After a nail-biting finish on the final stage in Argentina, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produced another heroic performance to claim their fourth podium of the season and Citroën Total World Rally Team’s fifth in 2019.
A THIRD OUTING FOR LOEB
After a ten-second penalty was handed to their direct rivals for the final podium place for failing to follow the racing route, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia went into Sunday’s final leg in third position. They held a slim 6.0 second lead as they prepared to tackle the very rough stages of El Condor and Giulio Cesare. Displaying their notoriously determined attitude, the six-time World Champions put up a bold fight in the C3 WRC, not forgetting the importance of securing big points for the championship. Their efforts were rewarded in the end with a victory on the Power Stage, their third stage win of the weekend, which saw them hang onto the final podium spot by just 1.4 seconds.
Despite the difficult and changeable grip conditions, particularly on the opening day after heavy rain fell prior to the event, the French crew made an excellent start. They were consistently among the frontrunners to end the leg second overall, just 11.9 seconds behind the leaders.
The second day proved to be more challenging. Confused about which route to take on the morning loop (SS11) by a gate left open, whereas the roadbook indicated it was meant to be closed, Sébastien and Julien hesitated and ended up damaging the power steering of their C3 WRC when they hit the gate. They therefore dropped back to sixth position, 21.8 seconds adrift of the podium. They then fought back valiantly on the second loop, claiming two stage wins on their way to fourth overall, keeping them in with a good chance of finishing on the podium going into the final day.
Sébastien and Julien’s third position, combined with the five bonus points earned on the Power Stage, means they have consolidated their second position in the World Championship, ten points behind the leaders. This is their fourth podium this year, after winning in Monte-Carlo and Mexico, and finishing as runners-up in Corsica. It is also the fifth time in as many events this season that Citroën Total World Rally Team has finished in the top three.
After making a decent start with a fifth fastest time on the rally’s first proper stage (SS2), Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were unfortunately held up by a puncture when they hit a bank following a crest. The Finnish pair were gradually upping their pace on what was only their second appearance in Argentina, reflected in their promising split times, when a tyre came loose following a puncture, rolling the car (SS8) and forcing them to retire from the rally on the opening leg.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver: “It’s a pretty good result in terms of points, but we can’t be pleased with our overall performance level. There are some conditions, like those we saw in Mexico or here on the second runs, where we are fairly competitive but we have to improve when there is less grip or when the road is more technical. I’m pleased, however, to see our persistence was rewarded, because once again this weekend we pushed as hard as possible right to the end.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver: “Despite not knowing the roads here particularly well, I was obviously hoping for a better outcome from this round. After we had picked up a puncture, I was caught out when the tyre suddenly came loose, this then caused the car to understeer and we hit a bank at the side of the road and rolled the car. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but after a few days’ rest, Janne and I will be back raring to go and have the best Rally Chile possible, where we’ll all be on an equal footing in terms of experience.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACINGTEAM PRINCIPAL
How do you assess your performance in Argentina?
“It was clearly a tough weekend, one that we can’t be fully satisfied with. The points for third place and from the Power Stage are fairly positive in regards to the championship, but we lacked pace on these roads. The result is, in large part, down to Sébastien and Julien’s relentless commitment and persistence. Meanwhile, Esapekka and Janne deserved at least to make it to the end of the rally, in order to keep adding to their experience. Perhaps in future they will need to manage a puncture differently, but we are still fully behind them so that they can get back on track in Chile.”
How are you intending to tackle the transition to Rally Chile?
“First of all, we’ll be shipping the backup C3 WRC out to Chile for Esapekka and Janne, so that they will have a completely new car for the event. Although we have relatively little time, we are also going to get to work on improving the C3 WRC as much as possible in clearly identified conditions, and define the best set-up for the rally. It’s a new event for everyone, and will also be fairly different to what we experienced this weekend. In any case, we are all fired up to keep fighting as hard as possible for the championship.”
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND
Jean-Luc Gaucher, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s Chief Mechanic, was the man in charge of coordinating Saturday’s mid-leg service, during which the Citroën mechanics repaired the stricken number 1 C3 WRC. He told us about how they took just forty minutes to repair the car’s power steering, broken by the French crew in a minor impact.
“In the end, we had a whole load of parts to replace. The entire power steering, of course, but also the gearbox, the hydraulic unit and the clutch. Generally speaking, these sorts of repairs need careful planning beforehand so that everyone knows precisely what order to do things in and so that everything goes smoothly once you get started. Given that we only had one car left in the race at that point, we could have all eight of our mechanics involved, but we were limited by the physical space to only four people working on the front of the car, in the critical area.”
“Although we train for this kind of situation, it’s always satisfying to see things work out when it’s for real. It was important to get the car working again as quickly as possible, because when you work on the hydraulics, the start-up procedure takes quite a bit of time, but that’s precisely what we managed to do. After a long, difficult service like this, there’s always a niggling fear that you might have missed something, so it was certainly reassuring for all of us to see Sébastien and Julien grab two consecutive stage wins straight afterwards.”