Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul won Rallye de France-Tour de Corse today and in doing so not only claimed their maiden victory of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, but became the fourth different crew, and manufacturer, to climb the top step of the podium in as many events. Recovering from earlier electrical problems, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were able to power back into second, taking the position from Dani Sordo and Marc Martí by just 1.3 seconds.
New manufacturers and regulations, all-new cars and crews in different teams has resulted in one of the most open, competitive and unpredictable championships in years. Unexpectedly, Ogier claimed the first win for an M-Sport built WRC car on the season-opener in Monte-Carlo, despite limited seat time following his move to the British team. Toyota then shocked the rally world when Jari-Matti Latvala claimed the Japanese manufacturer’s maiden victory on only its second event back in the Championship after 17 years out of the top level of the sport. The multiple Championship-winning Citroën team then went on to prove it was also in the fight when Kris Meeke claimed a dramatic victory for ‘the reds’ in Mexico and now, four events into the Championship on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, Korean manufacturer Hyundai has joined its rivals on the top step of the podium.
“This is exactly what we hoped the new cars and regulations would deliver,” said a delighted Jarmo Mahonen, FIA Rally Director. “We haven’t seen such a level playing field in many years and to go into every event with no idea which team or crew could win is fantastic for the Championship. Citroën, M-Sport, Hyundai and Toyota have produced dynamic and individual cars, the action has been spectacular and I firmly believe we will continue to see this level of openness throughout the whole season.”
The final day of competition on the Tour de Corse covered just two stages but it started with the longest of the rally, the 53.78 kilometre run from Antisanti to Poggio di Nazza. Neuville started the day with an unexpected 38.9 second lead over Ogier after the Frenchman dropped time in Saturday’s final stage when his Fiesta WRC lost hydraulic pressure. Neuville powered through today’s opener and benefitted further when Ogier was struck with yet more problems and slid another 20 seconds away from the lead with an intermittent electrical problem that affected power and handling. As a consequence, he slipped to third, 2.5 seconds behind Dani Sordo going into the final Power Stage. The battle behind the leading trio was also intense; Craig Breen managed to overhaul Latvala for fourth, despite thinking he had a puncture, so the Citroën and Toyota drivers also went in to the Power Stage with everything to fight for.
Neuville took a measured approach to the stage and was fifth fastest to claim the win by 54.7 seconds. Ogier, who somehow managed to affect repairs between the two stages, was back on form and while he didn’t win the Power Stage, he inched back ahead of Sordo to regain second position. Sordo was however happy with third, making it a double podium for Hyundai. Latvala went on a “crazy attack” and powered back ahead of Breen taking the Power Stage win and five more valuable points. Breen, a mere one-tenth of a second behind, was also happy with fifth with so few asphalt events under his belt, and considering it was only his second rally in the 2017 C3 WRC. Hayden Paddon rounded off the top six group of world rally car drivers. The only leading retirement of the day was Juho Hänninen, the Toyota driver off the road in the first stage.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger took another emphatic win in the FIA WRC 2 Championship, the Norwegians seventh overall and more than a minute ahead of category rivals Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula. The FIA WRC 3 Championship was won convincingly by Raphaël Astier and Frederic Vauclare, their second win of the season after taking honours in Monte-Carlo and, within this two-wheel drive category, Nil Solans/Miguel Ibanez won the opening round of the FIA Junior WRC Championship.
After four rounds, Ogier tops the Drivers’ Championship, 13 points ahead of Latvala and Neuville’s victory has elevated him into a more promising third position. M-Sport continues to head the Manufacturers’ Championship but with two podium positions on Corsica, Hyundai has overhauled Toyota for second.
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders back to the Americas for Rally Argentina (27-30 April).
Rallye de France-Tour de Corse – Final Provisional Results (subject to scrutineering)
|1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 22min 53.4sec|
|2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||3hr 23min 48.1sec|
|3. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 23min 49.4sec|
|4. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||3hr 24min 03.0sec|
|5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin||Citroën C3 WRC||3hr 24min 03.1sec|
|6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 25min 09.7sec|
|7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger||Škoda Fabia R5||3hr 31min 04.1sec|
|8. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula||Ford Fiesta R5||3hr 32min 10.4sec|
|9. Stéphane Sarrazin / Jacques Julien Renucci||Škoda Fabia R5||3hr 32min 17.0sec|
|10. Yohan Rossel / Benoit Fulcrand||Citroën DS3 R5||3hr 35min 50.5sec|