M-Sport have had a strong start to their 2017 FIA World Rally Championship campaign – Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak both in podium position after the first full day of competition at this weekend’s Rallye Monte-Carlo.
It took no less than two competitive stages for the all-new EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC to claim its first stage victory – Ott Tänak taking the privilege through the first pass of ‘Agnieres En Devoluy – Le Motty’ (SS3).
By the seventh speed test, M-Sport had also become the first manufacturer to secure a stage one-two as Ogier claimed his first fastest time for the Cumbrian squad ahead of team mate Tänak.
As well as having two cars in podium position, the team have also brought all three Fiesta WRCs home to the end of the first day without issue – something Team Principal Malcolm Wilson was quick to praise.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’re in a fantastic position, and that is thanks to every single member of our team. I can’t even begin to explain how much time and effort has been put into this project and we have all three cars at the end of the first day without issue.
“Sébastien was a little unlucky today. I think everyone knows that the Fiesta is new to him and with very limited seat time we have some work to do before he feels completely comfortable. But he certainly showed his class today. After losing 40 seconds this morning, he’s back up to second and just 45 seconds adrift of the lead.
“I think Ott surprised himself today. He came here with a plan to focus on his own rally. He has done that, and has felt extremely comfortable in the car which has yielded some very positive results. And I’m sure that being the first man to secure a stage win with this new car put a smile on his face.
“We’ve had a great start to the rally, and whatever happens, the team can be extremely proud of what they have achieved.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA: SECOND OVERALL AFTER EIGHT STAGES
The four-time World Champions may be the masters of Rally Monte-Carlo, but it was always going to take time for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia to develop a relationship with the Ford Fiesta WRC. With limited seat time prior to the event, the French pairing has had to find their way in competition, and have done so admirably.
The morning did not start as planned – becoming stuck in a ditch 2.5 kilometres into the first test of the morning (SS3) and losing 40 seconds to the leading pack. The set-back relegating them to eighth place overall, but they fought-back brilliantly.
Despite not being 100 percent comfortable with the set-up, the team made some positive steps over the second loop which allowed Ogier to post two fastest stage times en route to second place overall – hinting at the potential he and the Fiesta could possess once fully synchronised.
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“It’s been a tough day with some very difficult conditions which were made all the more challenging as the first car on the road. We had a moment this morning which certainly wasn’t the start that we were looking for, but things got better this afternoon.
“I wasn’t completely happy with the set-up over the opening loop, but we made some positive steps with that this afternoon. We still have some work to do to feel completely comfortable, but we are getting there step by step.
“We have had such a warm welcome into the team. Everyone is working extremely hard and we can see how much they want to succeed. We want to deliver that and a podium would be a really good start. For the moment, we’ll continue as we are and see what tomorrow brings.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA: THIRD OVERALL AFTER EIGHT STAGES
Known for his blistering speed, Ott Tänak has not disappointed alongside new co-driver Martin Järveoja. Rising to the challenge, the pairing had the privilege of posting the Ford Fiesta WRC’s first ever stage victory on the day’s opening speed test (SS3) and followed that with a string of highly competitive stage times.
Currently holding third place overall, the Estonians are thoroughly enjoying the challenges and adapting to their new surrounding brilliantly – never out of the top-three on individual stage times all day.
They came here with a plan – to drive their own rally and learn as much as they could. They’ve done that, and it’s yielded some very positive results thus far.
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“It’s been a tricky day with some difficult conditions and, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting to be in this position on this rally. Of course the car felt really good in testing and we were quietly confident but you never really know until you’re out there competing against everyone else.
“We planned to come here and find a good, consistent rhythm and that is what we’ve done. The partnership with Martin is working really well and we’ve both felt really comfortable in the car.
“The car is handling almost exactly as I would like it to and we’re just enjoying every minute of it. There is a little work to do before we are 100 percent where we want to be, but this is a very good start.”
ELSEWHERE: IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
Elsewhere in the M-Sport Team, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas hold fourth place in the WRC 2 category.
The pairing were well within touching distance of achieving their goal of a podium position before running wide on a left hand corner through the second pass of ‘Aspres Les Corps – Chaillol’ (SS7).
Becoming stuck in a ditch, 25 kilometres into the stage, they lost four minutes to the leading pack. But with just 29.4 seconds separating them from third position, there remains all to play for on an event where anything can happen.
Éric Camilli (4th WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a really tricky day today and we struggled to get into a comfortable rhythm this morning. I was way too cautious in the slippery conditions because that is where I made my mistake in the world rally car last year. For sure we could have gone faster, but we also wanted to finish the day without a problem.
“Because of that, it was really disappointing to lose so much time this afternoon. We ran wide on a left-hand corner and it took us a long time to get back on the road. But this is Rallye Monte-Carlo. We’re only 30 seconds from the podium and anything can happen so our target is still within reach.”
ELSEWHERE: IN THE SERVICE PARK
Elsewhere in the Service Park, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt hold eighth place overall behind the wheel of their DMACK-clad Ford Fiesta WRC.
Struggling in the slippery conditions, the Welshman lost time but there were moments which proved his potential.
When the grip levels were higher, Evans was right on the pace. For the first 5.7 kilometres of SS5, the dry Tarmac saw him just 0.8 seconds adrift of Ott Tänak – the fastest man through that particular section.
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2:05:24.6
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.1
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.4
4. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:09.7
5. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +2:57.8
6. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen DS3 WRC) +3:04.1
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Škoda Fabia R5) +5:50.8
8. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +8:12.1
9. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5) +8:22.4
10. Jan Kopecky / Pavel Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +8:38.2