Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia enjoyed yet another brilliant opening leg, making up for the handicap of running first on the road by pushing hard at every opportunity and ending the day fifth overall, just 3s off the podium. Equally comfortable in their C3 WRC, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were on course to record a similarly impressive performance but were stopped in their tracks when one of their tyres came loose. They nonetheless end the day within striking distance of sixth place.
Despite being contested on stages in the Arganil region that were new to the entire current generation of crews, this very short opening leg (94.50km) turned into something of a sprint. It must be said that the stakes were high, with today’s opening leg deciding the running order for tomorrow, the rally’s longest day. The challenge looked set to be tough for the crews, with the stages contested in stifling heat and on roads where grip levels improve dramatically with each passing car.
Obliged to open the road as championship leaders, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia came through the testing circumstances remarkably well. Sixth overall at the mid-leg point, having limited the damage incredibly well, the six-time world champions did even better in the afternoon loop. The only crew to take two medium compound Michelin tyres along with three hards, whilst their rivals opted for five hards, their gamble paid off. They were second fastest on SS5 and then third on SS6, ending the leg fifth overall, only 3s adrift of the podium places. They will therefore start in seventh position tomorrow and should be able to continue to challenge at the front.
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm also made a promising start to their weekend, where they contested their maiden rally in a WRC in 2017. They were sixth overall after SS2, just 2.3s off fourth place. However, unfortunately, one of their tyres came loose on landing after a crest and resulted in them losing more than a minute (SS3). There were also unlucky in the afternoon, held up on SS5 in particular and unable to push as they would have liked due to dust kicked up ahead by a delayed competitor, but the crew were subsequently credited with part of the time lost. They nonetheless showed good form, with a third fastest time on SS6, just 3.2s off the lead pace. This evening, the two Finns lie 8s off sixth place and are determined to make the most of their fourth place in the running order tomorrow to keep making progress.
With a competitive distance of 160.70 kilometres (in six stages), day two includes two runs on Amarante (37.60km), the longest stage of the weekend. The crews also return to more familiar stages, regularly contested in recent years. Roads where the sandy ground tends to break up significantly on the second pass…
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal : “Given how much the roads clean here, Sébastien and Julien produced another impressive performance today. They probably could not have hoped to do much better, really. It certainly augurs well for the rest of the rally, where they should enjoy conditions that will make it easier for them to fight for the leading places. Esapekka and Janne were also showing promising pace and were clearly unlucky with the tyre coming loose. Their feeling and their confidence in the C3 WRC still improved constantly and I have high hopes they can continue to show that tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver : “I’m pleased with what we managed to do in the really tough conditions we had today in opening the road, especially on the first stage of the loop. If you’d offered me fifth position at the end of day one before the start, I’d have bitten your hand off! The gap to Ott is already pretty big, but the second-placed crew is not that far ahead. We’re now going to try our very best to catch them. Day two will be very long and probably very rough but we’ll give it everything.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver : “We were unlucky with the puncture but I’m pleased to see that we are a lot more competitive here than at the previous rounds. We’re moving in the right direction, especially as I’m now starting to feel that we can do even better. That’s our aim for the rest of the rally: focus on our race, undoubtedly fight with Teemu, whilst trying to keep out of trouble.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:03:26.7
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.3
- Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +22.8
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +24.2
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.8
- Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:15.7
- Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:22.1
- Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:23.7
- Veiby / Andersson (VW Polo R5) +3:45.2
- Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +3:49.3
Press release Citroën Racing