RALLY FRANCE

JARI-MATTI LAT­VALA

Motor Sport News - - Rally France - Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com

RALLY ES­SEN­TIALS

Day one: 97.98 miles; 4 stages Weather: sunny 16-28 cel­sius ■ Se­bastien Ogier has over­come some slightly cau­tious pacenotes to make the per­fect start to the per­fect day. The French­man wins four from four stages, end­ing the day 44s up on Thierry Neuville and al­most a minute clear of his team­mates. He’s as mys­ti­fied as any­body at the lack of pace com­ing from the other two Po­los. ■ There’s no short­age of pace from Kris Meeke’s DS 3 WRC. Only a spin early in the stage stops the North­ern Ir­ish­man from lead­ing af­ter the open­ing 30-miler. Sec­ond by four sec­onds, Meeke can’t contain Ogier’s sen­sa­tional SS2 speed and his hopes of a third con­sec­u­tive win are blown when he’s forced to stop and change a front-left punc­ture in SS3. ■ Neuville is happy with sec­ond, hav­ing had the edge over team-mate Dani Sordo for much of the day, his grip on sec­ond is strength­ened when the Spa­niard suf­fers a punc­ture and drops to ninth on Fri­day’s fi­nal run. ■ Jari-matti Lat­vala and An­dreas Mikkelsen are squab­bling over third place, the Finn lead­ing the Nor­we­gian by 1.3s at the end of the day. Lat­vala’s self-con­fi­dence is shot, while Mikkelsen’s left­foot has been sent to sleep by a warped disc which is vi­brat­ing badly through the pedal. ■ Craig Breen’s World Rally Car de­but on a Tar­mac WRC round is go­ing per­fectly – his only drama be­ing a strug­gle to find his rhythm in the long open­ing test.

End of day one: 1 Ogier/ In­gras­sia 1h37m52.8s; 2 Neuville/ Gil­soul +44.0s; 3 Lat­vala/anttila +58.0s; 4 Mikkelsen/jae­gar +59.3s; 5 Breen/ Martin +1m18.7s; 6 Pad­don/ Ken­nard +1m26.2s.

Day two: 105.04 miles; 4 stages Weather: over­cast then rain 15-24 cel­sius ■ A still sleep­ing Ogier fluffs a hair­pin early in the first stage, but af­ter that he’s ab­so­lutely on it and drives per­fectly to defend his ad­van­tage at the front of the field. ■ Neuville’s day is sim­i­larly straight­for­ward and he ends it on a high with a stage win. The Bel­gian’s choice of four hard tyres with only one spare works a treat in the af­ter­noon but the Gods are def­i­nitely smil­ing on him as the rain ar­rives min­utes af­ter he crosses the line. ■ Mikkelsen eases clear of Lat­vala in the race for third place. A change of brake pad mid-way through the day doesn’t have the de­sired ef­fect on his Polo and Jari-matti ships even more self­con­fi­dence. ■ Breen is the first big loser in the SS7 rain as the down­pour starts with him still four miles from the fin­ish. The hard tyres lose their heat and grip al­most im­me­di­ately, forc­ing the Ir­ish­man onto the de­fen­sive. Cross­ing the hards with a cou­ple of soft Miche­lins for the fi­nal stage of the day helps Breen score a fastest split time, 1.9s faster than Ogier in the penul­ti­mate 4.4-mile sec­tor of SS8. He’s third quick­est across the whole 19.13-mile stage. ■ The star of the open­ing stage is un­doubt­edly Meeke. The Dun­gan­non man is 17s faster than any­body in SS5, mov­ing him from 11th to eighth over­all. Un­for­tu­nately for KM, that sen­sa­tional time’s as good as his Satur­day’s go­ing to get: a mis­take on the recce means he’s too quick in the first cor­ner of SS6. He slides into a tree, da­m­ages the steer­ing and is forced out for the rest of the day.

End of day two: 1 Ogier/ In­gras­sia 3h27m10.0s; 2 Neuville/ Gil­soul +46.5s; 3 Mikkelsen/jae­gar +1m.08s; 4 Lat­vala/anttila +1m41.3s; 5 Breen/ Martin +2m04.9s; 6 Pad­don/ Ken­nard +2m42.7s.

Day three: 39.89 miles; 2 stages Weather: sunny 17-25 cel­sius ■ Meeke wins both stages, set­ting a blis­ter­ing pace to take SS9 by a stag­ger­ing 35.3s from Neuville. ■ With the North­ern Ir­ish­man tak­ing three points for the pow­er­stage win, Mikkelsen and Ogier take two and one bonus points re­spec­tively. The only po­si­tional change in the top 10 on the fi­nal day comes with Ott Tanak edg­ing WRC2 win­ner El­fyn Evans out of 10th.

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