Volkswagen's Sébastien Ogier returned to the top step of the WRC podium at ADAC Rallye Deutschland as he successfully brought an end to his six-event winless streak.
The Frenchman’s 20.3s victory was the third of his WRC career on Germany’s challenging asphalt roads and extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship standings by 14 points, while VW remained in command of the manufacturers’ championship, thanks to a 55-point lead.
Having endured a difficult start to the rally on leg one when he overshot a hairpin, Ogier carefully guided his Polo R towards the top of the leaderboard. When the event moved into the infamous Baumholder military proving ground on Saturday, the world champion’s experience shone through and he easily swept rally leader - and team-mate - Andreas Mikkelsen aside.
Sébastien Ogier took a commanding lead into the final leg of ADAC Rallye Deutschland after giving his rivals another lesson in how to drive in the Baumholder military proving ground on Saturday.
The three-time world champion started the second day trailing Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen by 4.3s. But nine stages later - five of which were run on the tricky Baumholder asphalt - Ogier emerged with a 33.4s advantage at the top of the leaderboard.
Previous results show that the Frenchman is a big fan of the Panzerplatte stages - and he didn’t disappoint this time around. After trading seconds with Mikkelsen on the first four tests, he obliterated his rival on the first run through the 40.80km Panzerplatte Lang - a stage that was later halted by Stéphane Lefebre’s accident - by going 13.5s faster.
Rallye Deutschland hosts first all-asphalt round of 2016.
Drivers face a significant turning point in their season when ADAC Rallye Deutschland (18 - 21 August) hosts the opening all-asphalt round of the FIA World Rally Championship campaign.
After a snow event and six successive gravel rallies, the series returns to asphalt for the first time since January’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo. But winter roads and studded tyres in the French Alps are far removed from the challenge in Germany.
ADAC Rallye Deutschland is a supremely technical encounter. Three distinctly different types of roads span bumpy and narrow Mosel vineyards, smooth country tests in Saarland and the daunting multi-surfaced Baumholder military training tracks.
WRC Rally China 2016 cancelled due to weather damage
The FIA and WRC Promoter have received a formal request to cancel next month’s Rally China (8 - 11 September), round 10 of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship.
The Federation of Automobile and Motorcycle Sports of China (CAMF) and event organiser Le Sports cited heavy damage to the route caused by torrential storms and flooding last month in the region around Huairou, near Beijing, where the rally was to be staged.
Despite a last minute visit to China last week by representatives from the FIA and WRC Promoter, and the best efforts by all concerned, it was said to be impossible to affect the necessary repairs for the event to run safely.
Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke won Neste Rally Finland on Sunday afternoon with a record-breaking drive that set a new mark for the fastest FIA World Rally Championship round in history.
His 29.1sec victory over Jari-Matti Latvala shattered the Finn’s hopes of a third consecutive success on home ground and established a new speed record. Meeke’s 126.60kph average smashed Latvala’s performance on the same rally 12 months ago by 1.2kph.
Thirty-seven-year-old Meeke became the first British driver to win the Finnish classic and only the sixth non-Nordic victor in its 65-year history. He led for almost every kilometre of the four-day gravel encounter in a Citroën DS 3.
To seal a remarkable day for the Abu Dhabi Total team, which is tackling a part-time WRC programme this season, Ireland’s Craig Breen scored a maiden podium in third. He finished 1min 41.3sec behind Meeke, having claimed his first stage win this morning.
Kris Meeke looks set to deny local hero Jari-Matti Latvala a third consecutive win at Neste Rally Finland after an outstanding performance in Saturday’s penultimate leg.
The Northern Irishman more than doubled his lead over Finn Latvala to 41.0sec, winning four of the eight super-fast forest speed tests in Citroën’s DS 3 and putting himself in sight of becoming the first British driver to win a rally traditionally dominated by Nordic pilots.
Restarting with an 18.1sec advantage, Meeke stamped his authority on the event with a stunning early-morning drive through the awesome Ouninpohja stage. The 33km challenge features more than 70 flat out jumps and is regarded as the sport’s biggest test of courage.
2016 WRC: Meeke storms to opening leg lead in Finland
Kris Meeke mastered Neste Rally Finland’s stomach-churning roads to hold a strong lead after Friday’s opening leg.
On a rally where Nordic drivers normally hold sway, the Northern Irishman won four speed tests to lead by 18.1sec in Citroën’s DS 3 from local hero Jari-Matti Latvala, who is chasing his third consecutive victory on home ground.
It was a disappointing day for FIA World Rally Championship leader Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman was third until he slid his Volkswagen Polo R into a ditch three stages from the end and dropped 16 minutes.
Meeke, returning to action for the first time since winning in Portugal in May, took the lead in today’s opening test. He took advantage of drying conditions, which hindered the early starters on the gravel-strewn roads this morning to build an 18.8sec lead at the midpoint. He added two more stage victories this afternoon to his earlier double.
High-speed Finland roads pose tough challenge for co-drivers
Co-driving great Timo Rautiainen believes the challenge of matching the pace notes to the blistering speeds of Neste Rally Finland (28 - 31 July) is greater than at any other round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Rautiainen won his home rally seven times in eight years between 2000 and 2007 alongside double world champion Marcus Grönholm to become the most successful co-driver in the event’s 65-year history.
