one-two finish, whilst Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia scored three extra points with the third fastest time on the Power Stage.
This one-two finish is the Citroën Total World Rally Team’s first such result since the 2015 Rally Argentina and is the team’s third win this season, following victories in Monte-Carlo and Mexico. It also sees them take their ninth and tenth podiums of the year. It equally signals the team’s return to the front with an impressively fast and robust C3 WRC this weekend and illustrates its determination to fight all the way in the championship. The result is certainly excellent news for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who move back up to second in the standings, just seventeen points behind the leaders, with some ninety points left up for grabs in the three remaining rounds of the season.
Third on the road on Friday, Sébastien and Julien got off to a frustrating start with a puncture six kilometres from the end of the first proper stage. However, they moved back up to third place on the next stage and ended the day in second overall, 17.7s behind their team-mates, setting two consecutive third fastest times in the process. A bold tyre choice for Saturday morning’s opening stage in the very hot conditions (three medium and two hard Michelin tyres) enabled them to claim their first stage win of the weekend on Yesilbelde (33km). Their rivals were left at least a minute behind. They then focused on taking as few risks as possible and controlling their pace. They nonetheless grabbed the second fastest time on the repeat of Yesilbelde, which took them into the overall lead. This morning, they were therefore well placed to bring home their third win in the C3 WRC and also secure their seventh podium in 2019. Making the most of their position down the running order (ninth) on day one, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm impressed on SS2 with a second fastest time. They then took the overall lead on the following test with their first stage win! Clearly at home in the C3 WRC, Citroën’s Finns were as calm and focused as they were impressive, despite their road position being a disadvantage on certain very rough sections of Friday’s afternoon loop and having a tyre package ill-suited to the rain that began to fall late in the day. They even added two stage wins to their tally and led the rally until a brief stall on SS12 saw them relinquish the lead to their team-mates. A minor mishap that didn’t prevent them from heading into today’s final leg in a strong position to claim their third podium of the season, after also finishing as runners-up in Sweden and Finland
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“We really needed this win if we were to have a chance of getting back into contention in the championship so I’m really happy to bring it home for the team this weekend. We knew that anything could happen at a rally like this where it is really rough but we managed to keep out of trouble by adopting a smart approach. It’s a good morale boost for everyone as we move into the end of the season! We all know that we have to keep working really hard. We’ll savour this win and then get down to work again tomorrow.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“It was a very demanding event, one which I didn’t really enjoy last year so I’m obviously pleased with my performance this weekend. We managed to have two very good first legs, displaying the same kind of pace as Seb and Julien, which is no easy feat. Today, the challenge for us was to get the car over the line and help them as much as possible. Our C3 WRC was perfect this weekend. We had no issues whatsoever and that was one of the keys to us securing this great result.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
What can you say about the team’s one-two finish this weekend?
I’m incredibly proud of what we have all managed to achieve this weekend! It’s certainly going to do us a whole lot of good. After the disappointment in Germany, I think the team proved that it had recovered. We were united and have shown real strength of character to manage to bounce back like that this weekend. We came away from four days of testing in Greece feeling optimistic about our chances and we had confirmation this weekend that we were right to feel positive. Everyone worked really hard to provide our crews with a C3 WRC that was both extremely robust and very quick on these rough gravel roads, which are some of the most demanding all season. The crews rounded off the job with a great deal of talent. They both produced an authoritative, dominant performance this weekend, claiming five stage wins in total. Rest assured, we’ll be driven by the same determination and fighting spirit right until the final stage of Rally Australia.
How would you describe the performances of your crews?
Perfect! Esapekka and Janne made the most of their road position on Friday morning, before proving to be extremely solid when the conditions were no longer particularly kind. They led the rally for nine stages, finding the right balance between pushing and controlling. They then clearly understood that the team needed them to not risk ruining what was shaping up to be a great result. I would like to pay tribute to their superb team spirit. They have clearly made another step forward in the C3 WRC on gravel and will now be a definite asset in our attempt to win the world title with Sébastien and Julien. Speaking of whom, Messrs Ogier and Ingrassia managed perfectly to deal with their position in the running order on Friday, ending the day ideally placed. They then produced the kind of performance of which they alone are capable on Saturday morning, showing their unrivalled ability when it comes to tyre management. The sign of a true champion is knowing when is the right time to strike. Over the years, they have also become known for never giving up and they certainly reminded everyone of that this weekend!
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND
Yesilbelde (33km), Saturday’s opening stage and one of the slowest and most technical of the weekend with average speeds of just over 75kph, saw the Citroën Total World Rally Team crews establish their future one-two finish with authority.
This very rough stage was clearly the big challenge of Saturday’s leg. Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi – Janne Ferm, having already been at the sharp end in the C3 WRCs the day before on the very long Çetibeli stage (38.15km) disregarded the length of the test and the stifling heat to produce impressive performances. The French crew recorded a genuinely breathtaking time thanks to a bold tyre choice, whilst the Finns finished 16.7s behind to make it a one-two on the stage. Further back, only Andreas Mikkelsen came close to the Citroën crews, whilst the rest of the field was at least a second per kilometre off the pace, a huge gap at this level. This performance also left the Citroën Total World Rally Team’s closest rivals a minute adrift, enabling the team to approach the afternoon loop, expected to be very demanding, in a more relaxed mood.
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:50:12.1
- Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +34.7
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:04.5
- Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:35.1
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:25.9
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:59.1
- Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:53.3
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:34.8
- Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +7:22.9
* subject to the publication of the official classification by the FIA
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
- Ott Tänak – 210 points
- Sébastien Ogier – 193 points
- Thierry Neuville – 180 points
- Andreas Mikkelsen – 94 points
- Kris Meeke – 86 points
- Jari-Matti Latvala – 84 points
- Teemu Suninen – 83 points
- Esapekka Lappi – 80 points
- Elfyn Evans – 78 points
- Dani Sordo – 72 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
- Hyundai WRT – 314 points
- Toyota Gazoo Racing – 295 points
- Citroën Total WRT – 259 points
- M-Sport Ford WRT – 184 points