In the second part of our review, we consider the turning point of last weekend’s rally and reflect on an extremely lucky save that was delivered by one of the titans of the sport.
Surprise of the rally
Sébastien Ogier's recent form suggested he had this rally in the bag. As a two-time Corsica winner (in 2016 and 2018) and with two wins from the first three events in 2019, the Frenchman was one of the pre-event favourites for victory on his home rally.
But Ogier was never in a position to challenge for the lead. A spin on the opening stage set the tone for a frustrating and disappointing weekend during which Citroën’s C3 struggled on the twisty asphalt roads and Ogier failed to register a single fastest stage time.
A dogged approach kept him at the front end, and second place courtesy of Evans’ last stage nightmare was a great salvage job, but it was a surprise to see the six-time champion this far off the pace.
This year’s rally had no shortage of twists and turns. We have already covered Sunday’s Wolf Power Stage upset in our ‘you’ll never believe it’ category yesterday, so this time we’re nominating Saturday’s SS11 - Désert des Agriates.
The day’s penultimate stage was where the unflappable Ott Tänak lost the lead with a puncture and plunged out of the podium running. Up to that point, the Estonian had positioned himself as one of the favourites to win.
His confidence at the wheel of the Yaris suggested he had speed in reserve, and he even joked at the end of the previous test that he wasn’t too concerned about the pace of his rivals. “Still a long way to go. This is not the last stage yet,” he smiled. Sadly for his victory challenge, it was. He finished sixth.
Save of the rally
In 2018, Sébastien Loeb crashed out of Friday’s competition in Corsica when his Citroën C3 failed to negotiate a left-hand corner and got stuck in a ditch. He came extremely close to doing the same this year on Saturday’s Castagniccia test (SS9).
This time however, luck was on the Frenchman’s side. His Hyundai understeered into the tightening corner and slid into the end of a ditch - which was shallow enough for him to reverse out of. The incident cost about 20sec and left his i20 with nothing worse than a few scratches on the front bumper. Lucky man.
Stage of the rally
Saturday’s 47.18km Castagniccia – the longest stage of the rally – was always expected to be an endurance challenge. But as well as almost 30 minutes of flat-out driving, the stage brought plenty of drama.
On the morning pass, as SS9, it was where Loeb took his ditch trip, Kalle Rovanperä crashed out of the WRC 2 Pro lead and Elfyn Evans lost first position to Tänak.
On the repeat as SS12, Evans lost the lead again, this time to eventual winner Thierry Neuville, WRC 2 leader Éric Camilli stopped when his Polo was destroyed by fire and Lukasz Pieniaczek, the sole remaining WRC 2 Pro entry, crashed his Fiesta.