WRC'14 Rallye de France Oct3-5 talk/results spoiler**
Rnd 11 - Rallye de France Oct 3-5
France’s WRC round was held on the stunning island of Corsica from 1973 to 2008.
After a year’s absence due to rotation, the rally moved to Alsace in 2010.
Alsace is Sebastien Loeb country and he secured his seventh world title at the end of a street stage through his home town of Haguenau that year.
Loeb’s final WRC event was here last year. Even the great Frenchman shed a tear.
What’s new for 2014
Almost half the stage distance has never been used before.
A completely revised street test in Mulhouse ends Saturday’s action.
Sunday – everything is new for 2014.
WRC+ for €4.99 Euro : Live Stages/Live Maps/Onboard Action/Full Highlights plus.wrc.com/
Latvala fastest at shakedown
Jari-Matti Latvala began his quest for a maiden WRC asphalt victory in perfect style when he was fastest in shakedown at Rallye de France-Alsace on Thursday morning (2 October).
The Finn was quickest through the 3.80km Hautepierre Parc des Sports test next to the Strasbourg service park by 1.2sec in a Volkswagen Polo R.
Kris Meeke was second in a Citroen DS3, with championship leader Sébastien Ogier’s Polo R and Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20 tying for third, a further 0.5sec behind.
Latvala set the pace throughout the morning and posted the fastest time on his fourth and final run over the tight and twisty service roads around the sports and leisure complex.
“I struggled a little in the test with understeer and was a bit worried how the car would be in shakedown, but on the first run it felt really good,” said Latvala. “We made a couple of changes to the set-up and I felt it was getting even better so now I have a good feeling.”
The Finn has made no secret of his desire to win on asphalt but missed out at August’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland when he crashed out of the lead on the final morning.
“My dream is to win an asphalt rally and I was so close at Rallye Deutschland. But I was against myself and didn’t do it, so we’ll try to carry on and work on that over here.
“If we can win, the victory would help in the drivers’ championship but I’m not thinking about that so much anymore. My chances are not the greatest and Seb, with a smart drive, doesn’t need to take risks,” he added.
Jari-Matti Latvala set the early pace at Rallye de France - Alsace with fastest time through Friday morning’s opening stage.
He averaged almost 120kph in his Volkswagen Polo R as he blasted through the sunny and clear test 0.3sec quicker than team-mate Sébastien Ogier, pronouncing himself happy with Michelin’s new asphalt tyres which are being used here for the first time.
“It was quite a good start. I had a little feeling of understeer so I was amazed the time was so good. The new tyres worked well, but in the fast places they were moving a little bit. But for me Michelin has done really, really good work,” said Latvala.
Ogier admitted his drive wasn’t perfect as he, too, reported understeering issues. “But this is just the start, the next stage is very important,” said Ogier, in reference to the following 34.34km Vosges - Pays d’Ormont, which is the longest of the rally.
Andreas Mikkelsen ensured a Volkswagen 1-2-3, just 0.5sec behind Latvala and the Norwegian was content. “Beautiful roads and beautiful conditions,” he said.
Kris Meeke was fastest of the rest, the Northern Irishman only 0.7sec slower than Latvala and comparing the stage to a hillclimb. “Very quick, very wide with a lot of grip, but easy to over drive,” said the Citroen DS 3 pilot.
With such a long stage to follow, virtually all the top drivers opted for hard compound tyres. Martin Prokop bucked the trend by selecting soft rubber for his Ford Fiesta RS and the Czech was confident they would last the 55.04km loop with no issues.
Jari-Matti Latvala led Rallye de France-Alsace after Friday morning’s opening loop but team-mate Sébastien Ogier’s hopes of clinching a second consecutive world title here were dented after a double dose of problems.
Latvala lost his early lead to Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in SS2, the longest of the weekend. But the Finn regained top spot in the short SS3 to return to the Strasbourg service park with a 0.7sec advantage over the Norwegian.
“I didn’t have a good feeling in SS2, the car was too soft and the brakes too hard,” said Latvala. “I couldn’t get a good feeling but it was much better in the next one.”
Ogier spun 3.6km into SS2, but worse was to follow as a problem with his Polo R cost four minutes and a further 15sec in SS3.
“I did a mistake at a slippery hairpin, but immediately after that I had a big cut to the engine,” he said. “It looks like it’s linked to the way the engine cuts for [gear] shifting, but I don’t know. The team has to check the data and hopefully solve the problem. When I was aggressive on the throttle it was OK, but every time I backed off I lose time again.”
