Tanak Leads Ostberg in Finland

Ott Tanak extended his lead over Mads Ostberg to 5.8 seconds by the end of the first full day of Rally Finland, after the pair had spent Friday embroiled in a huge battle for first position, swapping the lead repeatedly.

When Tanak's Toyota faltered out of a hairpin on the afternoon's opening Oittila stage, Ostberg inched into a lead of just 0.1s - which he held onto on the following Moksi stage as the pair set identical times. Ostberg then built his cushion up to 1.9s with a strong run on Urria, but after that higher tyre wear on his Citroen than Tanak's Toyota meant his day went downhill.

A stage win for Tanak on Assamaki put him back into the lead by a second, and quicker-than-Ostberg times on the subsequent Aanekoski and Harju stages established his overnight advantage. Jari-Matti Latvala started the afternoon slowly and lost third to Teemu Suninen on Oittila.

The Toyota driver was soon back in front in that battle, but could not keep pace with the top two and is now 23.1s from the lead. Suninen later lost out to Hayden Paddon's Hyundai too, and then fell further away with a brake problem on the Harju street stage.

Sebastien Ogier ended the day a canny sixth, and much better placed for the rest of the weekend than WRC title rival Thierry Neuville. Ogier's M-Sport team-mate Elfyn Evans slowed on the Aanekoski stage to give the champion an extra position before the day two running order was set on results ahead of Harju.

Running second on the road, Ogier had come under growing threat from the recovering Esapekka Lappi and Craig Breen through the afternoon but he and Evans managed to stay just clear of Lappi and Breen was delayed by a fuel feed problem on the final stage.

The same issue hit the third Citroen of Khalid Al-Qassimi, raising fears of trouble for Ostberg. The lead contender had no trouble, though, suggesting that his longer wait before the stage meant his car was running at a different temperature and did not trigger the glitch.

After his morning spin, Neuville's position at the head of the start order on the dusty roads meant he was the slowest of the WRC frontrunners on most stages and fell away in 10th. The only consolation is that he won't be first on the road on Saturday because his Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen is even further behind thanks to his morning crash.

Leading positions after SS11
Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 1h04m14.9s
2 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi 5.8s
3 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 23.1s
4 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 36.4s
5 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT 46.1s
6 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT 58.9s
7 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT 1m01.1s
8 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 1m01.4s
9 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 1m34.1s
10 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 1m57.7s

27th July, 2018

Neuville & Edwards win in Ypres

Thierry Neuville dominated the Ypres Rally, winning 15 of the 23 stages in a one-off appearance at the Belgian rally for the second consecutive year in a Hyundai i20 R5. The current World Rally Championship points leader crashed out of this event last year, but this year made few mistakes, building and maintaining a comfortable lead from the second stage to the finish. Vincent Verschuren driving a Skoda Fabia R5 finished second, 40.4 seconds adrift.
For the second successive year, the Ypres Rally was also a qualifying round of the British Rally Championship, with Keith Cronin leading until the last stage of the rally before loosing over a minute on the last stage with a puncture, causing him to fall to third and handing victory to M-Sport works driver Matt Edwards and second place to David Bogie.
The BRC section of the Belgian rally featured a litany of dramas including Martin McCormack crashing his Skoda Fabia R5 out of second in class on the final leg.

24th June, 2018

Prestone BRC Heads to Ypres for Round 2

This weekend the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship heads overseas to Belgium for the Renties Ypres Rally for round two of the 2018 series and the Prestone BRC team are sending the best from all of the home nations in the quest for European silverware. Tony Pond, Jimmy McRae and Kris Meeke are the only British drivers to have lifted the trophy in northern Belgium.

Two days comprising more than 160 competitive miles in daylight and atmospheric night time conditions on the fast and flowing Belgian Tarmac roads await the BRC stars. In the series 60th anniversary season, the finest BRC crews will compete against some of the best in the world including FIA World Rally Championship leaders Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in a factory Hyundai i20 R5 and last years Ypres Rally winners Kevin Abbring and Pieter Tsjoen in their brand new Citroen C3 R5.

