WRC'15 Rally France-Tour de Corse Oct 1-4 talk/results spoiler**
Rnd 11 WRC France - Tour de Corse Oct 1-4
Tight and twisty mountain roads are often bordered on one side by a rock face and on the other by a steep drop into the sea.
Rough and abrasive asphalt places high demands on tyres.
Many crews have not previously tackled the rally so must write all-new pace notes.
Narrow roads mean errors can be punished heavily.
France's WRC round was held on the stunning island of Corsica from 1973 to 2008.
Never-ending sequences of turns earned the event the nickname "The Rally of 10,000 Corners".
After a year?s absence due to rotation, the rally moved to the Alsace region of the French mainland in 2010.
What's new for 2015
Everything! The WRC has not been to Corsica since 2008.
Robert Kubica was fastest in a rain-soaked shakedown at Tour de Corse - Rallye de France on Thursday morning.
The Pole was quickest on his first run through the 3.88km stage from Corte to Poggio di Venaco in a Ford Fiesta RS. He then upped his pace to go even faster on the third of his four passes on the slippery uphill asphalt.
Kubica missed the previous round in Australia in favour of testing, but admitted his preparations could count for little if the forecast for torrential rain in tomorrow’s opening leg materialises.
“We tested here two weeks ago and did a small test in Italy before coming here, but in completely different conditions. Heavy rain is predicted for tomorrow and it will be a big challenge just to stay on the road. So my confidence isn’t really high, but it’s the same for everyone. It will be a big day if the heavy rain comes,” he said.
Kris Meeke was second in Citroen’s DS 3, 0.8sec behind, with Jari-Matti Latvala another five-tenths adrift in third in a Volkswagen Polo R.
Sebastien Ogier was fourth, 1.6sec slower than Kubica. The world champion completed five runs, eager to sample the Corsican roads after the cancellation of his pre-event test when Latvala crashed their shared Polo R.
Spain’s Dani Sordo, who won in Corsica three years ago when the rally was a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, was fifth. Mads Ostberg, recovering from fractured ribs after a recce crash in Australia, tied with Kevin Abbring in sixth.
Corsica returns to the WRC for the first time since 2008 and drivers grabbed the opportunity to gain experience of the demanding mountain roads. Most frontrunners completed four passes, with Kubica among several who joined Ogier in doing five runs.
Robert Kubica and Sebastien Ogier were tied at the top of the Tour de Corse - Rallye de France leaderboard after Friday’s opening special stage near Ajaccio.
Torrential overnight rain ensured tricky conditions and although the weather cleared in time for the start, ‘caution’ was the most-used word from the leading drivers at the end of the 29.12km test.
“It wasn’t easy and I was cautious. Nobody wants to push hard in these conditions but if you do push, it will really make a difference in times,” said Volkswagen Polo R driver Ogier, who was first to start the stage.
Kubica started much further down the order on dirtier roads. Although he was right on the pace in his Ford Fiesta RS, he struggled to keep his temper intact at the finish.
“Before the stage we had a bit of an issue and I was upset. I didn’t have the right set-up and the car was understeering. We had to fix other problems before the stage so we weren’t really pushing. I’ve already said too much,” said the cryptic Pole, who refused to elaborate.
Jari-Matti Latvala was third in his Polo R, 5.8sec off the lead, with Dani Sordo fourth in a Hyundai i20, the Spaniard reporting understeer towards the finish.
Mads Ostberg was next up in Citroen’s DS3, the Norwegian reporting no major problems from the rib injury that ruled him out of the previous round in Australia. “The adrenalin from driving is fixing the pain,” he said.
The one big name missing at the stop line was Thierry Neuville. The Belgian retired just 1.2km after the start after hitting a bridge and breaking the rear suspension of his i20.
Elfyn Evans was the shock leader after Friday’s truncated opening leg of Tour de Corse – Rallye de France in which appalling weather forced the cancellation of one speed test.
The Welshman, who has endured a torrid recent run, won the last stage in his Ford Fiesta RS to leap from sixth to first. He was 18.7sec clear of another surprise package, Kevin Abbring, with Jari-Matti Latvala completing the top three a further 4.2sec behind.
More than 24 hours of heavy rain flooded parts of the Corsican countryside. Rivers burst their banks and torrents of water poured down the craggy mountains as a medicane, a rare weather phenomenon similar to a tropical storm, hit the Mediterranean island.
The opening stage near Ajaccio ran without interruption, but as the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship headed north to Corte conditions worsened. The 43.69km second stage was cancelled as storm debris littered the narrow, twisty asphalt roads.
The third and final stage was held as planned but conditions were dreadful. Drivers battled streaming water, mud and damaged roads and simply surviving was an achievement.
But Evans excelled to lead a WRC event for the first time and paid tribute to his route note crew, father and former British champion Gwyndaf and 2003 world champion co-driver Phil Mills, who provided advice on conditions before Evans tackled the stages.