To complete an awful morning for the Frenchman he received a four-minute penalty after checking in early at the SS3 arrival control and was 8min 26.1sec off the lead.
Mikkelsen struggled for rhythm in SS3 but was 6.5sec ahead of Kris Meeke in third. The Citroen DS3 pilot was rattled as rocks placed on the inside of corners by organisers to prevent cutting appeared to have been moved since the recce.
Elfyn Evans was fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS, 8.1sec behind Meeke, but the Welshman was quick to leave the finish of SS3 with a warning light flashing in the cockpit. Dani Sordo and Mads Østberg completed the top six, just 0.9sec splitting the duo.
Robert Kubica, Mikko Hirvonen, who complained that the rear tyres of his Fiesta RS overheated, Bryan Bouffier and Martin Prokop completed the leaderboard.
Thierry Neuville was a lowly 21st after dropping a minute in SS2 after briefly sliding into a ditch, but a lack of power was more of a concern for the Belgian. He could find nothing wrong but lost a further 90sec in SS3.
In WRC 2, Quentin Gilbert lead Bernardo Sousa by 3.4sec, with Pontus Tidemand a further 1.4sec back in third.
Andreas Mikkelsen trimmed Jari-Matti Latvala’s lead in Rally de France-Alsace to just two-tenths of a second after claiming his second stage victory of the opening leg in stage four.
The Norwegian was 0.1sec faster than Sébastien Ogier and 0.5sec quicker than Latvala as Volkswagen claimed its second 1-2-3 finish in this 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
“A clean stage but it was a bit more slippery than this morning as the road warms up. I’m in a good rhythm and I’ll try to stay there,” said Mikkelsen.
Latvala echoed his colleague’s words. “There’s a lot of rubber on the Tarmac and it’s incredibly slippery. I’m sure someone will overshoot the final hairpin, we were completely sideways,” he said.
Ogier’s morning problems were traced to a faulty gearbox shift sensor which caused the engine to cut power. The team replaced the sensor and also changed the gearbox as a precaution, but Ogier admitted the time lost added to a four-minute penalty for checking in early at SS3, meant his weekend was ruined.
“Everything is working well now but it’s a little bit too late. It’s only a test now and trying to get some pleasure. The only target now is the Power Stage,” he said.
Kris Meeke was fourth to retain third in his Citroen DS3, while Dani Sordo and Mads Østberg climbed to fourth and fifth as a result of alternator problems for Elfyn Evans on the liaison section into service after SS3.
The Welshman stopped en route to Strasbourg and he and co-driver Dan Barritt produced a super-human effort to push their Fiesta RS into service. They were 10 minutes late and the 1min 40sec penalty relegated them from fourth to 11th.
Jari-Matti Latvala gave himself a degree of comfort at the head of the Rallye de France-Alsace leaderboard after netting consecutive stage victories in the final two country stages of Friday’s opening leg.
The Volkswagen Polo R pilot extended his advantage over team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen to 8.5sec after beating him by 4.3sec in the long SS5, before setting a crushing pace to go 4.0sec faster in less than 10km through the next test.
“The last one is my favourite stage, I could drive it tomorrow two more times,” said Latvala. “We made some changes in service at lunchtime and the car feels good.”
Mikkelsen could only laugh at the speed of his Polo R colleague in the final test. “His time is crazy, absolute madness. I was happy with my pace but Jari-Matti was insanely quick. It’s one of my best days on asphalt, I’ve never felt so comfortable on this surface before,” he said.
Robert Kubica punctured in SS5 to drop behind fellow Ford Fiesta RS driver Mikko Hirvonen, but the Pole finished third in the next test and is just 1.2sec away from regaining sixth.
Mads Østberg was a man of few words after dropping time in both tests with what he believed might be a transmission problem. “Something is not right and I couldn’t drive any faster,” said the Norwegian, who remains fifth in his Citroen DS3, but only 2.4sec ahead of Hirvonen.
Sébastien Ogier’s day became even worse, if that is possible, when a broken front left damper in his Polo R cost time in both stages.
Welshman Elfyn Evans had to push his Fiesta RS uphill for 150 metres to reach Friday’s midpoint service and avoid retirement from the opening day of Rallye de France – Alsace.
