M-Sport’s Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC secured its third double podium of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship at this weekend’s Rally Argentina and remains the only manufacturer to have secured a top-three result at every event so far this year.
Across every surface, the Fiesta has proven itself to be a worthy contender and excelled through the challenging terrain of this weekend’s event – Elfyn Evans, Ott Tänak and Sébastien Ogier finishing in second, third and fourth places respectively.
Evans may have missed out on victory by the cruellest of margins – just 0.7 seconds – but the team will take strength from an impressive performance this weekend. Out of the 18 stages contested, the Fiesta set the fastest time on 11 occasions – an achievement made even greater with all three drivers adding to the tally.
Victory may have slipped away, but M-Sport continues to lead both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ standings and will be keen to deliver another strong performance when the championship reconvenes in Portugal next month.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “It’s disappointing to have missed out on victory by such a small margin, but we have to look to the positives. We’ve secured our third double podium of the year, retained our lead at the head of both championships and remain the only manufacturer to have secured a podium at every event so far – that’s some achievement.
“To have all three cars in the top-four at an event as demanding as this one is a credit to the whole team and just goes to show what a strong package we have produced. You only have to look at the stage times to see how competitive we have been all weekend, and it was great to see all three drivers adding to that tally.
“Elfyn will be disappointed for sure, but he delivered an incredible drive this weekend – a real coming of age performance. Considering the issues he had this morning, it’s amazing to think how close it was in the end.
“When everything was working well, no one could touch him and that should give him a lot of confidence going forward. Like Ott, his first victory won’t be far away.”
EVANS AND BARRITT SECOND OVERALL AT RALLY ARGENTINA
Having led the event for two full days, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were deprived of a maiden FIA World Rally Championship victory by the smallest of margins today – missing out on the win by a mere 0.7 seconds.
Starting the day with an 11.5 second advantage, Evans was in a relaxed and confident mood but the rally god’s were to have other ideas.
Encountering a brake issue through the opening speed test, the Welshman did well to lose just 2.5 seconds to a chasing Thierry Neuville. On the second stage however, an ALS issue would see his nine second advantage transformed to just 0.6 seconds.
The Power Stage would decide the outcome of the rally and Evans wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Pushing hard behind the wheel of his DMACK-shod Fiesta, the Welshman gave it everything and was 3.1 seconds up on Neuville at the mid-point split.
But as the dramatic stage continued, Evans started to lose traction in the rear and had to forgo victory by the smallest and cruellest of margins.
Despite the initial disappointment, Evans will take confidence from this weekend’s event. When everything was working well, the Welshman was untouchable and secured more stage victories than any other driver.
Elfyn Evans (2nd) said: “We’ve got mixed emotions at the end of this one. It’s obviously disappointing to have missed out on victory by such a fine margin but it was definitely a rally of two halves.
“Thierry had his own problems on Friday whilst we had a really good day and were able to establish a fairly reasonable lead. But it was a case of role reversal over the next two days.
“Thierry drove really well and no one can take that away from him, but we had a fair amount of problems – some self-inflicted and some not. To be honest, we didn’t have a clean run since the opening stage on Saturday morning so it was a big push to keep the battle so close.
“It’s a long story and I could probably write a list as long as my arm for why we didn’t manage to make it stick this weekend – but all credit to Thierry. He’s driven really well and from our side there are still a lot of positives that we can take away.
“When everything was working well, our speed was really strong. We just need to make sure that we learn from this weekend and come back stronger.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA THIRD OVERALL AT RALLY ARGENTINA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja had a clear strategy for this weekend’s Rally Argentina and executed it perfectly – securing their third podium of the year with third place overall.
Delivering a highly intelligent performance, the Estonians stuck to their game plan. Keeping a check on their speed through the treacherously rough terrain of the opening stages, they then tapped into their reserves through Saturday’s smoother conditions – posting two fastest stage times and climbing from fifth to third.
Embarking on the final day of competition, Tänak was just 15 seconds adrift of second position and got his potential challenge off to the perfect start with the fastest time through the opening stage of the morning.
As the stages became more challenging, the Estonian’s game plan came into play once more. Consolidating his third place and taking three points from the Power Stage, Tänak takes good points away from the weekend and is already looking forward to the next encounters.
Ott Tänak (3rd) said: “It’s been a very good weekend for us. In the past I’ve not been so lucky here so we decided to change the approach and had a clear strategy of what we wanted to do.
“We played it safe through the rough stages on Friday – maybe a bit too safe to be honest as we gave a lot of time away. But since Saturday morning when the conditions became a lot smoother we have been on the pace.
“The guys at the front have been really on it today so we weren’t able to build on third position, but we come away with another podium and some good points so we’re happy with that.
“Coming up next, Portugal is one of my favourite rallies. I’m really excited to get back to Europe and tackle some of the more ‘traditional’ gravel events. We’re in a strong position in both championships and the plan will be to build on that as the season continues.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA FOURTH OVERALL AT RALLY ARGENTINA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were hoping to challenge for their first victory at Rally Argentina this weekend. That might not have come to fruition, but the pairing secured a strong fourth place and vital points for their championship campaign.
Driving well whilst opening the road through the opening day, Ogier was keen to make his move on the podium before a strange feeling in the rear of the car and some unwanted wheel-spin halted a potential charge.
Embarking upon the final day of competition, Ogier focused his attentions on securing his fourth place and taking points from the Power Stage. Mission accomplished, 14 points saw the Frenchman hit triple figures in the drivers’ championship and extend his advantage.
Sébastien Ogier (4th) said: “It’s been a very difficult weekend for us. For much of the rally we’ve had a strange feeling with the car and lacked confidence as a result. For the moment, we’re not sure what is causing the issue so we’ll have to look into that before the next event and ensure we get to the bottom of it.
“Regarding the hard weekend we’ve had, to score 14 points is not too bad and we’re still leading the championship which is the most important thing.”
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) 3:38:10.6
2. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.7
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.9
4. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.7
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:48.1
6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +7:42.7
7. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11:16.9
8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +14:44.1
9. Mads Østberg / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +15:11.3
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +17:32.1
1. Sébastien Ogier – 102
2. Jari-Matti Latvala – 86
3. Thierry Neuville – 84
4. Ott Tänak – 66
5. Dani Sordo – 51
6. Elfyn Evans – 42
7. Craig Breen – 33
8. Hayden Paddon – 33
9. Kris Meeke – 27
10. Juho Hänninen – 15
1. M-Sport World Rally Team – 162
2. Hyundai Motorsport – 140
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC – 99
4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 71