“I’m a bit surprised,” he admitted. “The first stage was difficult, but not due to the conditions as it had dried a lot. In the last stage I had a good rhythm but when there’s that much water, gravel and dirt you concentrate on staying on the road rather than attacking.”
Abbring is driving only his second asphalt event in a World Rally Car and second fastest time in the last stage promoted his Hyundai i20 from seventh to second.
Latvala adopted a risk-free policy in his Volkswagen Polo R to head Citroen’s Mads Ostberg in fourth by 15.9sec. The Norwegian reported no ill-effects from the rib injury that ruled him out of the previous round in Australia.
Robert Kubica shared the lead with Sebastien Ogier after the opening test, despite being unhappy with his Fiesta RS’ set-up. But the Pole slipped to fifth, 1.5sec behind Ostberg and 2.8sec clear of previous Corsica winner Stephane Sarrazin.
Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh after struggling with his car’s brakes, with Kris Meeke, Bryan Bouffier and Ogier completing the leaderboard. Ogier plunged down the order after changing a rear-left puncture in SS3 after showing stunning pace early in the test.
Dani Sordo dropped two minutes after hitting a rock and puncturing, but Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville encountered worse. He hit a bridge 1.2km into the first test and retired with broken rear right suspension.
After overnighting in Bastia, competitors face three stages tomorrow covering 128.58km. This afternoon’s cancelled test begins the action and is followed by a repeat of the final test and a monster 48.46km stage, the longest of the event.
Jari-Matti Latvala rocketed to fastest time through Saturday morning’s opening stage at Tour de Corse - Rallye de France to climb to second and slash overnight leader Elfyn Evans advantage to just 1.7sec.
Following the cancellation of the opening stage due to flood damage from Friday’s storms, drivers faced just a repeat of yesterday’s final test before service in Corte.
Clear skies and sun meant exposed sections of the mountain roads were dry with good grip, but in the shade there was a slimy layer of dirt. Most drivers opted for Michelin’s soft compound tyres but felt conditions were worse than yesterday.
“It was more difficult because there was a bigger contrast between the grippy and slippery sections,” explained Latvala. “I had a couple of small moments, it was so, so slippery under the trees. Evans was fast on this stage yesterday so I knew I had to up my pace.”
Evans was 21.2 sec slower in seventh in his Ford Fiesta RS and echoed Latvala’s thoughts. “It was really tough. It’s like there is a film on the road,” said the Welshman.
Andreas Mikkelsen was second fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R to leap from seventh to third, 27.8sec off the lead and 1.3sec ahead of Kevin Abbring. The Dutchman dropped from second in his Hyundai i20, admitting his choice of hard tyres was a mistake.
“I don’t think hard tyres were much slower but the middle 15km were worse than I expected and I couldn’t get enough heat into the rubber,” said Abrring, who drove on a slow puncture for the final 7km.
Fourth fastest enabled Citroen’s Kris Meeke to leap from eighth to fifth, 4.5sec ahead of team-mate Mads Ostberg, who regretted changing his DS 3’s set-up in the expectation of better grip.
Robert Kubica retired from fifth with two punctures and just one spare wheel in his Fiesta RS, while Stephane Sarrazin dropped a place to seventh after lacking power in his similar car.
Jari-Matti Latvala overcame a late gearbox problem to edge ahead of Elfyn Evans and lead the Tour de Corse - Rallye de France after Saturday’s second leg.
Latvala switched to the manual gearshift system in his Volkswagen Polo R during the final speed test. Although that cost time, the Finn did enough to end the penultimate leg 2.0sec clear of surprise pacesetter Evans.
Storm damage forced the cancellation of the opening stage for a second day. But Latvala rocketed through the next test to slash Evans’ 22.9sec overnight advantage to just 1.7sec, before gaining the initiative in the final 48.46km stage near Corte, the longest of the rally.
“I had a problem with the gearbox shifting down and lost my rhythm,” said Latvala. “It was difficult under braking because I couldn’t trust the gears. I had to use the manual shift but we got through and now we need to change the gearbox.”
Evans, chasing a maiden WRC win in his Ford Fiesta RS, wasn’t as confident as yesterday. “I didn’t have the same rhythm. I went well in some places but not in others and it was difficult to be confident, but it’s all still to play for tomorrow,” he said.
Yesterday’s downpours were replaced by sunshine, leaving exposed mountain roads dry this morning while those in the shade were covered by a slippery layer of slime. The contrast in grip was greater than in persistent rain and conditions proved equally as difficult.
Andreas Mikkelsen catapulted from seventh to third in a Polo R, which understeered through the last stage. He was 30.8sec off the lead and 22.8sec ahead of Kris Meeke, who followed him up the leaderboard from eighth to fourth in Citroen’s DS 3.
Kevin Abbring, second last night, dropped to fifth in his Hyundai i20. He admitted his gamble of hard tyres this morning was a mistake, compounded by a slow puncture, and the Dutchman felt his afternoon set-up was too conservative.
