Part one of our analysis of the leading entries at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse.
Jari-Matti Latvala – Polo R – 4th
As the winner of the 2015 Tour de Corse, big things were expected of the Finn [above]. However, this was largely an event to forget. He was only seventh fastest after the first two stages and cited the set-up he had taken from the pre-event test as the reason for his lack of pace. Things improved as he climbed to third at the end of day one but a lack of confidence in his Polo’s brakes meant he was unable to hold off Mikkelsen and dropped to fourth at the end of day two. A switch to new brakes and tweaked roll bars and springs improved his pace on Sunday and ensured he finished strongly. But he still missed the final podium spot by 25.6sec.
Thierry Neuville – Hyundai i20 – 2nd
The Belgian was consistently quick on Corsica’s asphalt and was brimming with confidence for much of the weekend. One of the main reasons was the behind-the-scenes influence of his new engineer, Gerard Zyzik. Neuville wasn’t entirely happy with the handling of his Hyundai i20 on the wider sections of road, so Zyzik stepped in and pushed for a number of differential and damper changes to be made. It proved a master stroke and transformed the handling of Neuville’s machine. Having been involved in a tight battle with Andreas Mikkelsen for second place mid-way through Saturday, the set-up improvements gave Neuville the performance gain he was looking for and he comfortably raced ahead of his VW rival to take second place by a margin of 23.6sec.
Kris Meeke – DS 3 WRC – 16th
This was a mixed event for the Briton as flashes of brilliance were tempered by moments of bad luck and miscalculation. He was second fastest after two stages, but a puncture on SS3 dropped the DS 3 driver down to 11th. Saturday morning started fantastically as he raced to a time in SS5 that was 17.3sec faster than anyone else could manage. But disaster followed on the next test when a faulty pace note meant he was on the throttle when he should have been on the brake. The result was a collision with a tree, significant offside front damage and retirement. He returned on Sunday to blitz the Power Stage and underline his growing confidence with a full 2017 programme just around the corner.
Eric Camilli – Ford Fiesta RS – 8th
After crashing on the first stage at Rallye Deutschland, the Frenchman was determined to take a more measured approach in Corsica so he could benefit from the asphalt mileage he so desperately needs in M-Sport’s Fiesta RS. Although his stage times were only good enough for eighth place at the finish – almost five minutes off the rally-winning pace, he did show some flashes of strength on the split times as he got into his rhythm and adjusted to the conditions. He was happy with his weekend’s work and was pleased to have successfully completed another rally distance without making any mistakes.
Ott Tänak – Ford Fiesta RS – 10th
This was DMACK’s first event in Corsica and its lack of experience on the tricky asphalt roads showed in the stage times that Tänak was able to set. When the road was wet or damp, the Estonian was able to show a good turn of speed – SS8 being a case in point where Tänak was fourth quickest. But when the roads were dry and warm, overheating became a problem and that compromised the pace of his Fiesta RS. Finishing 10th and being 6min 26.6sec off the pace wasn’t much to get excited about. But the team was glad to have completed all the stages and gathered some valuable tyre data for 2017.
Hayden Paddon – Hyundai i20 – 6th
As a relative asphalt novice, Corsica was always going to be an event where Paddon continued his learning. He spent much of the rally balancing his rapidly-evolving asphalt driving style to the set-up requirements of his Hyundai i20 WRC on the notoriously tricky stages. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t – with Paddon declaring on the second day it was time to “go back to the drawing board”. But the event ultimately netted a sixth-place finish and although that wasn’t much to write home about in the eyes of the Kiwi perfectionist, he knew he’d gathered a raft of valuable data that is guaranteed to be put to good use when it comes to fine-tuning his driving skills on future asphalt events.