M-Sport Ford World Rally Team have started the year as they mean to go on – leading the FIA World Rally Championships for Manufacturers, Drivers and Co-drivers courtesy of a sixth Rallye Monte-Carlo victory for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, and a resurgent fight-back to sixth place for Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: « This season is going to be closer than ever and we got it off to the perfect start this weekend. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event that everyone wants to win, so to have secured back-to-back victorias here is fantastic; and it doesn’t get much better than leading all three championships. Sébastien and Julien really did have everything under control. We saw mistakes from almost everyone, but they made it count when it mattered. There really is no one stronger when it comes to strategy and it’s no surprise that they have been unbeaten here for the past five years. Elfyn was unlucky to have lost so much time on Thursday evening, but he fought back strongly and could have challenged for fourth place were the conditions more consistent today. Had everything gone to plan, he had the pace to have challenged for the podium this weekend, and he should definitely take encouragement from that. Bryan too had a really solid debut with the Ford Fiesta WRC. Having to change co-driver at the final hour cannot have been easy, but he produced a really intelligent drive and learnt a lot which will give him a good base to build on when he returns to the team in Corsica. »
Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsport, Mark Rushbrook, said: « Congratulations to Sébastien and Julien on another well-deserved victory. It’s the perfect start to the season, and it’s fantastic to see the new Ford Fiesta securing back-to-back victories at an event as prestigious as Rallye Monte-Carlo. The team did a great job battling the adverse stage conditions as well. The work that Malcolm and our teams have done over the winter break is clearly paying dividends and we’ll be working hard with M-Sport to ensure the good results continue throughout the year. »
OGIER AND INGRASSIA RALLYE MONTE-CARLO WINNERS Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia brought their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC home to a fifth consecutive victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo this weekend. Leading from start to finish, the pairing displayed everything needed to conquer the Monegasque event – speed, strategy and a little bit of luck along the way. Securing four stage wins, the Frenchmen were also the masters of strategy – taking an advantage through the most challenging conditions and controlling the lead thereafter. It was another Monte masterclass, and the first step in their championship defence.
Stage performances: SS14: 1st SS15: 8th (+11.7) SS16: 6th (+24.8) SS17: 5th (+8.1)
Sébastien Ogier (1st) said: « We always face tough conditions at Rallye Monte-Carlo but this year they were really extreme. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled so much with the tyre choices, so to have come out on top is fantastic. I think everyone made mistakes this weekend – myself included – but it was almost impossible to have the perfect drive. Luckily we only had some small mistakes and once we had a good gap it was just a case of trying to manage it – but that is never easy in these conditions either! It’s the best way to start the season and I need to congratulate the team because everyone has worked really hard and I know that they will also be super happy with this result. The competition is going to be stronger than ever and we’ve made a strong start which is really important. »
EVANS AND BARRITT SIXTH AT RALLYE MONTE-CARLO Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt recovered sixth place at this weekend’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, but the prestigious event could have yielded so much more. Unlucky to pick up a puncture on the very first stage, the Brits lost more than three minutes to the leading pack but refused to lose focus – following up the disappointment with a resurgent comeback from 16th to sixth. Two stage victories proved that Evans had the pace to challenge for a podium and, had the final-day conditions been more to his liking, fourth place could have been a distinct possibility today – the Welshman ending the rally just over 10 seconds shy.
Stage performances: SS14: 6th (+20.3) SS15: 6th (+6.9) SS16: 2nd (+1.5) SS17: 8th (+10.5)
Elfyn Evans (6th) said: « It’s been a tough edition of the rally this year and we had an especially tough start losing so much time on the very first stage. Over the next few days I think we were there or there abouts in terms of outright speed, but overall there were just too many little errors. When it came to making the smart choices at the right time, we weren’t quite there and that’s what cost us a really good result today. The comforting thing is that the speed is there, but we still need to be better. »
BOUFFIER AND PANSERI EIGHTH AT RALLYE MONTE-CARLO Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri impressed in difficult circumstances this weekend. Rallye Monte-Carlo is challenging at the best of times, but Bouffier was forced into a last-minute co-driver change mere hours before his competitive debut with the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC. When Jerome Degout sustained an injury on the pre-event reconnaissance, Panseri was drafted in fresh from his sixth-place finish at the Dakar Rally. Despite the pairing’s limited preparations, they rarely put a foot wrong and delivered a controlled and intelligent drive to eighth place overall. Having learnt much about the power and performance of the top-specification Fiesta, Bouffier will return to the wheel at the Tour de Corse.
Stage performances: SS14: 8th (+22.8) SS15: 9th (+12.3) SS16: 14th (+1:40.0) SS17: 9th (+25.6)
Bryan Bouffier (8th) said: « Our pre-event preparations may not have been the best, but we certainly did our best and in the end it was all okay. We have had a lot of different conditions this weekend but I have to say that I really enjoyed driving this car in all of them. For sure I have learnt a lot about how the car performs and reacts, but we’re not there yet. It’s a good start and I’m looking forward learning even more when I get back behind the wheel in Corsica. »
ELSEWHERE IN THE TEAM
Teemu Suninen said: « Everyone knows that this is a really challenging rally, but this year it was even more challenging than I was expecting. On Friday we ran wide and had to retire, but a big thanks to the mechanics that repaired the car because we were able to get back on the stages and set some good times. Without the mistake it would have been a really good result, but the most important thing is that I learnt a lot – about the tyre choices and about how to drive in the muddy conditions. Next we go to Sweden with the Ford Fiesta WRC which makes me smile immediately – even just to think about it. We’ll spend a couple of days recovering from this event, and then all of our focus will be on Sweden. »
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION 1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:18:55.5 2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +58.3 3. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:52.0 4. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +4:43.1 5. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4:53.8 6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:54.8 7. Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:57.5 8. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) +7:39.5 9. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen DS3 WRC) +9:06.7 10. Jan Kopecky / Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +16:43.0
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 1. Sébastien Ogier – 26 2. Ott Tänak – 18 3. Jari-Matti Latvala – 17 4. Kris Meeke – 17 5. Thierry Neuville – 14 6. Elfyn Evans – 8 7. Esapekka Lapp – 6 8. Bryan Bouffier – 4 9. Andreas Mikkelsen – 3 10. Craig Breen – 2
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 1. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – 33 2. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC – 33 3. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 18 4. Hyundai Motorsport – 14
Press release M-Sport Ford ; picture Jean-Baptiste Lassaux/Sport-Auto.ch]]>