France driver report: Part 1
How did the top drivers fare on France’s asphalt?
Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20)
Consistency pays, and Sordo (above) had shed loads of it in France. While drivers around him were hampered by mechanical problems or making mistakes, Sordo avoided trouble, despite never getting comfortable in an i20 WRC he felt was hopping about too much. Inherited fourth on Friday when Elfyn Evans collected a time penalty and spent the rest of the event watching anxiously in the rear view mirror as other challengers came and went.
Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R)
It didn’t quite match the horror of the earlier round in Germany, but Ogier’s second crack at a home success (this time his - not Volkswagen’s) was almost as bad. Unlike Germany the biggest problem this time was out of his control. There’s nothing any driver can do about a gearbox sensor going pop, but the spin beforehand was down to human error - as was Julien Ingrassia’s subsequent timing blunder. Both proved that the defending champs are human after all. Stuck in limbo after the restart, three points on the Power Stage was the best they could achieve and leaves them odds-on to seal the title in Spain.
Kris Meeke (Citroen DS3)
Rarely out of the top four on stage, Meeke was easily the best non-Volkswagen runner and scooped a well-deserved third. Still out to prove he deserves a seat for 2015, Meeke chose consistency over a risky battle with the leading Polos and spent much of the event in no-man’s land with a comfortable cushion over Sordo behind. Measured his pace perfectly to keep Citroën on course for second in the manufacturers’ contest.
Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Fiesta RS)
France is not one of the Finn’s favourite rallies, and this outing won’t have changed that. Down in tenth and 7.2sec off the pace after opening stage, Hirvonen struggled early on to adapt to Michelin’s new asphalt tyres. He got more comfortable as the event wore on, but his team-mate Elfyn Evans had the edge on 13 of the 18 stages. One of the contenders in the battle for fourth, his final position of fifth had a lot to do with the misfortune of Ostberg and Kubica.
Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R)
After podiums in Sweden, Poland, Germany and Australia, Mikkelsen bagged his fifth of the season and made it look easy. Early on it looked like his first WRC victory might even be on the cards, but Latvala overturned his brief lead, and on Saturday Mikkelsen admitted he wasn’t prepared to risk losing third in the drivers’ title race to chase him down. From then on he played a defensive game, doing just enough to keep Meeke behind. No easy feat.
Martin Prokop (Ford Fiesta RS)
The experience of driving Fiona the Fiesta on the challenging Alsace roads had Prokop smiling during the stages. But the smile was wiped from his face when he saw how uncompetitive his times were. That was pretty much the story of the rally for Prokop. He looked destined to finish outside the top 10 until Kubica crashed, unintentionally handing him a 32nd birthday present of one championship point for 10th.