Monday, 25 August 2014

Rally - Scunnered!



Took a bit of a scunner to everything last week after the news from Ulster, then Ally Currie’s phone call lightened the mood. Then another downer when the Merrick revealed that it would use the Drumjohn stage for the first time in 6 years.

You see, Drumjohn is the forest stage where Drew Gallacher’s ashes were scattered way back in 1997. Drew was/is always a bit special. In fact it was him who christened me ‘Jaggy Bunnet’ some 40 years ago now. That’s the only reason the name has stuck, but that’s another story for another time.

Then another downer, Kris crashed out while leading in Germany. On the other hand, what a marvellous result for young Elfyn.  I didn’t report on the previous round in Finland because that clashed with the Speyside Stages and I struggled to get a signal, but the Citroen press release arrived this morning. The better news is that they are still upbeat about Kris’ performance – even though they haven’t offered him a contract for next season yet.

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were lying second going into yesterday’s final leg of Rallye Deutschland but when Latvala crashed out, Kris took the rally lead going into SS16 at Grafschaft.

“The first stage was really very difficult,” said Kris, “When I learned that Jari-Matti had stopped, it didn’t really change my state of mind. I wasn’t affected by the possibility of winning… I was relaxed and focussed at the start of SS16. But I had a pace note that was a little bit too optimistic at the start of the stage. We hit something with the front wheel. I felt a big vibration and we went off on the next corner and crashed into a wall. I’m really disappointed for everyone in the team, who have been working so hard to get results. But we showed that we were on the pace. We’ll have to start thinking about the next rally now.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal) added: “It’s really disappointing, because we were so close to winning. The team and Kris Meeke had had a perfect rally until this morning. We had wanted to be in position to take advantage of the slightest opportunity. Unfortunately, we were unable to grab it when it came along. Kris had a very good rally. After Finland, he continued to improve his pace. In Australia, he’ll be able to show us what he is capable of again.”

As for Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt they scored their best WRC result to date and topped that with 3 extra points for fastest time on the final Power Stage.

Elfyn Evans said: "It's been a great weekend for us. To take our first stage win was really nice and the fourth place was something we would definitely have taken at the start of the rally. We weren't too far away from Andreas [Mikkelsen, third place] at the end either, but it wasn't our objective to push for the maximum result this weekend. It was more about learning the characteristics of the car on these stages and getting round safely, and I think we managed to do that.”

"We've been there or there abouts on the set-up and the tyre choice all weekend and the end result is a great one for the team. It always gives you a little boost when you manage to beat your team mate. Mikko [Hirvonen] didn't make it easy and I'm sure he'll be on the pace in Australia. But hopefully this won't be the last time we give him a run for his money this year!"

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, added: "Elfyn's [Evans] performance this weekend has probably been the most encouraging result that I have seen from any young driver. If you look at what he's done with the experience he has, it's been a very special result.”

Mind you the week ended/started on a bit of a cheery note last night when watching the highlights of yesterday’s bunfight in Belgium accompanied by the soundtrack of a couple of dozen angry washing machines. Maybe rallying isn’t so bad after all.

Top Ten Leaderboard:
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:07:20.2
2. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +40.7
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +58.0
4. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:03.6
5. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:10.5
6. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:22.7
7. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:52.8
8. Dennis Kuipers / Robin Buysmans (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +9:18.1
9. Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson (Ford Fiesta R5) +11:35.4
10. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta R5) +11:37.2

( Photos: CITROEN RACING/AUSTRAL )

Other Brits:
15, S. Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5), 3:21:24.7
22, A. Fisher (Citroen DS3 R3t), 3:33:49.3, (4th WRC3)
27, R. Tuthill (Porsche GT3), 3:39:25.6
29, E. Boland (Subaru Impreza R4), 3:39:46.0
30, T. Cave (Ford Fiesta R2), 3:41:31.9, (2nd RC4)
48, J. Brown (Ford Fiesta R2), 3:52:59.5
56, M. McCormack (Ford Fiesta R5), 4:09:07.8

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