CITROËN FALL FOUL OF PANZERPLATTE
Unfortunately, two punctures picked up in the daunting military base, where tyres are at the mercy of the countless sharp stones, left Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia down in eight position this evening, their hopes of a podium all but gone. Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm ended the day seventh overall, setting a few times that reflected the progress made on the C3 WRC’s tarmac set-up.
The leg involving stages in the Baumholder military base is often decisive – and invariably unforgiving – and can also be something of a lottery. The 2019 rally proved to be no exception to this rule. After a morning loop in the Saarland countryside, where the gaps remained very small, this afternoon’s stages – held on extremely abrasive concrete roads littered with sharp stones that are ordinarily used by tanks from the military base – provided a great deal more drama.
After having vigorously defended their third place on the morning loop, whilst still not being entirely happy with the set-up, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia unfortunately saw their good luck escape them in the afternoon. A slow puncture on the first run on Panzerplatte (41.17km) meant they lost their third position, but they were still just five tenths off the podium and 3.1s off second place. With an improved set-up for the final loop of the day, the French crew held real hopes of regaining a podium spot. Unfortunately, they initially dropped time by stalling on SS14. Then another puncture cost them more than 1m 30s on the repeat of Panzerplatte, a bitter blow after recording a positive first split. Down in eighth overall this evening, the six-time world champions will now focus on trying to score as many points as possible.
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm made a strong start this morning, claiming the second fastest time on SS9, just 0.5s off the lead pace, and closing to within just 4.6s of sixth place. However, on the next stage, the Finns were slightly late on the brakes on a dirty section at a junction and ended in a spin that cost them 20.1s. Although they dropped to eighth place, they didn't lose heart, setting another second fastest time on the next stage.
They also used the rest of the leg to work with the team on the set-up of the C3 WRC for future events. Work that saw them record a decent fifth fastest time on the second pass on Panzerplatte (+9.9s over 41.17km).
With 79.50 kilometres of timed stages still to go, including two runs on Grafschaft (28.06km) through the Mosel vineyards, Sunday will be no stroll in park on what is set to be an unusually long final leg.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“The outcome is harsh on Sébastien and Julien, who once again showed extraordinary fighting spirit. Clearly, they were unlucky in falling victim to the very unpredictable nature of the Panzerplatte stage. Esapekka and Janne managed to show the progress made with the C3 WRC in flashes. As our chances of a strong finish have been dealt a serious blow, we’re now going to run some in-competition testing to try and keep improving the set-up of the car, because we obviously want to do better.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“Obviously, it’s been a frustrating day. We all knew that the Baumholder military base was something of a lottery and unfortunately, over the last couple of years, I haven't picked the winning numbers. It’s even more of a shame because the car had improved and I was managing to get it to turn into the corners better.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“It was a long and hard day, but we managed to improve the car on this surface, even though we had trouble with the grip on Panzerplatte. It was nevertheless better on the second loop. It’s not enough just yet but we are going to keep moving in this direction.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:27:21.9
- Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +32.4
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.8
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:10.8
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:35.2
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:37.3
- Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:43.1
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:09.7
- Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:02.6
media.citroenracing.com Photo credit: @World
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