2 APRIL 4 2012 motorsport-news.co.uk
IN THIS ISSUE
THE VOICE OF BRITISH MOTORSPORT ISSUE JA2815
“The whole of Ferrari is united around me”
Felipe Massa says he will return to form this year
PLATO TIPS NEW MG TO FIGHT FOR TITLE
He had no testing, but Plato still won on MG’s debut
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French firm to battle officials as Finn’s
WRC SQUADS ARE DIVIDED OVER JOKER TYRE RULES
Citroën likes them, Ford doesn’t. Arguments ensue
BRITISH FORMULA THREE BLASTS OFF FOR 2012
MN catches up with the Britons to watch this season
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WIN! BTCC tickets for Donington 10 Historic race and rally news 13 F3/GT preview:F3’s leading Brits 20 F3/GT preview:Motorbase returns 21 F3/GT preview:Matt Griffin 22 F3/GT preview:Carlos Sainz Jr 23 Circuit of Ireland preview 24 WRC report:Portugal 28 BTCC report:Brands Hatch 32 BTCC driver rankings and supports 35 Racing reports 36 Rally reports 39 Sporting Scene round-up 40 Karting round-up 43 SUBSCRIBETOMOTORSPORTNEWS 42 Letters/Comment/What’s On 44 Wanted:lower car insurance premiums. Apply:J-M Latvala
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Hirvonen won on the road but was kicked out by officials
ByDanMcCalla Citroën is to appeal Mikko Hirvonen’s exclusion from first place on Rally Portugal at the weekend for a technical infringement – a decision which handed Mads Østberg his first World Rally Championship win. Hirvonen had won a chaotic rainhit event on the road after Sébastien Loeb, Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg all went off. However, in post-event scrutineering on Sunday night, Hirvonen’s DS3was found to be fitted with a clutch that was not the version homologated for the car, and hewas duly excluded.
The team might be hit with further punishment as the car was also fitted with an oversized turbo, something into which the FIA is to conduct further investigation.
Citroën team boss Yves Matton said: “We had no intention whatsoever to cheat and the decision appears out of proportion. Given the fact that the reported differences didn’t bring us any advantage, we’ve decided to appeal.”
Citroën’s clutch gaffe The scrutineering report found Hirvonen’s car was fitted with a clutch that did not have any holes drilled into it to lighten the part, something that was specified on the
DS3WRC’s homologation form. Although the clutch Hirvonen’s car was equipped with would have offered less performance than the homologated clutch due to being heavier, any technical infringement of this nature is penalised with an event exclusion.
The holed clutch was a new ‘joker’ part, introduced under an FIA regulation that allows each manufacturer to homologate a limited amount of extra parts outside the normal restriction.
Citroën technical director Xavier Mestelan-Pinon said: “The DS3 WRC’s clutch mechanisms are homologated with lightening holes. Our supplier recently provided us with a batch of parts that were not perforated and one of them was fitted to the no. two DS3. These parts don’t provide any gain in terms of performance.” On top of this issue, the turbine wheel onHirvonen’s turbocharger was above the size allowed. However, this part is supplied by Garrett to all WRCmanufacturers, not just Citroën, and so the FIA has asked for further analysis of the item before deciding if the team should face any additional sanctions. Mestelan-Pinon explained: “This difference comes from dilation, as the wheel is subject to extreme temperature and RPMfactors.”
Mads isn’t going mad Hirvonen’s exclusion meant that customer Ford driver MadsØstberg, who had finished second on the road, claimed his first world championship victory.
The young Norwegian has not been able to challenge the factory Citroën and Ford drivers on pace so far this season, but his consistent speed close to the top drivers has allowed him to capitalise on the errors of those ahead. The Portuguese win was Østberg’s fourth top-four finish in succession, and elevated him to third in the standings, just 13 points behind leader Sébastien Loeb. However, despite the upturn in form, Østberg concedes that he has work to do to win rallies regularly and fight for the title: “Our next rally is Argentina, where we did well last year, so we can keep pushing and keep fighting for podiums,” he told MotorsportNewsafter being confirmed as the rally winner. “We’ve had a good season so far, but Mikko’s exclusion doesn’t change myperformance, and so we’re still going to have to work hard.”