Sixth was Mads Ostberg, the Norwegian losing time this morning when his DS 3 was set-up for drier conditions. Hayden Paddon, Bryan Bouffier, Stephane Sarrazin, who lost turbo boost and bent a steering arm, and Ott Tšnak completed the leaderboard.
Sebastien Ogier, who retired late last night with a gearbox problem, restarted in 55th place and won the final stage en route to 24th.
After an overnight halt in Porto-Vecchio, Sunday’s final leg comprises three more stages covering 94.91km, now the longest of the rally. The final 16.74km test from Bisinao to Agosta Plage comprises the live TV Power Stage with bonus points for the fastest three drivers.
Jari-Matti Latvala extended his lead of Tour de Corse – Rallye de France through a surprisingly damp opening stage of Sunday’s third and final leg.
The Volkswagen Polo R driver was second in the 36.71km test from Sotta to Chialza behind team-mate Sebastien Ogier. But he was 15.6sec quicker than second-placed Elfyn Evans to widen his lead to 17.6sec with two stages remaining.
Conditions on the east of the island near Porto-Vecchio were surprisingly damp and Latvala, like many, was uncertain if his soft compound Michelin rubber was the correct option.
“At the beginning it was dry but under the trees it was damp. I don’t know if the tyres were too hot but it was very slippery in places, with a lot of gravel on the road. I didn’t really know if my time was going to be good or not but it seems OK in the end,” explained Latvala.
Evans was sixth in his Ford Fiesta RS and also found the roads tricky. “My notes were a bit too safe in places but they were difficult conditions,” said the Welshman.
He conceded more than eight seconds to Andreas Mikkelsen, whose third fastest time completed a 1-2-3 for Volkswagen and enabled him to close to within 20.7sec of Evans.
“We made the wrong tyre choice earlier so I changed them before the start,” said Mikkelsen. “So we started on cold rubber with hard compounds on the front and softs on the rear. Sometimes we had oversteer and sometimes it was understeer.”
Dani Sordo was fourth in a Hyundai i20 and that promoted the Spaniard two places up the order to ninth, relegating Stephane Sarrazin and Ott Tanak. Robert Kubica completed the top five in the stage, opening the road after returning under Rally 2 rules following yesterday’s retirement with a double puncture.
Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen piled the pressure on Elfyn Evans through Sunday’s penultimate special stage of Tour de Corse – Rallye de France in their fight for second.
In conditions that were as tricky as the previous test, Mikkelsen was 10.9sec faster than the Welshman in his Volkswagen Polo R and the pair will start the final live TV Power Stage separated by 9.8sec.
“I had to go easy on the brakes near the end but it was a clean stage. We’re not taking any risks and keeping it in a good place, but I’m not sure if we can catch Evans,” said Mikkelsen.
Evans shook his head as he crossed the finish in his Ford Fiesta RS. “Conditions are so good in places but in others they’re much worse than I expected. We had quite a few slides so that knocked my confidence. Andreas has been driving really well today and maybe I haven’t been so good,” he said.
Fourth fastest for Jari-Matti Latvala enabled the Finn to widen his lead over Evans to 32.7sec. “The first 10km were difficult, with changing grip all the time. There was a really nice part in the middle but the final section was demanding again. I stayed cool and took no big risks,” he said.
Kevin Abbring’s excellent run on only his second asphalt event in a World Rally Car ended when the Dutchman crashed out of fifth 11.6km into the test.
Fastest time went to Dani Sordo, his Hyundai i20 3.2sec clear of Sebastien Ogier. Third fastest for Hayden Paddon allowed the Kiwi to leapfrog Mads Ostberg into fifth. “I felt like I had a good stage but I have no chance to defend my position,” said the Norwegian.
SS9: Power Stage - BREAKING NEWS: Latvala repeats French victory
Jari-Matti Latvala scored back-to-back French WRC victories by winning the Tour de Corse – Rallye de France on Sunday.
The Finn scored his maiden asphalt triumph in 2014 in the Alsace region of France, and followed up with his second sealed surface success on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Latvala, driving a Volkswagen Polo R, beat Elfyn Evans’ Ford Fiesta RS by 43.1sec after three days of action on twisty and narrow mountain roads. Andreas Mikkelsen finished third in another Polo R, a further 3.2sec behind.
World champion Sebastien Ogier won the final live TV Power Stage in a Polo R to claim three bonus points. Robert Kubica took two points in second in a Fiesta RS and Latvala took the final point.
Next Rnd 11 - WRC Spain - RACC Catalunya Oct 22-25
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 2015
Seven new stages raises the total to 23.
No mid-leg service in Friday’s opening leg.
Duesaigues replaces Riudecanyes as Sunday’s live TV Power Stage
Watch at the famous El Molar hairpin on Saturday. After a long straight, cars negotiate a tight hairpin right before accelerating away down another straight. Huge crowds and a great atmosphere.
The service park is based at PortAventura theme park. Drop in for a ride on Europe’s tallest and fastest roller coasters.