I suppose the most disappointing news to come out of the latest WRC round in Italy was that there were no Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the Results sheets - although their names still appear in the WRC Driver standings!
Anyway, the boys from the most north westerly corner of Europe didn't fare too well. Craig Breen and Scott Martin finished sixth overall in the Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen C3, but are already thinking of Finland where Craig scored his first WRC podium back in 2016 with 3rd o/a: "The weekend didn't go especially smoothly for us," said Craig, "Having started quite far down the running order on Friday in the rain, we struggled with the tricky road conditions. We then ended up opening the road for the next two days as the ground dried out. The roads, when dry, are renowned for cleaning a lot, meaning the early runners are at a real disadvantage. I nonetheless managed to improve my knowledge of this specific rally. My focus has already shifted to Finland."
Things didn't fare much better over at M Sport with Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt finishing outside the top ten. Up until the 13 kilometre mark of Friday’s opening speed test (SS2), Evans was amongst the fastest, but the Fiesta clipped a bank and broke a steering arm.
Carrying the necessary spares to effect a repair mid-stage, Elfyn and Daniel replaced it, after which they had the unenviable job of sweeping a clean line through the loose gravel over the remainder of the weekend.
Elfyn will now be hoping to get back on track on the next round in Finland where he finished 2nd last year: "It’s been a frustrating weekend – especially as the feeling in the car was really good on Friday morning," said Elfyn, "A relevantly small error proved pretty costly, and when you drop 13 minutes there is very little to fight for. We managed to salvage a point from the Power Stage which was some consolation, and now we’ll have a few weeks off before getting fully focused ahead of the next one in Finland.”
As for the rest, the Hyundai squad are giving everyone else a hard time with two of their cars in the top four places, but the gap between Thierry Neuville and Ford's Sebastien Ogier couldn't have been much closer, 0.7 seconds. Thank goodness we've got electronic timing on the stages otherwise they would have been unseparable. And didn't Esapekka Lappi do well, 3rd in the Toyota.
There is just one wee niggle though, the results will remain provisional for now. Apparently Ogier left the penultimate stage without collecting his time card. Ott Tänak actually got it and passed it on, but there's a possibility that Ogier could be penalised.
1, Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:29:18.7
2, Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.7
3, Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:56.3
4, Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:55.2
5, Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:10.9
6, Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 4:31.7
7, Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 11:22.1
8, Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +13:14.6
9, Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 13:18.2
10. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +15:30.4
14. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +17:56.5
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Thierry Neuville – 149 pts
Sébastien Ogier – 122
Ott Tänak – 79
Esapekka Lappi – 70
Dani Sordo – 60
Andreas Mikkelsen – 56
Elfyn Evans – 46
Kris Meeke – 43
Jari-Matti Latvala – 37
Craig Breen – 34
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 212 pts
M-Sport Ford WRT – 184
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 151
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 129