KRIS MEEKE IN IMPERIOUS FORM AROUND AJACCIO
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle won three out of four stages to take the overall lead on day one of the Tour de Corse. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team produced a fine collective performance with Craig Breen/Scott Martin taking fourth position and Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau ending the day in eighth place.
- The opening leg of the Tour de Corse was made up of two loops of two stages, all held on roads around Ajaccio: Pietrosella – Albitreccia and Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carpocino.
- In glorious sunshine, Kris Meeke enjoyed a perfect morning, winning both of the opening stages. The Northern Irishman headed back to Porticcio with an 8.9 second lead over Sébastien Ogier. Craig Breen was sixth, 29.7s behind his team-mate, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre was ninth overall, more than a minute back.
- The first day was contested with no service: after lunch overlooking the Mediterranean sea, the crews simply put on new boots and headed back onto the stages.
- Determined to hit back against his rival, Ogier snatched the fastest time in SS3 by just eight tenths of a second. But Kris responded with a third stage win. The driver of the no.7 Citroën C3 WRC ended the opening leg with a 10.3 second lead.
- After gaining a place following the retirement of Ott Tanak, Craig Breen moved ahead of Dani Sordo on SS4. The Irishman therefore moved up to fourth place in the overall standings.
- Stéphane Lefebvre's performance was in keeping with his level of experience on the Corsican tarmac roads, but he nonetheless managed to make progress. At around a second per kilometre off the pace of the leading drivers, the young Frenchman returned to Bastia in eighth position overall.
- Tomorrow, the crews will remain in the Bastia region for the second leg. The four stages contested will cover a total of 130km, ten more than today.
Yves Matton: "Today's leg looks a lot like the one we were hoping for! Right from the word go, Kris was comfortable and that helped him to get a feel for the race. The gap to the second-placed crew is still pretty small, but today shows the qualities of our Citroën C3 WRC on tarmac. With two fourth fastest times in the afternoon and fourth overall, Craig has also confirmed he is quick on this surface. Meanwhile, Stéphane has shown good, consistent form, given his lack of experience here. It was also positive in terms of reliability, given that there was no service on today's leg."
Kris Meeke: " I really enjoyed driving the Citroën C3 WRC on these roads. The rally is far from over, but today's good result is just rewards for the hard work done by the team, especially during pre-event testing. We managed our day well, particularly in the afternoon when we had to cope with more dirt and gravel pulled onto the racing line and higher tyre wear. I feel good but I have to be wary because I only have a very narrow lead."
Craig Breen: " It's been a good day, especially as we're not a million miles away from the podium. On the advice of the engineers, I've changed my tarmac driving style completely to try and be less aggressive on the brakes. It seems to be working but I feel that there's definitely room for improvement. I was also trying to adjust the settings of the diff maps on the stages and I think it seems to be better. Everything is going well, the C3 WRC is really nice to drive in conditions like these."
Stéphane Lefebvre: " The main thing is that we have had a clean, consistent day, in line with the target we had set ourselves. Obviously, I'm suffering from my lack of knowledge on this rally. It was only on the first seven kilometres of Pietrosella, which are new for everyone, where I was able to compete with the leading guys. It's not easy to get the right level of aggression. If you push too hard, you get more understeer and that's not what we're looking for either!"
UNOFFICIAL STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:16:32.1
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.3
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.8
4. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +52.4
5. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.8
6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:00.2
7. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:18.8
8. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:07.6
9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Skoda Fabia R5) +2:57.3
10. Sarrazin / Renucci (Skoda Fabia R5) +3:17.8