2 OCTOBER 5 2011 motorsport-news.co.uk
IN THIS ISSUE
THE VOICE OF BRITISH MOTORSPORT ISSUE JA2790
“Jenson has done a better
P4 Hamilton is full of praise for McLaren team-mate job”
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Citroën backs its star man Loeb despite
A r ar e f ailur e h as cost Loe b h is bu ff er
FORD LEGEND RETURNS FOR FESTIVAL
Rick Morris to compete at Brands Hatch next week
NOKIA TO SPONSOR
World Rally Championship nets a blue-chip backer
WILKS VOWS TO FIGHT ON IN SCOTLAND
British ace promises maximum attack in IRC event
Historic race and rally news
Rally of Scotland preview
BTCC Brands Hatch report
WRC France report
Britcar 24 Hours report
Colin McRae Forest Stages report 38 Sporting Scene round-up 40 Karting round-up 42 Letters/Comment/What’s On 44 SUBSCRIBETO MOTORSPORTNEWS 46 Classifieds 47 Wanted:One-way flight back home to Geneva on the Friday night of Rally Spain.Apply:K.Räikkönen
ByDanMcCalla Sébastien Ogier will still be prevented from challenging for this year’s World Rally Championship title by Citroën even though he’s now just three points off the lead with two rallies to go.
Points leader Sébastien Loeb, Ogier’s Citroën team-mate, retired in the early stages of Rally France at the weekend with an engine failure, his first retirement in a rally for more than two years. Ogier went on to win the Strasbourg-based event and close within three points of him, while third place has allowed Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen to draw level with Loeb at the head of the table.
But with reports that Ogier has already signed to drive for rival make Ford next season, Citroën team chief Olivier Quesnel says the team won’t change it’s decision to support Loeb, despite the seven-time champion’s recent struggles. “As a team, after Germanywe decided that Loeb is the leader, and now it’s still the same,” said Quesnel.
Ogier the bridesmaid Loeb has lost huge amounts of ground in the title race on the back of his retirement in France, and his crash on the opening day of Rally Australia three weeks previously. Citroën had been setting its team
POINTS FIAWorld Rally Championship After 11 of 13 rounds
1 Sébastien Loeb 196 = Mikko Hirvonen 196 3 Sébastien Ogier 193 4 Jari-Matti Latvala 131 5 Petter Solberg 110 6 Mads Østberg 62
Quesnel has thrown his weight behind Loeb’s bid orders on an event-by-event basis, but clearly showed its decision to favour Loeb bymaking Ogier drop ten minutes at the end of the Australian event to allow a recovering Loeb to score one championship point. That cost Ogier three points compared to Loeb – the amount he is now trailing his team-mate in the title race. While Ogier is now on virtually level terms with Loeb, Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen has completely wiped out his 36-point deficit to Loeb in just two rallies to take a share of the title lead. Because of this, Quesnel wants to do everything in his power to ensure that Loeb fends off the challenge of the consistently scoring Hirvonen over the final two rounds of the season.
“Why does nobody speak about Mikko? He is as close to Seb [Loeb] as Ogier,” Quesnel told Motorsport News. “Mikko for mewill be faster than Ogier in Great Britain. My problem is Mikko against Loeb, it is not Ogier against Loeb. The problem is the blue problem [Ford]. Everybody speaks like it’s all Loeb and Ogier, and I’m sure the media will be pleased if that happens, but believe me, the first day in Spain Hirvonen will be fast. Hewill be quick in Great Britain too. We cannot forget the objective because everyone thinks its Seb v Seb, and all the time Hirvonen keeps scoring the points and catching. Loeb will be the leader, and we have to take care of Mikko.” Ogier has consistently refused to
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increasing pressure in WRC title fight
Team orders helped Ford’s man in France motorsport-news.co.uk OCTOBER 5 2011 3
HEADLINE NEWS OGIEROGIER
Win boost fo r O gier
OGIER MUST BACK LOEB’S TITLE BID
comment on the team orders situation, but was clearly frustrated at Citroën’s policy at the rally finish on Sunday, despite clocking up his fifth win of the season – one more than Loeb has managed. Whenasked byMNif he expects Citroën’s driver policy to change for the final two rounds of the season, the 27-year-old said: “Honestly I don’t want to speak about that at the moment, and just celebrate the victory for now, and then later onwe see what happens.”
