Rally Corsica 2015: Latvala defies the storm

Rallye Corsica 2015
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E s something was brewing over the Mediterranean, and it discharged exactly after the 169 participants had crossed the starting ramp for the Corsica Rally on Thursday evening (October 1st, 2015) in the island's capital Ajaccio. A hurricane hit the scene of the 11th round of the World Championship this season with full force. In the north of the island at Cap Corse, wind speeds of up to 157 km /h were measured. In 30 hours, 360 liters of water per square meter fell in some places.

Instead of photographing rally cars at the roadside as usual, passers-by in the rally center in Corte took photos of the river. The otherwise picturesque rippling Restonica had become a raging monster. The city administration turned off the water because the sewer system was already overflowing. At the Corte airfield, which served as a service park for the World Cup circus, the teams felt like they were in Amazonia. The grove behind next to the runway was completely flooded.

'Did you see that?' Hyundai works driver Dani Sordo was amazed on Friday morning when a 15 meter high tree fell and was swept away by the floods. His team had long since relocated its tire fitting service and temporarily evacuated the command truck. The father of Hyundai works driver Kevin Abbring's BMW training car just swam away on the flooded country road to Bastia.


It was the worst storm on the island in 30 years. The 'Medicane' had torn loose stones and also large boulders that blocked the road from Casamezzo to Ponte Leccia, so the second of only 9 exams had to be canceled, and because it could not be cleared until the second round on Saturday, also exam 4. Where it was possible to drive, the narrow asphalt tracks were littered with blown leaves and pine needles. 'Streams ran over the street all the time,' complained Jari-Matti Latvala. 'You could never say where there was grip and where not.'

Like other colleagues, the Finn in Volkswagen service approached the eleventh round of the World Championship with great humility: 'When you see Neuville standing against a bridge wall after just one kilometer, that makes you think,' said Citroën works driver Kris Meeke and immediately slowed down the pace.

As so often the world champion seemed completely unimpressed by the freak weather, but if Sébastien Ogier may be able to walk over the water, overbut then not rough rock. A chunk lying around destroyed a tire on Friday afternoon on stage 3.

Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia made the change in a swift 1:40 minutes, with a one-minute gap the victory would have been within reach, but the flat tire was just the beginning. On the way to the stage destination in Bastia, the gearbox suddenly couldn't be shifted. Ogier had to give up and started Saturday with ten penalty minutes, which meant that the dream of a home win was over.

The champion only managed to reach 15th place in his race to catch up and collected 3 points for winning the power stage. 'Fortunately, I already had everything I wanted this year in the bag,' said the Frenchman, referring to the World Cup title defended in Australia a few weeks earlier.

The big end came on Sunday: because he had forgotten to press the OK button in the GPS-based tracking system when changing tires on the test, he unnecessarily put the FIA ​​safety officer on alert. The association gave VW a hefty fine of 10,000 euros (2,000 immediately plus 8,000 probation) for its negligence.

Latvala gets himself his third victory

While the champions struggled to motivate themselves and youngster Andreas Mikkelsen struggled with the conditions, Latvala drove in the third polo on the drying Saturday in a focused and error-free manner. On the dry and somewhat wider slopes on Sunday, the World Cup runner-up could no longer be held. Latvala clinched his third win of the season in Ajaccio, his 15th World Championship success overall and, after the French World Championship round in Alsace last year, his second on asphalt.

He is only after Markku Alèn (1983 and 84) the second Finn to win in the maze of curves in Corsica. Latvala also had his moment of trembling when the steering wheel shift failed when downshifting on Saturday afternoon. The Finn saved himself to the service with the emergency shift lever. To be on the safe side, the team exchanged the control box for Sunday.

The rally's surprise man had the best chance of his first World Championship success at least until the end of the second stage. Elfyn Evans didn't care a meter about torrents or mud tracks in the M-Sport team's Ford Fiesta. The young Welshman even led after the two stages of the first stage. 'To be honest, I don't know why myself. I didn't get the impression that I was driving that fast.'

With only 2 seconds behind Latvala, who was catching up with giant strides, team principal Malcolm Wilson gave it on Saturday evening The slogan is that Evans should aim for victory. 'The brand world championship is unimportant for me, but his victory would make an impression,' said the M-Sport boss.

Evans had to admit defeat on Sunday, but was able to win in an exciting final with 3, At least 2 seconds aheadSave rank 2 from the storming Andreas Mikkelsen. 'Of course you think that with the distance you could have pushed a bit more, but I'm happy for Elfyn. This is his best result ever and he deserves this second place,' said Mikkelsen.

The rest of the Ford remained rather pale. Ott Tänak finished tenth in the second M-Sport Ford by just a hair's breadth in the points. 'That was the worst rally I've ever driven,' confessed the Estonian, beaten by asphalt specialists Bryan Bouffier (eighth) and Stéphane Sarrazin (ninth) in customer fiestas.

Citroën scores valuable points for the brand world championship

Robert Kubica in another Ford, after his best time in the shakedown and on the first test, had everyone on the bill, But the former Formula 1 star got bogged down with voting and tire selection, destroyed two wheels on Saturday, and because he only had one spare wheel in the trunk, he had to park his tricycle. In the end, he ended up in 22nd place, but was at least happy about second place in the final power stage and thus two championship points.

The teams from Citroën and Hyundai drove their own competition fight in the brand world championship. With the early retirement of Hyundai man Thierry Neuville after just one and a half kilometers from Stage 1, the team's hopes rested on Asphalt ace Dani Sordo. But like Ogier, the Spaniard had to change a tire on a stage on Friday and lost 2 minutes. The veteran fought his way forward two days, caught Bouffier by a hair's breadth in the last few kilometers and still finished seventh, while Neuville came in only 25th with 14 penalty minutes.

While WRC freshman Kevin Abbring was in fourth Hyundai with second place on Friday and one exit on Sunday saw light and shadow, Hayden Paddon drove in the third i20 as the best man of the Koreans without mistakes and quickly to 5th place. Unfortunately, the New Zealander was not nominated for the World Championship.

And so the home team was able to turn things around again in the table. With 4th place for Kris Meeke and 6th place for Mads Östberg, the Citroën works drivers didn’t deliver a sheet of glory, but it was enough to turn a gap of 13 points into a wafer-thin lead of one point.

With empty The Corsica Rally ended with hands like Armin Kremer's home game in Germany. Despite a long career and 48 years in Corsica for the first time, the Mecklenburg driver showed a strong performance in the Baumschlager team's Skoda Fabia R5, which could have earned him third place in the WRC2, but on Sunday the Fabia suddenly stopped with engine failure, as in Trier . Frenchman Julien Maurin won the second world championship league ahead of Skoda works driver Esapekka Lappi.

After the cancellation of the French championship round in Alsace in the spring, theCorsican World Cup run after a seven-year break was actually only intended as a stopgap. The EM run, which was hastily brought to the length of the World Cup by the organizer, did not meet the criteria of a World Championship, not only with its crude schedule with only 9 tests and 4 different start and finish locations, despite the great routes. But the World Cup circus is also facing a 37th edition on the island. Although neither promoters nor manufacturers wanted to have a 14th World Championship run alongside the newcomer China, FIA President Jean Todt really wanted Corsica back and once more pushed through.

The best photos of the Corsica Rally we show you in the gallery.


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