The exciting new-era World Rally Cars headed to a pure asphalt fixture for the first time at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse last weekend. In the first of our two-part debrief, we focus on the moments that mattered.
Stage of the Weekend
Saturday’s Novella stage was one of the shortest at 17.27km, but the first mid-morning pass turned this fourth round of the WRC season on its head.
Heading into the test which climbs high into the mountains to the village after which it was named, Kris Meeke held a 16.4sec lead over Sébastien Ogier with Thierry Neuville fractions of a second behind after stopping the clocks fastest in the previous day-opening stage.
A little over 11min of action and it was all change. Meeke coasted into the finish with terminal engine problems in his Citroën C3 (pictured above) and Neuville distanced Ogier’s Ford Fiesta by almost nine seconds. Third became first for the Belgian who never looked back.
Surprise of the Rally
Juho Hänninen had only competed once before in Corsica – back in 2008. An early exit from the opening leg after clouting a bridge did little to further the Finn’s experience of the tricky roads.
So to return under Rally 2 rules on Saturday and nail the morning with a second and third fastest time in his Toyota Yaris was exceptional.
You’ll Never Believe It
As ever in Corsica, the pre-event talk was about the complex matter of tyre choice to match the frequently changing weather in the mountains, where bone dry asphalt can turn into streaming roads in a matter of minutes when the clouds dump their contents.
But the teams’ weather crews may have well stayed at home. There was wall-to-wall sunshine for three days and never any question other than to choose hard compound rubber.
Quote of the Rally
This one goes to Craig Breen, whose co-driver Scott Martin worked wonders to communicate with the Irishman by hand signals (pictured) when the intercom failed in their Citroën C3 in Saturday morning’s Novella test.
“This is the worst place in the world to lose the intercom. I had to drive the whole stage blind. I never want to do that again!” said Breen.
Latvala’s Corsican charge
Toyota's ‘Flying Finn’ Jari-Matti Latvala lived up to his sobriquet by pinching fourth place on the power stage.
Nandan looks for improvement
Hyundai boss believes there is more to come
Neuville: "an important result"
Corsican success restores Belgian’s rally-winning confidence