The 24-year-old added that he was disappointed that his first win had come as a result of Hirvonen’s misfortune: “I found out on Sunday night that I’d wonwhen I was having dinner with my friends to celebrate Classified advertising: 0208 267 5355
motorsport-news.co.uk APRIL 4 2012 3
woe hands first win to Østberg
TO FIGHT EXCLUSION
FIAWorld Rally Championship After 4/13 rounds POS DRIVER PTS
1 Sébastien Loeb 66pts 2 Petter Solberg 62 3 Mads Østberg 53 4 Mikko Hirvonen 50 5 Evgeny Novikov 39 6 Jari-Matti Latvala 28
If Hirvonen hadn’t been excluded POS DRIVER PTS
1 Mikko Hirvonen 75pts 2 Sébastien Loeb 66 3 Petter Solberg 59 4 Mads Østberg 46 5 Evgeny Novikov 36 6 Jari-Matti Latvala 28
Loe b s till leads the points
Østber g collected the win after Hir vo nen wa s ex cluded
Latvala calls for help after shunting his Ford Fiesta second. It was not very happy news to know that I’d won because I felt sorry for Mikko. It’s not the way I wanted to winmy first rally.”
Another Ford setback Ford team chief Malcolm Wilson was disappointed when both of his drivers went off in the wet conditions on Friday morning while leading the rally. Latvala slid off after hitting a rock and breaking his suspension on SS5, and team-mate Solberg inherited the lead, only to crash into a ditch himself on the very next test.
Solberg recovered to finish third overall after restarting under SupeRally,
while Latvala was restricted to 13th after also suffering fuel pressure problems on Saturday. However, with Loeb out of the running and Ford given a rare opportunity to make somemajor headway in the points race, Wilson was frustrated that his experienced drivers failed to manage the conditions.
“It was a huge disappointment,” Wilson toldMN. “Wewere given a real golden opportunity after what happened to Seb, and we really felt that we knew exactly what we had to do. Sadly, they both got caught out in tricky conditions which a lot of people got through. The important thing at times like this is that
Evg en y N ov ikov took a c ar eer best second place fi nish in Po rt ug al we stick together, and we know that we have a fantastic car at the moment and drivers that can win. The sad thing is that we knewwe didn’t have to push and they just got caught out, and they probably shouldn’t have done with the experience that they’ve got.” Wilson also continued to back Latvala, who has now fallen to sixth in the points race after his third crash in four events so far this season: “I’ve been in this job long enough to know that it will eventually come right. There’s nothing to say that he won’t come out now and win the next four or five rallies – it’s happened in the past and it could happen again. The combination is there to do it.”
Latvala was visibly upset by his mistake on Friday, but promised to do his best to put his latest error behind him and bounce back on Rally Argentina, the next round of the series at the end of this month. “I’m broken, but life goes on,” said Latvala, who turned 27 yesterday (Tuesday). “It doesn’t stop here. I think we need to start to think about different strategies now and decide it on a rally-by-rally basis and I’m already looking forward to Argentina.”
Ford’s disasters and Hirvonen’s exclusion meant that Loeb has retained his championship lead by four points from Solberg, despite crashing out on the opening day of the rally last Thursday. The eight-time world champion was caught out by tricky conditions and a misinterpreted pace note on the third stage of the event on Thursday evening, and was not allowed to restart as his DS3’s rollcage had been damaged at the top of the windscreen on the co-driver’s side.
“I tried to correct [the mistake], but the car skidded into a big ditch and we were thrown into a roll,” said Loeb after the accident occurred.
“The damage wasn’t that too bad, except for the roll cage, which did its job and ended up bent. It’s a shame, because the small lead we had built at the top of the World Championship standings will probably disappear.”
A Russian revolution Possibly the biggest surprise of the rally came from 21-year-old Russian Evgeny Novikov, who put in a mature drive to claim second place, his firstever world championship podium. Novikov built a reputation for being a wild driver and suffering a string of heavy crashes since making his topflight debut in 2009.
But since taking on the experienced 59-year-old Denis Giraudet as his codriver in the middle of last season, he has calmed down and taken a much more mature approach to events and that has reaped rewards. Novikov was second to Hirvonen after Friday’s stages, but decided to run a steady pace on stages he has little knowledge of to secure what was originally third, rather than try to fight Østberg ahead.
For Giraudet, who claimed his first WRC podium since finishing third with Thomas Rådström on the Safari Rally ten years ago, the change in approach makes Novikov a champion in the making.
“It’s a difficult job and you have to remember that what he is doing at 21 years old has never been done before,” Giraudet said at the rally finish in Faro. “Since I did shakedown in Greece with him last year [their first event together] I knew that very soon we would be on the podium together. With a talent like Evgeny, there is no limit.” Novikov paid tribute to the mentoring work Giraudet has done with him recently, and has promised an attack for another podium on Rally Greece in late May, an event where he has gone well in the past.
“Denis is a very good co-driver and it helps me to concentrate more on my driving skills rather than sometimes worrying about the codriver,” said Novikov.
“Also he has good experience of these roads, and he can tell me who crashed and where they crashed [on previous events], so there’s no question that he helped me a lot. I know Greece, so I think Greece is the one where I can push – I think that could be a big one for me.”
MINI HAPPY AFTER STRONG PORTUGAL PACE PAGE 14