Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s stubborn, never-say-die attitude helped them secure their third podium of season in Corsica and the fourth top-three finish in as many races this year for Citroën Total World Rally Team. Their hard-earned second place took them to within two points of the top of the drivers’ world championship.Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm finished seventh overall, both helping to consolidate Citroën’s second place in the manufacturers’ standings and racking up important miles in the C3 WRC at an all-asphalt event.
Beginning the day with just a 5.1s lead over their closest challengers, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia immediately secured third place by extending their advantage to almost thirty seconds by the end of SS13, the first and longest stage (31.85km) of the day. On the Power Stage, contested in the idyllic setting of Fango valley, with the crystal blue water of the Mediterranean forming a magnificent backdrop, the French crew once again showcased their fighting spirit to grab the fifth fastest time and collect a bonus point, whilst an unexpected final-stage incident resulted in them being promoted to second position. They therefore closed to within just two points of the world championship leader, meaning they won’t be opening the road at the next round of the WRC, in Argentina (25-28 April).
Having struggled with some set-up issues on the opening leg, and unable to make proper corrections due to there being no mid-leg service, the six-time world champions made the best of the situation by ending the day sixth overall, just 10.2s adrift of fourth place. They then produced a heroic effort the next day on both runs on the brand new Castagniccia stage. They used all of their attacking instincts on the dirty, worn roads and their ability to have good pace notes for the first pass at full speed, managing to grab the third fastest time on the first run and then the second fastest time on the repeat. These two performances in particular enabled them to move onto the podium with just the short final stage to go.
In finishing as runners-up in the C3 WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claimed their third podium this year from four races. Citroën Total World Rally Team has now finished on one of the top two steps of the podium in all four events this season, with wins at Monte-Carlo and Mexico (Ogier-Ingrassia), and second places in Sweden (Lappi-Ferm) and Corsica. The Satory team has thus consolidated its second place in the manufacturers’ world championship standings.
Also struggling with the set-up of their C3 WRC, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm quickly found themselves in a situation where their hopes of making up ground were remote. They therefore decided to use the remaining kilometres to run through a range of set-up options on the C3 WRC and add to their experience in the car on tarmac. Their persistence was nonetheless rewarded with a seventh place finish, which also provided a worthwhile contribution to the overall team result.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“In terms of points, it’s a good result, scoring nineteen points at a difficult round. On the other hand, we really suffered in terms of pure performance. We need to understand why, so that we don’t have the same problem again on this surface, on which the C3 WRC had performed well previously. In any case, I’m pleased to have managed to get the most out of the car I had and also that I don’t have to open the road on gravel in Argentina.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“We all had high hopes coming into this round, so obviously we can’t be satisfied with this result. We were short on performance and suffered quite a lot of understeer throughout the weekend. We’re going to work hard to put things right for the next rounds on tarmac, in Germany and then in Spain. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting back on gravel in Argentina.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
How would you assess this Tour de Corse?
In terms of points, it was a good result, as we have consolidated second position in the standings for both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships. However, obviously, we can’t be satisfied with our performance level this weekend. We were missing something, somewhere, throughout the weekend. We’ll now analyse everything in detail so that we get to the bottom of this drop in form and ensure we return to the level of competitiveness we had previously on tarmac at the rounds in Germany and Spain. I would nonetheless like to pay tribute to the reaction of my team in this difficult situation. They never let up, working hard to try and find every possible solution for our crews. We improved during the weekend and it’s by maintaining this attitude that we’ll keep making progress and coming back even stronger.
How would you describe the performance of your crews?
The sign of a true champion is managing to produce performances even when some of the ingredients you need to be competitive are missing. Securing a result like this at a difficult weekend is how you win championships and Sébastien and Julien know this all too well. Once again, they showed their remarkable ability and never-say-die attitude. This podium is above all down to them. They really nailed it with their performances on Castagniccia, whilst remaining incredibly consistent on the other stages. Esapekka and Janne have nothing to be ashamed of either, but for the time being they just lack experience in this kind of situation. I’m convinced, however, that as soon as we give them a good car, they will start producing the kind of speed that we know that they are capable of.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND
Former WRC driver and safety crew driver for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Simon Jean-Joseph looked back at the French crew’s performances on the two runs on the Castagniccia stage during Saturday’s leg.
“For us, as safety crew, the two runs on Castagniccia were really the only two tests this weekend where we had quite a lot of corrections to make. Apart from their obvious talent, combined with the fighting spirit and determination of Seb and Julien, I think one of their real strengths comes from their incredibly precise system of pace notes. In dirty and tricky conditions like these, they have very subtle variations in describing the road, which gives them a sense of security and enables them to show off their full potential. For the safety crews, it’s then a question of having a good feeling for things, adding corrections in the right place without overloading the notes. But it’s then a real feat for Julien to manage to convey all the subtle differences, given the speed at which they run through the stages, and for Seb to manage to take it all in.”
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1.Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:22:59.0
2.Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +40.3
3.Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:06.6
4.Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:18.4
5.Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.6
6.Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:40.0
7.Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:09.1
8.Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:39.2
9.Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:06.3
10.Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6:44.6
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1.Thierry Neuville – 82 points
2.Sébastien Ogier – 80 points
3.Ott Tänak – 77 points
4.Elfyn Evans – 43 points
5.Kris Meeke – 42 points
6.Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
7.Sébastien Loeb – 22 points
8.Dani Sordo – 16 points
9.Jari-Matti Latvala – 15 points
10.Teemu Suninen – 14 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1.Hyundai WRT – 114 points
2.Citroën Total WRT – 102 points
3.Toyota Gazoo Racing – 98 points
4.M-Sport Ford WRT – 70 points