Thursday | 22 Sep 2016

Rally rewind: Corsica 2015

We begin our build-up to the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse (29 September - 2 October) with a look back to last year's event, when Jari-Matti Latvala triumphed over the most extreme weather encountered in the WRC for years.

Friday 2 October

Elfyn Evans was the shock leader after an opening leg which was almost washed away by torrential rain. The Welshman won the last stage in his Ford Fiesta RS to leap from sixth to first, 18.7sec clear of another surprise package, Hyundai's Kevin Abbring, with Latvala completing the top three.

More than 24 hours of heavy rain flooded parts of the Corsican countryside. Rivers burst their banks and torrents of water poured over roads as a tropical storm hit the Mediterranean island. The opening stage near Ajaccio ran without interruption, but as the rally headed north to Corte conditions worsened and the second stage was cancelled as storm debris littered the roads.

The third and final stage was held as planned but conditions were dreadful. Drivers battled streaming water, mud and damaged roads and simply surviving was an achievement. But Evans excelled to lead a WRC event for the first time. Something even he admitted was a surprise. Abbring too, made big gains on the final stage, when a second fastest time promoted him from seventh to second.

Latvala adopted a risk-free policy in his Volkswagen Polo R to head Citroën’s Mads Østberg in fourth by 15.9sec. Robert Kubica shared the lead with Sébastien Ogier after the opening test, despite being unhappy with his Fiesta RS’ set-up. He ended Friday in fifth, while Ogier plunged down the order after changing a puncture in SS3 and later retired with a gearbox problem.

Also in trouble were Dani Sordo, who dropped two minutes after hitting a rock and puncturing, and his Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville, who retired after hitting a bridge in the first test.

Saturday 3 October

Latvala overcame a late gearbox problem to edge ahead of Evans and lead after the second leg. The Finn had to switch to his car's manual gearshift system during the final stage but did enough to end the penultimate leg 2.0sec clear of Evans.

Storm damage forced the cancellation of the opening stage. But Latvala rocketed through the next to slash Evans’ 22.9sec overnight advantage to just 1.7sec. He took the lead on the next stage.

Friday's downpours were replaced by sunshine, leaving a contrasting mix of dry Tarmac on exposed mountain roads and a slippery layer of slime in shaded areas. Andreas Mikkelsen catapulted from seventh to third in a Polo R. He was 30.8sec off the lead and 22.8sec ahead of Kris Meeke, who followed him up the leaderboard from eighth to fourth in Citroën’s DS 3.

Abbring dropped to fifth after a poor tyre choice in the morning and an over cautious car set-up in the afternoon.

Sunday 4 October

Twelve months after scoring his maiden asphalt WRC victory in France's Alsace region, Latvala took a second in Corsica.

He became only the second Finn to win the Mediterranean island rally after pulling clear of Evans on Sunday's three stages to win by 43.1sec.

Evans withstood a late challenge from Mikkelsen to secure a career-best second by 3.2sec. The Volkswagen driver was on course to snatch second midway through the final stage before a late push in the last few kilometres kept Evans ahead.

Meeke kept out of trouble to retain fourth, ahead of Hayden Paddon. The Kiwi belied his lack of asphalt experience to climb from 15th after Friday’s opening stage to demote Østberg in the penultimate test.


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