DMACK World Rally Team driver Ott Tanak was the surprise pace setter at the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB shakedown in Clocaenog Forest.
The Estonian posted the fastest time as he attacked the 3.32km test for the first time on Thursday morning. He emerged just under a second quicker than Citroen’s Kris Meeke, while Craig Breen was third fastest, only a tenth of a second behind his team-mate.
“Everything was working well and I’m very happy with the tyres and the car. I’m quite enjoying it at the moment," Tanak said. “I like the gravel and the mud makes it a bit more tricky. But I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of the stages in Wales.”
The Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver described the conditions on the shakedown stage as being largely damp and greasy, but he predicted an exciting event if the weather remains dry and the stage conditions continue to improve.
“I think it will be an interesting weekend with the drying conditions,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what we can do here. I’m waiting to see what the feeling is like on Friday before I see what’s possible.”
Newly-crowned world champion Sebastien Ogier was fourth fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R, while Hayden Paddon showed a good turn of speed as he returned to his favoured loose surface to set the fifth fastest time.
Andreas Mikkelsen drew first blood in the battle for second place in the final WRC standings as he went sixth quickest. Thierry Neuville, his closest rival in the championship, was only 10th fastest, almost a second slower than his Norwegian rival.
World champion Sebastien Ogier set the early pace at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB with fastest time in Friday morning’s foggy and slippery opening two speed tests.
He powered his Volkswagen Polo R through Myherin 7.6sec quicker than Ott Tanak’s Ford Fiesta RS, before stopping the clocks fastest in the short Sweet Lamb stage. It gave him a 12.1sec lead over Tanak but it was a far from easy start for Ogier.
“It’s very, very slippery and the visibility is quite bad in the middle with heavy fog,” he said at the finish of Myherin. “I had some issues with my wipers which were sticking sometimes. Hard to find the confidence.”
It was a damp and dank morning in the mid-Wales forests. Fine drizzle made the gravel roads muddier than expected and, combined with the fog, Myherin was a rude wake-up call for drivers after the near three-hour drive south from the Deeside service park.
“You can’t see anything and it’s muddy like hell. The cars ahead are generating so much loose mud that it’s really hard to drive,” said Ford Fiesta RS driver Tanak, summing up the view that road opener Ogier had the best of the conditions which worsened with every car.
Hayden Paddon was third in Myherin and sixth in Sweet Lamb in his Hyundai i20 to hold third overall. He was 2.0sec behind Tanak and 0.3sec in front of Craig Breen’s Citroen DS 3. Fourth in Myherin was a pleasant surprise for the Irishman who said it was the ‘worst I’ve ever driven in my life’.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke were fifth and sixth overall, the Briton deflated after a ‘hellishly slippery’ Myherin. “They’re perfect conditions for first on the road. We’ll just enjoy the weekend and let Ogier run away with it,” said Meeke, whose low start position did him no favours.
Thierry Neuville believed his i20 was too hard for the slippery Myherin but third fastest in Sweet Lamb left the Belgian eighth, just behind the Polo R of Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ott Tanak closed on Dayinsure Wales Rally GB leader Sebastien Ogier with two consecutive special stage wins to end Friday morning’s opening loop.
The Estonian, driving a Ford Fiesta RS, eked 2.2sec from the Frenchman in the long Hafren test before gaining a similar margin in Dyfnant. He headed towards the respite of a tyre change with the gap between them down to 7.7sec.
Although the early morning fog had gone, the gravel tracks were no less muddy and T?nak made a small mistake at a Hafren junction. A set-up tweak ahead of Dyfnant increased his confidence and put the pressure onto a worried Ogier.
“I’m a bit concerned with a small thing on the car. There’s a noise in the transmission but so far it’s working,” said Ogier.
His concerns were heightened by a transmission problem that delivered a blow to team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen’s hopes of finishing runner-up in the championship. A broken front right driveshaft in Dyfnant cost 90sec and with no mid-leg service, it’s an issue he must live with.
