The C3 WRC Secures Its Sixth Consecutive Podium As Ogier-Ingrassia Finish As Runners-Up
At the WRC’s inaugural outing in Chile, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia continued their impressive series of podiums to finish as runners-up. It was an incredibly intense battle in their C3 WRC, following the improvements made to the car by Citroën Total World Rally Team since Rally Argentina. This result sees them reclaim the championship lead. Increasingly comfortable as the rally progressed, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm finished sixth overall.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produced an excellent performance this weekend in Chile, finishing as runners-up as well as collecting four bonus points in the Power Stage. This means they head back to Europe from Chile with a ten-point lead in the championship standings. This sixth podium finish in as many rounds this season, combined with the sixth position of Lappi / Ferm, also means the Citroën Total World Rally Team stays within reach of second place in the manufacturers’ standings.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia immediately settled into second position on day one in the wooded sections that were left damp by rain before the start. Although the morning of day two proved more difficult, they were able – in conjunction with the team – to respond perfectly in the afternoon loop, grabbing a stage win and a third fastest time on their way to doubling their advantage over the third-placed crew. Unfortunately, they were hampered by the late arrival of fog and rain on the final stage of the day, allowing their rivals back into the mix ahead of the short final leg.
Sunday’s final leg was not short on difficulties, with yet more narrow and fast stages to encounter for the first time at full pace. It was made even more taxing by some light rain that had fallen overnight, leaving the roads significantly damper than it had been. In these testing conditions, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia saw the third-placed crew trim their advantage to just 1.1 seconds on the opening stage.
The six-time World Champions then produced the kind of performance of which they alone are capable. They pushed throughout the full 18.06 kilometres of Lircay, the rally’s narrowest stage, to claim their second stage win of the weekend, 4.2 seconds ahead of their rival for second place. The French crew then managed the gap to the end, finishing second overall and thus securing their fifth podium in six rounds, following wins at Monte-Carlo and in Mexico, second place in Corsica and third in Argentina.
After a cautious, focused start to the rally, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm had closed to within 10.3 seconds of fifth place with the third fastest time on Saturday’s final stage. They confirmed their growing confidence and improved form on Sunday, grabbing a fifth and a fourth fastest time. Their splits on the Power Stage were also very promising until a minor error dashed their hopes of any bonus points, but they still finished sixth overall. The Finnish pair can take heart from an encouraging result, one which they will hope to build on, so they can start the next round in Portugal in even better shape.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver: “This podium further consolidates our strong start to the season. We have been very consistent and the points are good for the championship. It wasn't an easy weekend, however, even though things moved in the right direction after Saturday’s mid-leg service. We got the best out of the C3 WRC once again. We now need to develop the car even more so that we can be more competitive in low-grip situations.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver: “We had a difficult start, but we managed to gradually make progress. We also managed to improve the set-up of the C3 WRC with the team and our pace started to look pretty decent today. I really hope that we can keep going forward like this in our forthcoming tests. In any case, it ended up being a positive weekend in terms of confidence.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
What is your assessment of this sixth round?
“Clearly, it was a positive weekend, with second place secured by Sébastien and Julien. They produced another attacking performance, on these totally new stages, which needed quite a bit of getting used to. Their perseverance was rewarded with a good result that sees them back at the top of the standings.”
“The other cause for satisfaction is the form that Esapekka and Janne have found again. They put together a smart, mature performance to finish the rally, after gradually building their pace. It certainly bodes well for the rest of the year, especially as we now start a run of events that they know better. I think we also showed that we were able to react and introduce a few minor upgrades, which worked, in the fairly narrow window available between Argentina and Chile. Having said that, we are fully aware that these changes are not enough as yet to fight with the fastest crews in all conditions, and we are going to step up our efforts in order to keep improving.”
What did you think of this first edition of Rally Chile in the WRC?
“I think the event has been a successful addition to the championship. Having driven on the stages in the recce, I have to say they really are very attractive. The roads are fast, undulating but also highly varied. We have also been very warmly welcomed by the local fans. They were especially noisy and enthusiastic at the ceremonial start and at the finish, but were also out in big numbers on the stages and in the service park.”
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND
Finishing 4.2 seconds ahead and all but securing second place on Sunday morning on Lircay (SS14), the narrowest stage of the rally, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia once again showed their ability to take incredibly precise pace notes, as well as their talent for striking at just the right moment. The number 1 C3 WRC driver explained…
“Obviously it goes without saying that Julien and I gave our all on every stage. Although we’re not always able to compete with the fastest crews on technical stages and in low-grip conditions, I knew that SS14 and SS15 were the kind of stages that suited us best. They were certainly fast – in fact, the average speeds were above 100kph for the first time this weekend – and we know that the C3 WRC performs well in conditions like this so we couldn't afford to miss this opportunity. We had to hit back, especially as we had just dropped four seconds on the opening stage of the day and that’s exactly what we did.”