There was only one mission for our team on the final morning of Rally Sweden – scoring Power Stage points!
After the disappointment of Saturday evening’s retirement from the lead, we knew we had missed out on a good chance for victory, but we still wanted to rescue something from the weekend. So, our crews embarked on the final three stages with that objective in mind.
Close encounters of the third kind
It would prove to be a close fight with many drivers intent on doing exactly the same. On the slippery, snowy Swedish terrain, Thierry and Nicolas took third in stage, just 1.5s from eventual winner Jari-Matti Latvala, with Hayden and John in fifth.
The three points for our Belgians couldn’t mask their dissatisfaction with the overall result.
“We gave it everything in the final stage but we had to settle for third,” said Thierry. “I feel disappointed for the whole team that we lost the lead for such a small driving mistake. It was another issue with big consequences for the Championship. We have to focus on moving forward positively.”
Hayden was happier with his performance on the final day, as our Kiwi crew set a trio of top-five stage times.
“Getting to the finish of the rally was such a release of pressure,” he said. “Things didn’t click for us this weekend, but we used the Sunday morning stages to try a few things. We gave it a bit of a push in the Power Stage. Finishing in seventh gives us some points for the Championship.”
Our #6 crew of Dani and Marc scored their second consecutive fourth place finish, after another consistent weekend. They missed out on the bonus points – but only just! Still, they could take consolation from increasing their advantage over fifth-placed Craig Breen.
“I have enjoyed this rally a lot,” said Dani. “We knew our target this morning was to secure fourth place and to pick up important points. We took it carefully. These are tricky stages, so we had to be cautious not to make any mistakes.”
The 12 points scored means our Spaniard is fourth on the drivers’ classification with a total of 25 across two rallies.
Putting the pieces together
We’ve not had the start to 2017 that we wanted but we can take comfort from the performance of our i20 Coupe WRC. Six stage wins in Sweden and seven in Monte-Carlo show that we are in the most competitive shape we have ever been in – even if the results don’t necessarily show it yet.
“I am sure we will look back at these two rounds as character-building for our team,” summarised our Team Principal Michel. “We have crews who have shown their ability to fight for stage wins, we have a car that has potential to win rallies and we have the fighting spirit we need to succeed. The pieces of the puzzle are there.”
The final word went to Rally Sweden winners, Toyota, and the Championship overall. “I would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to Toyota for an historic win this weekend. If one thing is clear after two rounds, the WRC is in great health with plenty of competition. That’s the one real positive we take away from Sweden.”
Final Overall Classification – Rally Sweden
1. J. M. Latvala / M. Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:36:03.6
2. O. Tanak / M. Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.2
3. S. Ogier J. / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +59.5
4. D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:11.5
5. C. Breen / P. Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:51.2
6. E. Evans / D. Barritt ( Ford Fiesta WRC +5:26.6)
7. H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5:31.2
8. S. Lefebvre / G. Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) +7:14.7
9. P. Tidemand / J. Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:11.1
10. T. Suninen / M. Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +10:02.9
11. O.C Veiby / S. Skjaermoen (Škoda Fabia R5) +10:18.5
12. K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +10:28.7
13. T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +11:31.5
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 2
1. J.M. Latvala 48
2. S. Ogier 44
3. O. Tanak 33
4. D. Sordo 25
5. C. Breen 20
6. E. Evans 18
7. S. Lefebvre 10
8. T. Neuville 8
9. H. Paddon 7
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 2
1. M-Sport World Rally Team 73
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 53
3. Hyundai Motorsport 40
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 26