Now retired and a steward with motorsport’s governing body, 51-year-old Rautainen said co-drivers at this week’s eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship faced both logistical and physical difficulties on the roller-coaster gravel roads near Jyväskylä.
There will be no rest for Team HRC this summer. The rally team will be in action from Friday at the renowned Baja Aragon, a legendary event in the off road motorcycle discipline, in Spain. This event is the second round in which points count towards the FIM Bajas World Cup.
Andreas Mikkelsen snatched a dramatic last-gasp victory at PZM 73rd Rally Poland on Sunday afternoon when long-time leader Ott Tänak was cruelly deprived of a maiden FIA World Rally Championship win.
Tänak’s Ford Fiesta RS suffered a puncture in the penultimate rain-soaked speed test, wiping out his near-20sec lead and allowing Mikkelsen to claim a second career success. He became the sixth different winner in the last six rounds of a hugely unpredictable season.
"We pushed so hard all weekend and with the weather as it was today we knew it was going to be difficult and we gave it everything. It was like a war in the penultimate stage and it was all about luck, who got out without problems, and we were the lucky ones.
Estonian leads going into final day of Rally Poland
Ott Tänak extended his lead of PZM 73rd Rally Poland in Saturday’s sun-kissed penultimate leg and starts tomorrow’s short finale on course to secure his maiden WRC success.
He completed the longest leg of the four-day event 21.3sec clear of Andreas Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo R, with Hayden Paddon completing the provisional podium a further 6.5sec behind in a Hyundai i20.
Tänak was imperious in his Ford Fiesta RS this morning. He won all three speed tests to increase his lead from 4.2sec to 18.0sec, making the most of better grip than his rivals further up the start order who swept the sandy roads.
Road conditions were more equal when the stages were repeated. Mikkelsen initially regained a few seconds before Tänak stemmed the loss, leaving the Estonian looking forward to Sunday when heavy rain is forecast to replace today’s 30˚C temperatures.
Ott Tänak led PZM 73rd Rally Poland on Friday night after outgunning Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon in an exciting fight over super-fast sandy roads in the north of the country.
It is exactly 12 months since the Estonian last led a WRC round here and the first time that a driver using DMACK tyres has topped the standings in a championship round.
Tänak, driving a Ford Fiesta RS, headed Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo R by 4.2sec after 10 speed tests covering 121.92km. Paddon was a further 6.0sec behind in a Hyundai i20.
Tänak relegated Thierry Neuville, who led after last night’s curtain-raising test, in this morning’s opening special stage. Mikkelsen then moved ahead for five stages before three consecutive wins enabled Tänak to regain the initiative. He ended the day with five victories.
Young hot-shots Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre go head-to-head at the same event for the first time in Poland this week aiming to make their case for a place in Citroën’s factory team next season.
Both have the chance to impress team boss Yves Matton at PZM 73rd Rally Poland when they drive for Citroën’s satellite Abu Dhabi Total team in the four-day event, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship.
With Kris Meeke assured of a 2017 seat and tackling only a part-time programme as he leads the development of Citroën’s new World Rally Car, the spotlight is on who will partner the Northern Irishman next year.
Irishman Breen and Frenchman Lefebvre have a great opportunity courtesy of several outings in a DS 3 World Rally Car with the Abu Dhabi squad. Lefebvre laid down a marker with fifth place at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo while Breen finished eighth in Sweden.
Rally Italia Sardegna: Neuville ends dark days with Italy win
Thierry Neuville emerged from a career slump to claim his second WRC victory at Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday afternoon.
After a difficult end to 2015 and an equally troubled start to this season, all came good for the Belgian on the Mediterranean island as he won the four-day rough road event by 24.8sec in his Hyundai i20.
He became the fifth different winner in the last five FIA World Rally Championship rounds, adding to his maiden victory in Germany in 2014.
Neuville won nine of the 19 speed tests, moving to the front on Friday afternoon and repelling a determined challenge from Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn closed to within three seconds on Saturday before Neuville pulled clear and eased through today’s final leg.
"My second time and there is much less pressure leading the rally," he said. "We had a great weekend and great things come to those who go and earn it. The feeling was good in the car, hopefully it’ll be like this for the rest of the season. It wasn’t easy but we keep working and it’s good for the confidence."
Rally Italia Sardegna: Neuville casts Latvala adrift in Italy
Thierry Neuville distanced Jari-Matti Latvala with a powerful Saturday afternoon charge to carry a healthy lead into tomorrow’s final leg of Rally Italia Sardegna.
Latvala reduced Neuville’s Friday night lead to less than three seconds this morning as handling issues hindered the Hyundai i20 driver. But the Belgian won two of this afternoon’s three speed tests to rebuild his lead and end 16.1sec clear.
High temperatures, rocky gravel roads and heavy rain presented a tough challenge in a day which contained more than half the event’s distance and Neuville was up to it.
"The car was amazing to drive in slippery conditions," he said. "We’ve had another good day and it was a pleasure to fight Jari-Matti. Tomorrow will be tough but we’ll prepare properly and continue fighting."
An overnight gearbox change left Latvala more confident with his Volkswagen Polo R’s handling. After eating into Neuville’s lead he looked certain to move ahead but applauded his rival’s drive through the final marathon 44.26km Monte Lerno test.
"I can’t do better than that. I did a really good run and if Thierry is faster then respect to him. I was a bit too careful earlier this afternoon, but sometimes you have to play safe," said Latvala.
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