Sébastien Ogier completed a clean sweep of wins in Friday’s opening leg speed tests at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse to build a strong lead in pursuit of his fourth world drivers’ title.
He won all four twisty and bumpy asphalt special stages on the Mediterranean island in a Volkswagen Polo R, completing the first of three days’ competition with a 44.0sec lead over Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 after almost 160km of action.
Under clear skies and in high temperatures which demanded skilful tyre and brake management, Ogier showed a degree of caution but still opened a 14.7sec lead in this morning’s two stages in the mountains near Ajaccio. Victory in both tests when they were repeated put the Frenchman into a dominant position.
“We made no mistakes, a tough but enjoyable day,” he said. “I really enjoyed the beautiful stages and beautiful weather. Everything was there to enjoy a good rally day.”
Handling problems frustrated Neuville this morning. With the balance improved this afternoon, the Belgian was happier, despite overheating his tyres in the final speed test after attacking too hard.
Jari-Matti Latvala filled the final podium place in a Polo R, 14.0sec behind Neuville. A mix of set-up issues and an over-cautious approach left the Finn in seventh midway through the leg, but a much-improved afternoon catapulted him into third.
His advantage over fourth-placed team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen was 1.3sec. The Norwegian’s problems were mainly physical – his left foot ‘going to sleep’ due to a vibration feeding back through his Polo R’s brake pedal.
Craig Breen and Hayden Paddon completed the top six. Breen had a trouble-free day in Citroën’s DS 3 in contrast to Kiwi Paddon.
Inconsistent pace notes that were too fast in places and too slow in others sapped his confidence initially. Overheating tyres and two punctures in the final two stages added to his woes as he ended 7.5sec adrift of Irishman Breen.
Eric Camilli’s Ford Fiesta RS held seventh with WRC 2 leader Elfyn Evans, Dani Sordo and Mads Østberg completing the leaderboard. Sordo was third until he dropped almost two minutes in the final stage changing a puncture.
Ogier’s closest challenger this morning was Kris Meeke. The Ulsterman held second until a puncture early in the penultimate stage required him to stop and change it and he ended in 11th.
After overnighting in Bastia, drivers face another 169.04km of bumpy mountain roads tomorrow, comprising two identical loops of two stages in the north of the island.