Could Seb turn blue? Ogier’s frustrations have come amid consistent speculation of late that has linked himwith amove to Ford for next season. Respected Finnish TV station MTV3reported over the weekend that Ogier had already signed a three-year contract to join the Blue Oval from 2012, and also suggested that Hirvonen would move the other way and join Citroën as a result. However, the continuing uncertainty around Ford’s participation next year makes this unlikely, with team chief Malcolm Wilson saying at Rally Australia that no driver signings, including any potential extension of Hirvonen’s contract, could bemade until Ford’s commitment to the WRC was confirmed.
But Ogier’s driver manager Kim Vatanen hinted that Ogier may be looking elsewhere on the back of his frustration at Citroën, although he insisted that his charge is still currently contracted to the French marque. He told MN: “There is a lot of speculation and talk about what is going on, but there is nothing I can say about the situation with Seb. Wewill see. But what I can absolutely confirm is that Seb has not signed a contract with Ford.” Ogier has continually stressed that he is still under contract with Citroën until the end of the 2013 season, but refuses to directly confirm that he will drive aDS3 WRCafter the end of the current season. Whenasked by assembled reporters if he would drive for Citroën next season, Ogier said: “We have a contract for three years. For the moment I concentrate on this rally and the end of this season and all I can say at the moment is that I have a contract for twomore years.”
Hirvonen’s title tilt Meanwhile, Hirvonen’s title bid has been boosted even further by Loeb’s retirement and gives him a fighting chance of becoming the first Ford driver to win the title in 30 years.
The Finn had a disappointing run on Rally France, losing time with an off on the same Pays d’Ormont stage onwhich Loeb retired. He looked set to finish fifth before team orders that forced Jari-Matti Latvala to take a penalty and Petter Solberg’s exclusion for his car being underweight promoted him to an unlikely podium finish. Although Hirvonen largely looked sluggish all weekend, Ford boss Malcolm Wilson said that Hirvonen was driving some way off his maximumpace in order to ensure a solid points finish. Wilson added that he is capable of maintaining his title charge on the next round in Spain, which features an opening day on gravel followed by two on Tarmac.
“We all knowMikko can do better than he did this weekend,” Wilson said. “Mikko was driving so that he didn’t throw away the points [after Loeb’s retirement], he knew the team would help him get a better result and he couldn’t improve. I’m not too concerned about his performance going into Spain and we can work with him to find a bit of pace out of the set-up.” Hirvonen himself says working with his team to extract more Tarmac pace from his Fiesta RSWRCwill be amassive help to his bid, as it is unlikely hewill test the car again before the Salou-based rally gets underway onOctober 21.
“I knowwhenwe go for Spain, for sure we need to improve on the Tarmac, but we’ll see how it goes from there,” said the 31-year-old. “We have to sit downwith the engineers and think about which set-up we need to use for Spain, but I think we have a good idea.
“You never knowwhat’s going to happen, but it is a surprise that Loeb has basically been without points for the last two rallies, and that has let us get back in the fight. But that’s rallying and anything can happen, but it certainly makes for a very interesting last two rallies of the season.”
POINTS SCORED IN LASTTWO RALLIES
INTS IN AUSTRALIA AND FRANCE
40 38 36 34 32 30 28 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10
8 6 4 2 0
LO E B
This graph shows just how much ground Sébastien Loeb has given away to his rivals through his crash in Australia and his engine failure in France. Hirvonen has been able to make the most of his consistent points scoring throughout the year, having scored at least 12 points in every rally this season
I R VO N E N
I E R
P S O L B E R G
O STB E R G
DRIVER (championship position)
t h )
I LS O N
S O R D O
WHY MINI EXPECTS MORE PACE IN SPAIN, ON PAGE 14