Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claimed two stage wins during today’s leg on their way to grabbing the overall lead, proving they have already got to grips with their C3 WRC. Forced to retire after breaking a suspension wishbone on the apex of a corner, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm paid a heavy price for a relatively minor mistake.
After fresh snow fell on Thursday morning, Valdrome – Sigottier (20.04km) and Curbans – Piegut (18.47km), the two new stages that stood out in today’s leg, promised to be especially tricky in the many sections left in the shade, deprived of any warming effect of the sun. The Citroën Total World Rally Team therefore decided to opt for four Michelin studded tyres and two soft compound slicks for their cars, in what should have proven to be the right call on tyre choice. However, the cancellation of SS3 (Valdrome – Sigottier) – the iciest of the morning loop’s three stages – seriously compromised the tactics of the team.
Given the situation, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia managed to produce a sublime performance on SS4! Fitted with two studded tyres and two slicks mounted on opposite corners of the car, on a test more suited to a dry tyre set-up, they nonetheless managed to grab the third fastest time, reducing the gap to the leaders in the process. The pair then secured their first stage win in the C3 WRC on SS5, reaching the midday service just 3.4s off the leader. In the afternoon, the six-time world rally champions confirmed how much they relish this unusual event. They collected a second stage win on SS6 to take them into the overall lead, ended day two with a 2.0s lead over their nearest rivals. All of which suggests that they have already formed an effective bond with C3 WRC!
Following the cancellation of the day’s opening stage, which left him to cope with a tyre set-up that had suddenly become unsuited to the conditions, Esapekka Lappi had a slightly harder time of it. However, he remained in the fight for a top-five spot at the end of the first loop. Unfortunately, an impact broke part of the front left-hand suspension on his C3 WRC when action resumed in the afternoon (SS6), forcing him to retire from the leg. He will rejoin tomorrow, determined to keep building on his promising start with the C3 WRC.
The rally heads towards the Champsaur and Dévoluy mountains tomorrow, on what is home territory for Sébastien Ogier. The local favourite will therefore be determined to keep up his good form on the 93.38 kilometres contested on Saturday’s leg (in four stages).
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“We are clearly delighted to reach service in Gap this evening in the overall lead after another tough day of racing, especially in terms of tyre choice. Sébastien and Julien used all of their experience and talent to produce a very controlled performance today, but there is still a long way to go, with plenty of major difficulties ahead. We’re disappointed for Esapekka and Janne, however, who had shown glimpses of real potential. Sadly, their minor mistake had major consequences, but the main thing is that they can rejoin tomorrow and add to their experience.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“Obviously, I’m pleased to end the day leading the rally after another really difficult day, where there were some really significant changes in the conditions and the rhythm from one stage to the next. We perhaps didn’t have the ideal tyre set-up for this afternoon, but we nonetheless managed to cope with that. I’m driving with confidence in the C3 WRC and our strategy of taking an intelligent approach to the rally has paid dividends thus far, since we haven’t made any mistakes at all. I’m going to try and keep it up, especially as tomorrow’s leg looks set to be very tricky again, particularly on Saint Léger Les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“Like several other crews, our tyre strategy was seriously compromised this morning when the first stage was cancelled as it had more or less dictated our choice of going with four studded tyres. Then at the start of the afternoon, I hit something hard on a corner, probably a rock. It immediately broke the suspension wishbone and we were unable to repair it. It’s obviously a shame but we’ll now look to use the rest of the rally to continue to get used to the C3 WRC. We might even try out a few set-up options that we wouldn’t have dared to attempt under normal circumstances.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:37:17.3
2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.0
3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:17.7
4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:25.1
5. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:25.9
6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:47.5
7. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:34.9
8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:33.0