Assisted by navigator Dan Barritt, the M-Sport World Rally team driver flexed his muscles after his car developed an electrical problem on the third stage and expired altogether 50km later, on the approach to the midday service.
“The engine cut out just before we came into sight of the in-control, so we were lucky,” said Evans, who was fourth before the incident.
“I always expected to get to the end of the stage after the warning lights came on, but how long after that I wasn’t sure. On the road section we talked to our engineers and nursed the car back using as little power as possible.
“We had to push the last bit. It wasn’t so bad pushing in a straight line, but turn a corner and the diffs tighten - and that made it hard. I feel alright now, but I didn’t at the time. I don’t think I’m ready for World’s Strongest Man just yet.”
The pair’s show of strength wasn’t enough to prevent a 1m40sec time penalty for arriving 10 minutes late, but in his first full season in a World Rally Car, and after a impressive start in France, Evans’ priority was another shot at the morning loop.
Evans said: “Okay, we got a penalty but we’re still here and we got to do the afternoon stages. That’s a better outcome than Rally 2.”
“It was going well up to that point, which was a bit surprising to be honest because the feeling inside the car was not great. I was struggling to get to grips with the new tyres and the car seemed to be moving about a lot. The goal now is to get more experience with the tyres on the rest of the event.”
Jari-Matti Latvala led Rallye de France-Alsace after Friday’s opening leg following a disastrous day for FIA World Rally Championship leader Sébastien Ogier.
Latvala, pursuing his maiden asphalt win, won four of the seven special stages in a Volkswagen Polo R to head team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen by 8.2sec.
The Finn led after the opening test in the Vosges mountains, south-west of Strasbourg. Mikkelsen fought back to lead briefly, but set-up changes to Latvala’s car at the mid-leg service fuelled his confidence and he pulled clear in the afternoon.
“It’s my dream to win an asphalt rally and today was a good day towards that. The performance this morning was a little bit low, but in the afternoon it went well. Andreas is pushing me so tomorrow I need to drive in the same way,” said Latvala.
Mikkelsen finished 14.9sec ahead of Kris Meeke’s Citroen DS3 in third, but the leading trio’s delight was in contrast to Ogier’s despair.
He spun early in SS2 before a faulty gearbox sensor caused his Polo R’s engine to cut out. Ogier lost 4min 30sec but was then hit with a four-minute penalty when co-driver Julien Ingrassia checked them into the following stage early as they battled to resolve the issue.
A broken front left shock absorber further delayed the pair this afternoon and their hopes of securing a second consecutive drivers’ title this weekend appear to be over.
Meeke was unable to match the VWs ahead but the Citroen DS3 pilot was again the best of the rest, 28.1sec clear of Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20 in fourth. The Spaniard, who won the final stage, headed a gaggle of four cars covered by less than 14sec.
Jari-Matti Latvala extended his advantage at the head of the Rally de France - Alsace leaderboard through Saturday’s opening speed test, but admitted he would have to be at his best to defend his lead from team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.
Latvala was fastest through Vallee de Munster by 2.7sec in his Volkswagen Polo R from the Norwegian to stretch his lead to 10.9sec.
“I’m in a big battle and Andreas is driving very well, he’s not giving anything for free,” said Latvala. “It was very fast in the downhill section. The grip was quite good but it was slippery at the chicanes in the middle of the stage.”
Mikkelsen felt he was too cautious at the start. “I was very careful so I lost time, but I tried to make it up in the downhill section,” he smiled.
Sebastien Ogier opened the road and was third in another Polo R, the Frenchman surprised at how damp the roads were.
Robert Kubica was fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS to climb ahead of Mikko Hirvonen into sixth. All the top drivers opted for Michelin’s hard compound tyres except Kubica, who bucked the trend by fitting soft compound rubber on the rear left.
Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans completed the top six, the Welshman relegating Martin Prokop a place as he climbed to ninth.
Jari-Matti Latvala completed a hat-trick of stage victories on Saturday morning to widen his lead at Rallye de France-Alsace.
He was fastest through both SS9 and SS10 to add to quickest time in the opener, and reached remote service at Colmar with his lead over Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen up to a relatively comfortable 14.8sec.
“On sections I’m familiar with I knew where I could push, but the last stage was new so I had to be careful. It was a demanding stage but I feel I’ve found a good rhythm,” he said.
Mikkelsen was second in SS10 and third in the previous test, but hinted he was prepared to settle for second rather than risk all in pursuit of Latvala.
