Citroën and Ogier Take Bronze in Wales Rally GB
45th Wales Rally GB (3 – 6 October 2019)
Wales Rally GB lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest events on the WRC calendar as Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia negotiated the unpredictable Welsh weather and muddy conditions to finish third overall. Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm made it to the end of the rally, having been forced to rejoin under Rally 2 rules, gathering considerable experience in the process.
With Sunday’s final leg only covering 38.42 kilometres, and held on stages well known to the all the crews, it was asking a lot of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia to make up the deficit to the top two crews. Matters were only made worse when the Great Orme stage (4.74km), where some big gaps appeared last year, was cancelled this year for safety reasons. At that point, the French pair focused on keeping clear of trouble in the many tricky sections, before going for it in the Power Stage. They were second fastest on the final stage, therefore adding four bonus points to those awarded for finishing third overall.
This result is Citroën Total World Rally Team’s eleventh podium in twelve rounds this season and the French crew’s eighth top-three finish, and ensures they remain in second position in the championship, twenty-eight points behind the leaders.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia moved into the top three after the rally’s first proper stage, before driving really aggressively in the C3 WRC on Friday afternoon, claiming two stage wins and confirming their intention to try and secure a sixth win at this round. They ended the opening leg just 3.4s off the lead. Determined to pursue their push on Saturday, not only the longest leg of the weekend but also contested without a mid-leg service, the six-time world champions once again pushed as hard as they could in an exciting and closely-fought scrap at the front. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite able to match the pace of the other two championship contenders. They therefore began Sunday’s final leg in third place, 17.3s behind the leaders and 6.3s off second place.
After driving somewhat cautiously on the first proper stage as they got to grips with the handling of the C3 WRC on the greasy Welsh roads, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm immediately upped their pace with a fourth fastest time, 4.0s off the pace on the following stage (Penmachno, 16.19km). A third fastest time, just 1.0s off the leading pace on Aberhirnant (SS5, 10.26km) meant they made it the mid-leg service on day one just 7.8s off the podium. However, they were then caught out by one of the stages’ many changes in grip, overestimating the grip available on a braking point at the start of the second loop. They went no further on the opening leg. Having rejoined the action under Rally 2 rules on Saturday, they focused on improving their knowledge of the subtleties of the event and learning what it is like to start first in the running order on muddy, slippery roads, sometimes flooded with standing water. They nonetheless showed impressive speed at certain points, scoring a third fastest time on the Power Stage, within a second of the stage-winning time.