“There’s nothing we can cure for the rest of the day. It has been going on all day,” explained the Norwegian, who plummeted to the foot of the top 10 in his rear-wheel drive only Polo R.
Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala fared better, despite a spin in Hafren. After a cautious start the Finn was third in both tests to climb to third overall, 32.3sec off the duelling duo ahead.
Less than half a second covered Latvala, Kris Meeke and Hayden Paddon, with Paddon firmly focused on the long game. “This afternoon will be the trickiest part of the rally. If we can keep close today we can have a big attack tomorrow when conditions will be more consistent,” he said.
Craig Breen completed the top six ahead of Thierry Neuville, who could benefit most in the runner-up battle from Mikkelsen’s problems. The Belgian survived a spin and stall in Hafren.
Dani Sordo and Mads Ostberg headed Mikkelsen, Ostberg escaping after sliding his Fiesta RS into some Dyfnant bushes. Team-mate Eric Camilli dropped 1min 40sec after driving with a soft rear left tyre, the legacy of carrying only one spare and suffering two punctures.
Sebastien Ogier increased his lead at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Friday afternoon as closest challenger Ott Tanak slipped back with suspension worries.
Low cloud and light rain made conditions just as difficult as they were this morning as drivers returned for a second attack through the Myherin and Sweet Lamb speed tests. The result was also the same as Ogier topped the timesheets in both stages.
The Frenchman was quickest in his Volkswagen Polo R through Myherin by 4.8sec from team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. He then won Sweet Lamb by 1.2sec from Thierry Neuville to more than double his 7.7sec lead over Tanak to 17.4sec.
The Estonian was third in both tests but was a frustrated man. “We had some problems with the rear suspension, something may be loose. Sometimes the wheel is open, I don’t know why it’s like this,” he said.
Worse befell Craig Breen, who rolled his Citroen DS 3 2.1km after the start of Myherin. Neither he nor co-driver Scott Martin were injured but it was an early end to the Irish driver’s day.
Andreas Mikkelsen continued to struggle with only rear-wheel drive in his Polo R following a driveshaft breakage this morning. The Norwegian dropped more than 2min 30sec and fell away from the top 10 leaderboard.
Quentin Gilbert, driving a World Rally Car in the WRC for the first time, complained of a strong smell of fuel in the cockpit of his DS 3. Team-mate Stephane Lefebvre, returning to action after a huge crash in Germany in August, lost concentration after seeing Breen’s wreckage and steered a steady but safe line to the finish.
Sebastien Ogier mastered fog and mud to lead Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Friday night despite a last-gasp scare that threatened to derail his charge.
He headed Ott Tanak by 37.3sec despite a transmission problem near the end of the final mid-Wales speed test which restricted the performance of his Volkswagen Polo R.
Ogier suspected a broken driveshaft, the same issue that also delayed team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, who both lost huge chunks of time as they limped along the muddy gravel forest roads.
“I think the driveshaft is broken so I’m really happy the day is over,” said Ogier at the finish of the final speed test in Dyfnant Forest. “It’s the front shaft. Jari-Matti and Andreas were unlucky too, but it’s something we need to work on because three cars with the same issue on the same day hasn’t happened before.”
Ogier won five of the eight special stages covering 178.22km, more than half the three-day rally’s competitive distance. As road opener, he enjoyed the best of the conditions, which worsened with the passage of every car and only Tanak offered a challenge.
The Estonian won two stages this morning in his Ford Fiesta RS to restrict Ogier’s mid-leg lead to 7.7sec. A rear suspension issue slowed him this afternoon before a front right puncture 6km from the end of the final test cost more time.
Thierry Neuville won the final stage to hold third in a Hyundai i20. He was unhappy with his car’s handling initially but made steady progress up the order from eighth to improve his chances of securing the runner-up position in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Belgian was 31.7sec adrift of Tanak and 3.8sec ahead of team-mate Hayden Paddon. The Kiwi drove the final stage with a puncture and regretted changing the set-up of his i20 midway through the day which adversely affected its handling.
