Thursday | 20 Nov 2014

Wales Rally GB Driver report: Part 2

The second installment in our review of the major players from last weekend’s Wales Rally GB.

Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS)
After his crash-laden World Rally Car debut in Wales last year, Kubica (above) tackled this year’s event determined to finish. And he did. And without any big moments or mistakes either. The Pole found his best form on the muddy tarmac of the Chirk Castle sprint stage, where he was fifth-fastest, but otherwise worked on his consistency and finished 11th. Something to build on for next year, we hope.

Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS)
Evans had a lot of weight on his shoulders in Wales - making his World Rally Car debut on home soil and becoming the first Welshman to pilot a top-specification rally car on the event since his father in 2001. But he coped well with the pressure, and didn’t allow it to divert him from his primary objective of building experience and learning the stages. Offered up plenty of self-criticism at the stage ends, as per usual, but showed his competitive streak in a close battle with Neuville on Saturday.

Jari-Matti Latvala (VW Polo R)
Began the rally promising to fight ‘tooth and nail’ for victory, and did just that on the opening day, winning four stages to end just 6.6sec off Sebastien Ogier’s lead. Sadly, Latvala’s challenge hit the skids on Saturday’s opener when he slid backwards into a ditch and plummeted to tenth. In the past this might have sent Latvala into a motivational tailspin. Instead, he brushed himself down and spent the rest of the event testing for next year, recovering to eighth in the process.

Mads Ostberg (Citroen DS3)
Ostberg battled hard throughout the rally and was rewarded with a podium and a positive end to his season. Motivated and determined in the fight for third against Mikko Hirvonen, Thierry Neuville and his team-mate Kris Meeke, he was soon chasing second after Latvala’s off on Saturday and briefly held the position before getting a 10-sec penalty for starting SS12 late. Worse was to come on SS16 when he drove 5km on a delaminated tyre and slipped behind Hirvonen and Meeke. After that, he did well to keep Neuville behind and then benefited from Meeke’s misfortune to bag third.

Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta RS)
Back at the wheel of a World Rally spec Fiesta for the first time since June’s Rally de Portugal, the Estonian admitted to being ‘a bit rusty’ on the opening day. His confidence grew on day two, and he survived a hairy moment on the final stage to set up a big push on Sunday. Sadly a puncture in the morning, and his decision to carry just one spare, meant he had a cautious drive to seventh instead.

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20)
The Belgian started well on Friday, and was one of the quartet of drivers in the fight for third, until his challenge began to fade as conditions got more slippery. Wales was another fresh challenge for the Hyundai squad, and the slippery roads highlighted the i20’s lack of front end grip. He experimented with set-up tweaks in a bit to reduce understeer, but rarely made the top four on stage. Found his best form on Sunday and ended strongly with second-fastest time on the Power Stage.

Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20)
Despite parallels between the Welsh stages and those in his home country New Zealand, Paddon found the slippery mud particularly challenging. As well as finding the grip hard to predict, and often underestimating how much there actually was, Paddon’s early progress was hampered by power steering failure and so much understeer he thought his front differential was broken. Made a number of set-up tweaks as the event went on, but having lost so much time on Friday he concentrated on keeping out of trouble and learning the stages for the future.

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