“I tried to push when I felt comfortable but I was careful in the tricky sections. My main goal is to take third in the championship but it’s something else to fight with Jari-Matti. I’m not taking risks which I need to if I want to fight him,” he said.
Kris Meeke remains third in a Citroen DS3, 31.7sec behind Mikkelsen and 30.9sec clear of Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20. “I tried to consolidate my position because it’s impossible to catch the VWs. If I stick my neck out and try then I will make a stupid mistake,” he said.
Robert Kubica enjoyed an excellent morning in his Ford Fiesta RS. After relegating Mikko Hirvonen in the opener, he demoted Mads Østberg from fifth in SS9, despite clipping a wall and driving 15km with the right rear tyre partly off the rim.
He is only 7.3sec behind Sordo and 2.9sec clear of Østberg. Behind seventh-placed Hirvonen is M-Sport team-mate Elfyn Evans, the Welshman demoting Bryan Bouffier in SS10 after passing Martin Prokop two stages earlier.
Thierry Neuville also moved ahead of Prokop into 10th, but the Belgian is far from happy with the handling of his Hyundai i20 in bumpy sections.
Bernardo Sousa took the WRC 2 lead in a Fiesta RRC after Quentin Gilbert lost time with a power steering issue in his Fiesta R5. The gap is just 1.0sec.
Rallye de France-Alsace leader Jari-Matti Latvala extended his winning run during today’s second leg by claiming his fourth consecutive stage victory through the second pass of Vallee de Munster.
He was quickest by 1.9sec from Volkswagen Polo R colleague Sebastien Ogier, and with nearest rival Andreas Mikkelsen 5.4sec down, the Finn extended his lead to 20.2sec.
“I changed the set-up a little bit and the car was slightly nervous on the bumps but on the smooth sections it was really good,” said Latvala.
Mikkelsen felt his car’s suspension was too soft and the Norwegian planned to stiffen the settings ahead of the next test.
The four-car battle for fourth tightened further as Mikko Hirvonen closed on his rivals ahead with fifth fastest time in his Ford Fiesta RS. Less than 14sec cover the quartet, with fifth-placed Robert Kubica also closing on Dani Sordo in front.
“That felt, really, really good,” said Hirvonen. “I made a perfect start to the stage and I hope I can keep that pace going,” said the Finn.
Elfyn Evans spun his Fiesta RS but the Welshman retained eighth ahead of Bryan Bouffier.
The enthralling fight for fourth place at Rallye de France-Alsace lost one of its protagonists when Mads Ostberg dropped time with a transmission problem in the final country stage of Saturday’s second leg.
He had struggled with an oil leak in his Citroen DS3’s rear differential all afternoon and worked on the car before the start of SS12. He checked in late, incurring a time penalty which dropped him to the back of the fighting quartet in seventh.
“I felt it towards the end of SS10 and even more so in the following stage. There was no more oil in the differential and I decided to take a penalty and work on the car otherwise we would not have got through the stage,” said the Norwegian.
Robert Kubica continued his sizzling speed and the Pole’s Ford Fiesta RS was only 0.3sec away from relieving Dani Sordo of fourth. Mikko Hirvonen was 12.6sec further back, the Finn believing he had a slow puncture on the right rear of his Fiesta RS in SS12.
Sebastien Ogier was fastest in both tests in a Volkswagen Polo R, the latter marking his 300th career stage win.
Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala stretched his lead to 25.6sec. With second-placed Andreas Mikkelsen easing his pace, Latvala was able to do likewise. “It was a controlled drive. I know that if I needed to I could push harder, but there’s no need to take any risks,” he said.
Kris Meeke completed SS12 with a front right puncture in his DS3, while Martin Prokop reported a strange noise in the gearbox of his Fiesta RS.
The test was halted for 40 minutes after the first five cars had started to move a course opening car which crashed and was in a dangerous place.
Jari-Matti Latvala moved closer to an elusive maiden asphalt victory after controlling Saturday’s second leg of Rallye de France-Alsace.
He stretched his lead to 28.0sec after winning the opening four special stages in a Volkswagen Polo R and then throttling back as the challenge from team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen subsided.
Latvala won the three morning tests near Colmar, which included roads used in the Tour de France cycle race, before changing his car’s set-up this afternoon. Fastest time on the next stage raised the lead to more than 20sec for the first time, after which Mikkelsen eased up.
Despite his advantage, Latvala will be mindful of August’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland where the Finn led on the final day but threw away his first asphalt success by crashing.
