CITROËN REMAINS COMMITTED DESPITE DIFFICULTIES
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made the perfect start in winning the opening stage, but unfortunately then suffered a hydraulic failure that dashed any realistic hopes of victory. Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were forced to retire from the rally altogether with an engine related issue. It was a tough day for a team that came to Spain determined to fight all the way.
The only mixed-surface event on the WRC calendar, Rally de España began today on gravel with the weekend’s longest leg, featuring one hundred and thirty kilometres of competitive stages. The highlight was expected to be two runs on the stage formerly known as Terra Alta, renamed La Fatarella – Vilalba (38.85km). The stage includes several kilometres on very technical, tarmac roads, but is contested with gravel tyres and can therefore prove decisive.
An astute tyre choice (four medium and one hard Michelin tyres), designed to compensate for the disadvantage of running second on these cleaning, gravel roads, helped Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia win the opening stage. There could be no doubt that the pair were determined to defend their title right to the end. However, a hydraulics issue at the start of SS2 meant they lost the car’s power steering, and shortly afterwards the steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles, thus dropping more than three and half minutes by the end of the morning loop. The Citroën Total World Rally Team mechanics once again showed tremendous endeavour, managing to repair their C3 WRC during the forty-five minute mid-leg service, enabling the French crew to get back on the roads in the afternoon. This evening, the six-time world champions lie 17th overall and will now try to move back up into the points.
Gradually improving their pace here in Spain, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm made it to the mid-leg service among the frontrunners, just 12s behind the leader. Citroën’s two Finns had even moved to within just 4s of the podium when unfortunately they suffered an engine related issue, leaving them with no choice but to retire from the rally altogether.
As the action now switches to tarmac for the next two days, the mechanics achieved the minor feat during this evening’s service of converting the cars to the right configuration in just an hour and a quarter. Over to the crews now, who will have to tackle the 121.72 kilometres of timed stages on smooth and flowing circuit-like tarmac roads.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“Obviously, it’s been a very tough day. It’s hard to take after all the work that has been put in by the members of the team in order to be in the best possible shape for this rally. Although it’s real blow, it’s not totally over yet in the championship for Sébastien and Julien. Obviously, in due course, we’ll learn the lessons from what's happened today, but for now we all remain united and committed in this difficult moment.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“I lost the power steering pretty much at the start of SS2, then the gearshift paddles went and finally the central differential. It was so hard physically to drive the car without power steering, I ended up with blisters on my hands. Obviously, it’s disappointing because the intention was there. We made the right call on tyres and the time on the opening stage confirmed the good feeling we had. Everyone in the team is disappointed this evening, but obviously we’re professionals and our approach has always been to never give up and see where we are at the end of the rally.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“I'm disappointed that my rally has come to a premature end, especially as I had enjoyed a pretty solid and consistent day up to that point, in terms of pace. The gaps were small and we were up for the fight, because I felt comfortable in my C3 WRC. I will now look forward to Australia and finishing the season on a high with the best possible result.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
- Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:21:24.7
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1.7
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7.6
- Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.0
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.7
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +30.1
- Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +44.0
- Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.8
- Katsuta / Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:50.3
- Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +2:59.8 (1st RC2 & WRC2Pro)
17. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +4:01.4
media.citroenracing.com Photo credit: @World
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CITROËN TOTAL WRT 2019 SEASON PRESS KIT:
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