On their first participation in Rally Finland at the wheel of the C4 WRC, Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia have finished sixth after setting a fastest time on Day Two. This excellent result underlines the progress made by the Citroen Junior Team since the start of the
Having started the final day just 17.5 seconds behind Matti Rantanen, a local driver supported by the Finnish motorsport federation, the Equipe de France FFSA crew of Ogier/Ingrassia knew that fifth position was within their reach on the short (47.44-kilometre) final day at the World Rally Championship's Finnish round.
"There is no point in taking needless risks," said the reigning Junior World Rally Champion as he drove his C4 WRC out of parc ferme on Sunday morning. "We will start the day at our own pace and see on the split times if we have the chance to make up a place."
In Hannula (SS20), Ogier beat his rival by 2.8 seconds over 10.82 kilometres. A little later, a third-fastest stage time allowed the C4 WRC driver to reduce the gap to 10.1 seconds before the first run through Myhinpaa. By the time the cars got to the regroup, the Frenchman was just 4.6 seconds behind.
"We're not going to alter our tactics," he insisted. "I am sure that the pace will be quicker on the second run through the stages but we are not going to take more risks."
The duel continued in Myhinpaa 2. Ogier took 4.0 seconds out of Rantanen to head into the final super special stage with just a 0.6-second deficit. The Frenchman set second-fastest time overall on the stage, but missed out on fifth overall by just 0.3 seconds after 345 kilometres of flat-out driving.
"That doesn't really matter if you look at the way that the rally has gone for us generally," he remarked. "I'm very happy with how we drove on the second half of the event. We enjoyed ourselves a lot and built up a lot of confidence, thanks to a perfect car and good pace notes.
We were able to up the speed as the rally went on and this continues our learning curve well. Now I can't wait to get to Australia!"
After setting a fastest time on Saturday in Kavala (SS18), Ogier and Ingrassia ended Rally Finland in sixth place overall. The last two drivers to have set a fastest time in Finland on their debut there with a top-category car were Didier Auriol and Carlos Sainz in 1988.
Following two impressively consistent days, Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt were caught out by the seventh kilometre of Myhinpaa 2. "That's not how we wanted to end our rally," said the Zimbabwean. "We weren't taking any risks but these are always very complex stages. I'm bitterly disappointed."
"It was a big accident for Conrad," explained Benoit Nogier, Citroen Junior Team Manager. "Luckily the crew is uninjured, even though the car is damaged. Sebastien has driven an exceptional rally. Very few drivers have been able to set a fastest stage time here on their debut in a top-category car. He obtained this great result by gradually increasing his pace, to mix it with the frontrunners by the middle of the second day. For three rallies now, he has shown his capability to challenge for top results.
"This is very satisfying, particularly after what is well known as the most difficult event of the season," Nogier pointed out. "Now we are going to concentrate on Rally Australia, where we will run two cars for Conrad Rautenbach and Sebastien Ogier. Until then, we have a lot of work to do to prepare our C4 WRCs for their next challenge."