Day two of the 2015 WRC Tour de Corse was rich in excitement, right from the start. The day’s first stage (SS4) had been cancelled due to a damaged road surface following by the torrential rainstorms of the previous three days: the worst rain seen on the island for over thirty years. The 36-kilometre Francardo – Sermano stage (SS5) would be first of the day.
Although R-GT cars run a mandatory air restrictor controlling power-to-weight ratio to an FIA-approved figure (and therefore keeping privateers behind the WRC1 manufacturer cars), we pay great attention to what happens at the front of the field. Of course, we are rally fans, so we like to know how the world’s greatest rally drivers are performing. But the WRC drivers interviewed at the stage end on WRC radio often share some useful information. What the drivers had to say at the end of stage five was quite interesting.
“Horrible, horrible, horrible. This stage is so slippy, like ice,” said Thierry Neuville. “This was even muddier than yesterday,” said Sebastian Ogier. Mikkelsen compared it to snowy Monte Carlo, sliding from corner to corner. Latvala said there was no grip under the trees (although he had gone 14 seconds quicker than his World Champion team-mate) and then came word that Kubica had stopped on stage following an accident. Then he got going, then he stopped again. If the best rally drivers in the world strapped to cutting edge four-wheel drive rally cars were finding this tough, how would the rear-wheel drive Porsches fare? The answer was not long in coming.
Tuthill Porsche driver, François Delecour, started day two just 12.7 seconds behind R-GT rival, Romain Dumas. Having fixed his transmission problem from the previous day, Dumas took to stage 5 ahead of Delecour in the running order, but WRC radio soon reported Dumas as stopped on stage with what appeared to be a puncture. As the seconds ticked away, Delecour began his run through stage five and soon passed the stricken 911 of Dumas to seize the R-GT category lead.
By the time Dumas had repaired his car and passed the first split timer at the end of sector one, he trailed François Delecour by more than two minutes. Romain pulled some time back on François through sector two, but after François crossed the third timing beam, no third sector time appeared for the chasing Dumas. “Romain Dumas is stopped again on the stage,” came the radio announcement. No one knew it at the time, but it was the last we would see of Dumas.
After an interesting conversation between stages with FIA President and veteran French rallyiste, Jean Todt (above), François Delecour and Sabrina de Castelli started stage 6 leading the R-GT category. As they had done for the previous stages, they drove to preserve the car and their R-GT championship advantage. “The Porsche requires patience,” said François. “When you exit a corner, you must wait for the traction. Sometimes it is boring to wait for the grip, as you feel you are losing too much. But if you drive it too hard when the grip is not there, you will pay the price.”
Four hours after Delecour’s Porsche had cleared stage five and returned to the service park, the Dumas machine finally crossed the third split timer and the team announced its retirement from Corsica. “Disappointed to retire from Tour de Corse,” tweeted Romain. “There will be other fun challenges soon.”
We are also disappointed to lose a great competitor and exceptional driver who could have mounted a charge for the R-GT category lead, but we’re now looking forward to the final three stages on what could be a momentous day for our team. The action starts at 7:25 local time on Sunday morning. Do not miss it!