La Porta, 8 April 2017: Thierry Neuville has edged one step closer to his first victory of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship by taking a 38.9 second lead into the final day of competition on the Tour de Corse. The Belgian has been on supreme form today and while Sébastien Ogier was able to challenge early afternoon and came within 2.2 seconds of the lead, the Frenchman dropped right back in the final stage with a loss of hydraulic pressure. Following the retirement of Kris Meeke, Dani Sordo has moved up the leaderboard and the Spaniard sits in third overnight.
Today’s route was the longest of the event and while it still covered just two stages, both repeated, it kicked off with the daunting 48.71 kilometre run from La Porta to Valle di Rostino. Meeke started the day as the leader and was able to extend his advantage over second-placed Ogier in the opener, but then disaster struck at the end of the following stage as engine failure sent his hopes of a second consecutive victory up in smoke. Having slashed the gap to Ogier in the first stage and then overhauled the reigning FIA World Rally Champion in the second, Neuville assumed the lead after his two fastest times and headed into the mid-leg service with 8.2 seconds in hand. After a difficult morning where, unusually, the Frenchman was at a loss to understand how he could go quicker, set up changes during service aided Ogier’s charge and he claimed fastest time in the first of the repeated stages, benefitting when Neuville also spun. It didn’t last long however, as a loss of hydraulic pressure hampered his charge through the final stage and he dropped nearly 40 seconds to Neuville, who also set the fastest time.
Dani Sordo has had a torrid day, the Spaniard driving the stages of his life but not being rewarded with good times. With Ogier’s problems, the gap to the Frenchman has however closed to 18.8 seconds tonight. After this morning’s loop, Jari-Matti Latvala finally had an idea of what changes to make to the transmission set-up on the Yaris WRC and the Finn enjoyed a much better afternoon and was in the top three on both stages. He is fourth, 11.7 seconds behind Sordo but under pressure from Craig Breen. The Irish driver is now Citroën’s sole runner with the loss of Meeke and Stéphane Lefebvre, who hit a wall in the first stage. Breen had brake issues and then the intercom broke this morning, but he had a clean run to fifth this afternoon and is 2.8 seconds adrift of Latvala. Both are potentially poised to fight for the podium.
Hayden Paddon continues his lonely drive in sixth overall, the Kiwi driver now using the event as an extended test session as he seeks to gain valuable experience on Tarmac. Aside from Meeke and Lefebvre, Elfyn Evans was another to retire. After his hydraulic problems yesterday the Fiesta was back on form this morning, but the Welshman then went off the road and was unable to continue. Ott Tänak had a problem with the fuel injection system and the Estonian is well outside the top 10, and Juho Hänninen returned after crashing yesterday. The Finn has set some impressive times in the Yaris WRC, some consolation despite being down in 32nd position.
Andreas Mikkelsen continues to head the FIA WRC 2 Championship contenders but the Norwegian came under fire from a charging Stéphane Sarrazin early this morning, the Frenchman in similar machinery but not registered in the category. Mikkelsen won two of the day’s four stages and heads Teemu Suninen by more than a minute.
Raphaël Astier has control of the FIA WRC 3 Championship, and in the Junior WRC series Nil Solans is heading towards victory with Terry Folb 25.6 seconds behind.
Rallye de France-Tour de Corse – Provisional results after Section 4
|1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2hr 44min 10.2sec|
|2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||2hr 44min 49.1sec|
|3. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2hr 45min 07.9sec|
|4. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||2hr 45min 19.6sec|
|5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin||Citroën C3 WRC||2hr 45min 22.4sec|
|6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2hr 45min 54.0sec|
|7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger||Škoda Fabia R5||2hr 50min 31.9sec|
|8. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula||Ford Fiesta R5||2hr 51min 39.8sec|
|9. Stéphane Sarrazin / Jacques Julien Renucci||Škoda Fabia R5||2hr 51min 57.0sec|
|10. Yohan Rossel / Benoit Fulcrand||Citroën DS3 R5||2hr 54min 06.7sec|