Kris Meeke yielded two places in the final stage to hold fifth in a Citroen DS 3. He was two seconds behind Paddon but comfortably clear of Dani Sordo’s i20 and Mads Ostberg’s Fiesta RS, the Norwegian relieved to escape a lurid slide into some bushes.
Latvala, Stephane Lefebvre and WRC 2 leader Esapekka Lappi completed the leaderboard.
Mikkelsen started the rally level on points with Neuville. His transmission troubles relegated him to 19th and requiring a big fightback to keep alive his championship runner-up hopes. Craig Breen was the only major retirement, the Irishman crashing out of sixth this afternoon.
Saturday’s second leg heads into the Snowdonia Mountains for two loops of stages before returning north to end the day with a short parkland test in England. Drier conditions are expected in the eight tests, which cover 99.81km and will stretch tyre endurance to the limit.
Fog and greasy gravel roads greeted drivers for Saturday’s second leg of Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.
Three quickfire speed tests were on the menu and leader Sebastien Ogier eased through them with no problems in his Volkswagen Polo R. He won the middle stage in Dyfi to all but maintain his overnight advantage at 36.3sec over Ott Tanak.
“I did a good loop and pushed as hard as I could,” he said after the finish of Gartheiniog. “I lost some time in this stage with a flare which distracted me. The smoke was like a wall in the road and I couldn’t see anything in the corner. I had to brake a lot.”
Tanak won the opener in Pantperthog and the Estonian summed up the tricky conditions he faced in his pursuit of Ogier. “It was very foggy. Yesterday we lost a lot of time to Seb in the fog so I tried hard. Maybe I was a bit chicken in the fast stuff!” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot.
Thierry Neuville retained third in his Hyundai i20, extending his advantage over team-mate Hayden Paddon to 7.3sec. The Belgian had a scare when he hit a Dyfi bank but recovered to win Gartheiniog.
Paddon eased clear of Kris Meeke’s Citroen DS 3 in fifth but the Kiwi was frustrated with his driving.
“These conditions don’t suit my style of driving. I can’t attack and I’m losing time everywhere. I like to use a lot of the road but in conditions like this you have to stay in the line because out of the line there’s a lot of mud. I have to drive the car straighter and it’s not my natural way,” he explained.
Meeke had two slow punctures and has used all six of his soft compound Michelin tyres. He has five more stages to complete before the end of the day with no opportunity to take onboard additional rubber.
Sixth-placed Dani Sordo was unhappy with his i20’s handling while Mads Ostberg, 37.5sec behind, lost time with a stall in Pantperthog. The Norwegian incurred a 10sec penalty after leaving the Deeside service late this morning when mechanics had to make an unplanned suspension change.
Ott Tanak reeled off three consecutive special stage wins to eat into Sebastien Ogier's lead at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Saturday.
The Estonian dominated the second pass through Pantperthog, Dyfi and Gartheiniog in his Ford Fiesta RS to reclaim 11.5sec from the Frenchman. He reduced the gap between the pair to 24.8sec with two speed tests remaining in the penultimate leg.
Although the fog had subsided, the gravel forest tracks remained greasy but Tanak was enjoying them. “This kind of polished road is definitely good news for our tyres. They are working well in these conditions so I pushed hard,” he said.
Ogier insisted there was no easing off in his Volkswagen Polo R. “I’m still pushing as much as I can. We’re doing everything we can to try to keep the gap because we know tomorrow it will be hard to keep Ott behind us,” he said.
Thierry Neuville claimed top three times in all three tests to retain third in his Hyundai i20, 14.4sec ahead of team-mate Hayden Paddon. The New Zealander made changes to his i20’s set-up and while he felt more comfortable, they made no improvement to the traction.
With no more spare tyres available, Kris Meeke steered a cautious path through the stages in his Citroen DS 3. The Ulsterman was more than a minute ahead of Dani Sordo, with Mads Ostberg continuing to fend off Jari-Matti Latvala in seventh.
?stberg’s co-driver, Ola Floene, was nursing a bizarre injury. The Norwegian was sporting a bite mark on his hand and believes he may have been the victim of a snake!
Stephane Lefebvre and Eric Camilli completed the leaderboard.