As well as chasing the overall podium, competitors will be vying for the Tony Pond Award, which will be presented to the first BRC crew across the finish line. There will also be a Junior Tony Pond Award adding another incentive for the emerging talent of rallying to go for in the Flanders region.
Leading the championship after the first round in England are Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod in their MSport prepared Ford Fiesta R5. The Welsh pairing claimed the opening BRC event on the gravel of the Pirelli International Rally, their breakthrough BRC win. Ypres is a happy hunting ground, with the Fiesta duo having finished second in the BRC section and tenth overall last year. Edwards will be hoping for more of the same this season as he bids to maintain his championship lead.

Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin topped the British Championship crews in Ypres last year, receiving the Tony Pond Award in the process, courtesy of a fine seventh overall in the main event. With event knowledge under their belts and a switch to a new Michelin-shod Hyundai i20 R5, the reigning British champions will look to lead the British attack as the BRC takes the fight to the local Belgian drivers.

Rhys Yates and Elliott Edmondson have rallied all around Europe, getting to grips with the new Skoda Fabia R5. Second on the opening round will give them confidence for an all out assault for British honours in Ypres as the pair relish the switch to Tarmac. Yates took his first outright win on the recent Rally van Wervik against strong opposition, forming the perfect warm-up for Ypres.

Two fellow British teams in Skoda Fabia R5s will be hoping for better luck in Flanders this season. Marty McCormack, a driver who won the hearts of the local fans with a spirited drive in an S2000 car in 2015, rolled out of contention in dramatic style on the second stage of the rally last year. With David Moynihan sat alongside, the Irish pairing will be striving for their first BRC win and a change of fortunes this time around in their Kumho backed Fabia R5. David Bogie similarly rolled out of the opening round of the championship in England and will be eager to get his championship back on track. The 2011 BRC title holder will be joined by the experienced John Rowan on the pacenotes as the pair aim to be top of the BRC pile at the spectacular Ceremonial Finish in the DMACK shod Fabia R5.

Tarmac ace Alex Laffey and co driver Patrick Walsh chalked up their best BRC result on gravel on the Pirelli Rally in sixth place and will be pushing for their first BRC podium in their Ford Fiesta R5, while BRC newcomer Lawrence Whyte will be learning the art of ditch cutting on his first foray to Ypres. Fellow Scot, Paul Beaton will join the young charger in the striking Fiesta R5.

21st June, 2018

Neuville wins Rally Italy by 0.7 seconds

In one of the closest victories the World Rally Championship has ever seen, Thierry Neuville overhauled his main rival for the 2018 Championship Sebastien Ogier, on the very last stage in a dramatic conclusion to win Rally Italy by just 0.7 seconds.
Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had started on Sunday's stages 3.9s behind Ogier but won all four of the day's tests to pip Ogier, in what was the equal third closest finish in WRC history. Esapekka Lappi claimed his first podium of the year in third place but almost two minutes off the leaders following a final-day fight with Toyota teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, who suffered a broken alternator at the end of SS16 to drop out of contention
Neuville now takes a healthy 27 point lead in the 2018 World Rally Drivers Championship to the next round - Neste Rally Finland 26-29th June.

Rally Italy - Top Ten Finishers
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 3h29m18.7s
2 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT 0.7s
3 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 1m56.3s
4 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 2m55.2s
5 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 3m10.9s
6 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 4m31.7s
7 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 11m22.1s
8 Jan Kopecky, P.Dresler Skoda Motorsport II 13m14.6s
9 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 13m18.2s
10 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT 15m30.4s

2018 World Rally Championship - Top Ten Positions after 7 of 13 Rounds
1 Thierry Neuville 149
2 Sebastien Ogier 122
3 Ott Tanak 79
4 Esapekka Lappi 70
5 Dani Sordo 60
6 Andreas Mikkelsen 56
7 Elfyn Evans 46
8 Kris Meeke 43
9 Jari-Matti Latvala 37
10 Craig Breen 34

11th June, 2018

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