WRC A FULL 2014
M-SPORT PICK UP THE PACE
4 October 2014
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans picked up the pace as Rallye de France – Alsace ventured south for seven stages in the South Vosges. The pairing currently hold sixth and eighth positions respectively going into tomorrow’s final day.
Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen started the day ready for an intense battle for fourth place. The Finns struggled to find the optimum set-up to compliment Michelin’s new compound tyres on the faster stages, but having made some changes in service, the pairing reignited their charge over the afternoon loop.
Having the better of his closest rivals by some margin, Hirvonen was at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC through the second pass of ‘Vallée de Munster’ (SS11). Combining a stiffer set-up with a smoother, more precise driving style, the M-Sport man reaped the rewards and is just over 10 seconds shy of the coveted fourth place going into tomorrow’s final day.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt refused to let yesterday’s disappointment dampen their spirits. The pairing were fighting for their first FIA World Rally Championship podium before an electrical issue put paid to their efforts, but they refused to let that alter their speed or determination to progress.
Continuing to post a string of competitive stage times – including a number of fastest split times – Evans proved that he has the pace to challenge towards the head of the field. Using today’s competitive stages wisely, the Welshman concentrated on discovering the best set-up for Michelin’s new compound tyres whilst making his way through the rankings.
The youngster is now within touching distance of seventh place and will have his sights firmly fixed on fighting for the position through the event’s final 63.38 kilometres tomorrow.
Mikko Hirvonen (6th) said:
“It’s been good today – especially in the afternoon when we had a much better pace and a lot more confidence with the tyres. When you’ve been through the stages once, you have a better understanding of how the new compound will work. We had some added confidence from that and I think it showed.
“We’re still in a position to fight for the fourth place so I am very happy with that and I will certainly try my best tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans (8th) said:
“The morning was fairly strong for us, especially when we got used to the set-up changes we made last night. It took a stage to build up the confidence, but on the whole I think it was pretty good.
“We struggled a little this afternoon. The feeling in the car wasn’t too bad but the times perhaps weren’t as strong as they had been in the morning so we’ll analyse that this evening to see where we were losing and where we can make improvements.
“But as I say I think it has been another very positive day for us. Apart from a half spin – which was a bit of a clumsy mistake to be honest – we’ve kept it clean and the pace hasn’t been too far off what we’re looking for.
“Mads [Østberg] lost some time today so we’re only 12 seconds behind him now. We’ll see how we go tomorrow, but if the fight is there, I’ll certainly take it to him!”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen a strong performance from both Mikko [Hirvonen] and Elfyn [Evans] today. Elfyn has delivered some very encouraging stage times and he has achieved his objective for the day by getting as high as eighth overall. Now it’s important for him to finish the rally and gain the experience. Mikko is locked in what looks set to be a very intense battle for fourth place with all to play for tomorrow. With what could be some very tricky conditions on the horizon, I think we can expect an exciting final day.”
Dennis Kuipers (13th) said:
“It’s been another good day. I like these stages better than yesterday, we had a good rhythm and our pace was getting better with each new stage which was also good. I was quite happy with our performance today. It was a pity that we had a yellow flag on SS13 and had to slow down, but these things happen and I think that the rest of the day went very well for us.”
Yuriy Protasov (14th) said:
“It’s been another good day for us and I feel as though we are getting better and better the more stages we do. We were given a nominal time having completed SS13 under yellow flags, but other than that I am happy with the day and with my driving. I think tomorrow will be another very difficult day, but I am happy to be here and to be getting more experience driving a world rally car.”
Quentin Gilbert (1st in WRC2) said:
“We are in first position again tonight which is really nice. It was a good day for us overall, but it was a difficult start as we lost 10 seconds to Bernardo [Sousa] as we had a small problem. We think it might be something related to the power steering or the differential. We don’t know for the moment but I’m sure the technicians will solve it in service this evening.
“Still we had good speed and we tried to push hard all day. We drove carefully in some stages as I prefer to save the mechanics as it is very important to finish the rally, but I really want to win here so that was also on my mind.
“Tomorrow I will push hard over the morning loop and then see where we are. Second place would of course be a good result, but to win here in front of my sponsors, my family and my home fans would be fantastic.”
Pontus Tidemand (4th in WRC2) said:
“It’s been a good day. We have won some more stages and had good speed all day I think. We took it a little cautiously over the last stage as we didn’t want to do anything silly on the final stage – there are some big gaps in front and behind so it was important not to do anything stupid there when we’re not in a fight.
“It feels good to have come back after yesterday to get the experience and keep improving the speed. It’s also good for myself and Patrik [Barth, co-driver] to have a full day in the car together. It’s working really well and I’m looking forward to getting back out again tomorrow.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Quentin [Gilbert] had some issues this morning so it is great to see that he is still in the lead of the WRC 2 category. He didn’t let the problem affect his performance. He kept his concentration and pushed hard and I think we will see another exciting final day as he and Bernardo [Sousa, privateer Ford Fiesta RRC driver] battle for the victory.
“It was also very encouraging to see how strongly Pontus [Tidemand] bounced back from yesterday’s disappointment. He didn’t let it affect him at all and continued to show good speed with some fastest stage times along the way.”
KUBICA SHOWS HIS CLASS
RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica came into his own as Rallye de France – Alsace embarked on the second day of competition. Showing his class behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Pole set a string of consistent and competitive stage times that saw him climb from seventh to fifth in the overall standings.
Getting to grips with Michelin’s new compound tyres and the handling of his Fiesta on the Alsatian asphalt, Robert was able to up his pace significantly. Driving well on a risk-free strategy, the Pole produced what has arguably been one of his best performances of the year.
Renowned as a Tarmac specialist, the Formula One race winner combined his extensive knowledge with a highly intelligent approach. Fully aware of the challenges and pitfalls connected with this tricky event, he and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak adopted a near-perfect strategy by gradually building their pace as the weekend went on.
Their strategy paid dividends and Robert and Maciek are just 0.9 seconds adrift of a career-best four position going into tomorrow’s final day.
Robert Kubica (5th) said:
“I think we’ve had a good day and we’ve been driving well. Ever since the second loop yesterday I think that we have shown some good pace. There are of course still things to improve, but I think that is the same for most people on this event and that we can be satisfied with the job we have done today.
“I drove my own rally and will do the same tomorrow. For me, I think the most important thing is to have fun, enjoy the driving and gain the experience.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I believe that this has been Robert’s [Kubica] best performance in a world rally car to date and it is great to see his performance growing with each new stage. He’s done a great job to reduce the gap to Dani [Sordo] and is now just 0.9 seconds adrift of fourth place which bodes well for an exciting battle between the two of them tomorrow.”
AFTER DAY TWO OF RALLYE DE FRANCE
RESULTS AFTER SS14
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