Ogier, who sealed his fourth consecutive world title in Spain earlier this month, completed the second and penultimate leg with a 33.8 sec advantage over the Estonian. Thierry Neuville was third, a further minute adrift in a Hyundai i20.
Although conditions were better than yesterday, fog and greasy dirt roads in mid-Wales ensured driving was far from simple. But Ogier, who has led since the start in his Volkswagen Polo R, kept T?nak at bay during eight speed tests covering 99.91km.
Tanak won four of the first six special stages in his Ford Fiesta RS to cut the Frenchman’s lead from 37.3sec to 24.8sec. But his hopes were dashed when Ogier regained a large chunk of time in the dank and muddy penultimate test at Aberhirnant.
“I tried to go flat out for the whole day, pushing hard all the time,” said Ogier. “Tomorrow I’ll do what I can and see if it is enough.”
Neuville is chasing the runners-up position in the drivers’ championship and was relieved to escape unscathed after mounting a bank this morning. He pulled away from team-mate Hayden Paddon to end 12.6sec clear.
Paddon could not get to grips with the tricky conditions. The mud required a straighter and more precise driving line, in contrast to the Kiwi’s aggressive style, and although he modified his i20’s set-up, he could not improve the traction.
After being in the thick of the podium fight, a lacklustre Kris Meeke slipped back. The Ulsterman used both spare wheels after two slow punctures this morning in his Citroen DS 3. With no opportunity to take onboard additional tyres, he steered a careful path through the rest of the day to preserve fifth.
Ott Tanak won all three of the Sunday morning's speed tests but Sebastien Ogier remained firmly in control at the head of the leaderboard.
Estonian Tanak, driving a Ford Fiesta RS, beat his French rival by 0.6sec in the Clocaenog opener. He regained a further 3.5sec at Brenig before completing the loop with fastest in Alwen to claw back another 3.8sc from the Volkswagen Polo R pilot.
The gap between the duo was 25.9sec with just three stages remaining in this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship but Tanak was not risking all on the slippery gravel forest tracks.
“It’s crazy. The roads are really slippery in the first two stages, very tricky conditions,” he said. “I have no interest to push at the maximum, I don’t want to make any mistakes. There was a bit more grip in the last one and I had a good feeling and rhythm. I enjoyed that one.”
Ogier continued to push hard, acknowledging that Tanak’s tyres gave him an edge on the greasy roads.
“I’m still pushing, I’m on the limit,” he said. “I said yesterday that we would lose time today and I knew we needed a gap. We still have that gap so that’s OK, but I need to keep driving well.”
Thierry Neuville remained third in his Hyundai i20, despite a small mistake in Clocaenog when he slid wide in a hairpin. His advantage over team-mate Hayden Paddon remained pretty much unchanged at 12.3sec, the Kiwi happier with his car’s balance after making set-up changes overnight.
Kris Meeke stayed fifth in a Citroen DS 3, likening the slippery conditions to ice in places, with Dani Sordo sixth in another i20. Jari-Matti Latvala moved his Polo R into seventh ahead of Mads Ostberg’s Ford Fiesta RS.
Yazeed Al Rajhi had major gearbox concerns in his Fiesta RS, while Valeriy Gorban went off the road twice in Clocaenog and also punctured in his Mini John Cooper.
Sebastien Ogier has won the Dayinsure WALES RALLY GB for the Fourth consecutive season on Sunday afternoon, and secured the VW Manufacturers title.
The Frenchman, who clinched his fourth world title in Spain earlier this month, mastered fog and mud to win this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 10.2sec in a Volkswagen Polo R. Victory confirmed the manufacturers’ world title for the German squad.
Ott Tanak matched his career-best result by taking second place in a Ford Fiesta RS, with Thierry Neuville securing his fourth consecutive podium in a Hyundai i20 in third. The Belgian finished 1min 25.2sec behind Tanak.
Tanak won the final live TV Power Stage to claim three bonus points. Andreas Mikkelsen took two points for second in a Polo R while Neuville secured the final point.