Mikkelsen, in his first full FIA World Rally Championship campaign, has his sights set on third in the series and could achieve that this weekend. Apart from suspension that was too soft this afternoon, the Norwegian had a clear run in his Polo R.
Seb's problems are good for keeping the championship exciting, and I'm happy to see Latvala keeping that battle alive, but it certainly isn't doing my Fantasy roster any favors. Evans' electrical problems certainly didn't help me any either.
The top three drivers at Rallye de France-Alsace were in no mood to take risks during the opening loop of two special stages in Sunday morning’s final leg.
Both tests were new and with the gaps between the trio relatively large, leader Jari-Matti Latvala, second-placed team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke were happy to manage their pace.
“I’m not trying to be aggressive, I’m trying to be clever,” was Latvala’s analysis, while both Mikkelsen and Meeke kept a close watch on each other’s split times and matched their speed accordingly.
Only Mikkelsen posted a top four time in either test and as competitors headed to a regroup in Saverne ahead of a repeat pass, Latvala headed his Volkswagen Polo R colleague by 29.2sec with Meeke a further 25.8sec behind in a Citroen DS3.
Tyre selection was a major talking point. There was no overnight rain but forecasts suggest it is possible later and, with no mid-leg service, drivers’ morning selections must last all day. The choices were varied as crews tried to plan for all conditions.
Robert Kubica’s four soft Michelins were perfect for SS15 and the Pole was quickest to sweep by Dani Sordo into fourth. They were less suitable for SS16 but he was again faster to lead the Spaniard by 8.4sec, despite breaking the front right rim on his Ford Fiesta RS.
Mikko Hirvonen flirted with a ditch but remains sixth ahead of a tense battle between Mads Ostberg and Elfyn Evans for seventh. The Welshman was second in both tests in his Fiesta RS to close to within 0.2sec of the DS3.
Having replaced the rear differential which caused problems yesterday, Ostberg wasn’t comfortable. “The spare differential isn’t the same and it feels a different car,” he said.
Sebastien Ogier was fastest in SS16, the Frenchman conducting a high-speed recce for his attack on Power Stage points in the repeat. But he was not happy with his choice of three hard and three soft compound tyres. “If it stays dry, we won’t have the right tyres,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala secured his maiden asphalt victory when he won Rallye de France Alsace on Sunday.
The Finn led round 11 of the FIA World Rally Championship for all but one of the 18 special stages and headed Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen by 44.8sec. Third went to Kris Meeke in a Citroen DS3, a further 20.5sec behind.
Championship leader Sebastien Ogier won the rally-closing live TV Power Stage to take maximum bonus points in a Polo R. Elfyn Evans claimed two points for second in a Ford Fiesta RS with Latvala taking one.
Jari-Matti Latvala achieved a career-long dream by securing his maiden asphalt win at Rallye de France-Alsace on Sunday.
His 12th FIA World Rally Championship victory was the first by a Finn since four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen triumphed in Italy in 1999. It ensured the fight for the drivers’ title continues to the penultimate round in Spain later this month.
Latvala came close to breaking his asphalt curse in Germany in August but crashed out of the lead on the final morning. He made no mistakes here to lead for all but one of the 18 special stages in a Volkswagen Polo R to win by 44.8sec.
“I was pretty nervous this morning after my mistake in Germany. I had to take that lesson and without that experience I wouldn’t have been able to be as strong today and have belief in myself,” he said.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to win on asphalt and done a lot of work for that and now it has finally come. I’ve been able to take some big steps this year and this is one of the most important,” said Latvala, who was greeted at the end of the final stage by fellow Finn and 1981 world champion Ari Vatanen.
Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen matched Latvala during the first day and led briefly, but settled for second for the third time this year. Kris Meeke was 20.5sec behind in third, taking his fourth podium of the season in a Citroen DS3.
First run in 1957 and included in the European Championship from 1975.
Entered the WRC in 1991 when it was based on the Costa Brava in Lloret de Mar.
Relocated to Salou in 2002 and after being a pure asphalt event, it developed into a mixed surface event in 2010.
Sebastien Loeb dominated the rally, winning every year between 2005 and 2012.
What’s new for 2014
The gravel roads are in the opening leg rather than the final day as in 2013.
Historic rally cars will be displayed in the centre of Salou on Friday before being driven through all Saturday and Sunday’s stages between the two passes of the competitors.