WRC'14 Rally Spain Oct 23-26 talk/results spoiler**
Rnd12 RACC Rally de Spain Oct23-Oct26
First run in 1957 and included in the European Championship from 1975.
Entered the WRC in 1991 when it was based on the Costa Brava in Lloret de Mar.
Relocated to Salou in 2002 and after being a pure asphalt event, it developed into a mixed surface event in 2010.
Sebastien Loeb dominated the rally, winning every year between 2005 and 2012.
What’s new for 2014
The gravel roads are in the opening leg rather than the final day as in 2013.
Historic rally cars will be displayed in the centre of Salou on Friday before being driven through all Saturday and Sunday’s stages between the two passes of the competitors.
Thierry Neuville edged out world title-chasing Sébastien Ogier to set fastest time at shakedown for RallyRACC Rally de España this morning (Thursday).
The Belgian was fastest through the 2.97km mixed surface Salou stage by 0.2sec in his Hyundai i20. Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R was 0.3sec ahead of the second Hyundai of local hero Dani Sordo.
Ogier needs to score just one point more than team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to defend the drivers’ title he won for the first time last year, and the Frenchman is relaxed about the task in hand.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” he told wrc.com. “I already have one title and a 27-point advantage so there’s no reason to feel pressure. I like my situation, I have everything in my hands and I feel good. This morning was just to check the car was fine.
“It’s great to have a mixed surface rally. The gravel is beautiful and the asphalt is like a circuit and nice also. Last year we had a good weekend here, even though on asphalt the set-up wasn’t perfect. That’s why I worked hard in the test before this rally and I’m much more ready,” added the 2013 event winner.
Less than a second covered the top six. Robert Kubica’s Ford Fiesta RS was 0.1sec behind Sordo in fourth and 0.2sec in front of surprise package Yuriy Protasov’s Fiesta RS, the Ukrainian preparing for only his second World Rally Car start.
Andreas Mikkelsen completed the top half dozen in a Polo R, 0.1sec further back.
Leading World Rally Championship drivers have called for a four-minute gap between the cars on Friday's opening day of the Rally of Spain amid concerns over dust levels.
Hot, dry and potentially still conditions are expecting for leg one's gravel stages, with low early morning sun set to exacerbate the visibility problem in the dust.
Drivers have asked to increase the gap between the priority crews from the standard two minutes to three or four.
Sebastien Ogier will run in clear air at the front of the field, though he does not expect the dust to be as costly as the level of loose gravel that he will encounter.
"If I could chose where I would run on the road on Friday, I would still go at the back of the [priority] drivers," said Ogier, who benefited from running on cleaner roads to overturn Jari-Matti Latvala's 46-second lead to win last season.
"There might be some dust in places, but the conditions are very, very loose and the line will clean a lot."
Citroen's Kris Meeke hopes for more of the windy conditions that had accompanied Hurricane Gonzales' passage up through Europe earlier in the week.
"We need it to be really windy tomorrow," he said. "The biggest concern is with the first stage in the morning, that could be tough.
"It's just so difficult to drive when the dust comes up and you just know you're losing so much time to the guy who has a clear run."
Andreas Mikkelsen’s tyre gamble paid off as he was fastest through the opening street stage of RallyRACC - Rally de España in the heart of Barcelona this evening.
The Norwegian scrubbed the tread from his Volkswagen Polo R’s gravel tyres before the start to improve grip on the asphalt roads.
He was quickest by 1.8sec from team-mate Sébastien Ogier over the 3.20km stage, with Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 a further 1.1sec behind in third.
“We’ve used some of tomorrow’s allocation by scrubbing the tyres but we gained time. Maybe it will pay off or maybe not, but I’m happy with my decision,” he said.
Huge crowds lined the roads on Montjuïc hill, beneath the stadium which hosted the 1992 Olympic Games and close to the city’s former Grand Prix street circuit.
Ken Block - hit barriers
Neuville estimated he lost half a second by initially attempting a ‘donut’ in second gear rather than first, while team-mate and local hero Dani Sordo believed his car lacked power exiting tight hairpin bends.
Nevertheless Sordo was fifth, 0.2sec behind the Jari-Matti Latvala’s Polo R and 0.4sec clear of Kris Meeke in sixth.
Ken Block, starting his first WRC round this season, swiped the barriers at the first corner in his Ford Fiesta RS. “The tyres were colder and slicker than I thought and it went way wider than I expected,” said the American.
SS2 Gandesa 1 (gravel) (7.00 km) & SS3 Pesells 1 (gravel) (26.59 km)
Thierry Neuville led RallyRACC - Rally de España by just a tenth of a second after the opening two special stages of Friday’s first leg.
The Hyundai i20 pilot was third quickest in both Gandesa and Pesells to head Sébastien Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R. Kiwi Hayden Paddon was 2.2sec further back in third in another i20 after winning SS3.
Road cleaning and hanging dust were the big talking points, first on the road Ogier suffering by sweeping loose gravel but benefiting from a clean run as those behind were hampered by poor visibility through the second half of Pesells.
Kris Meeke was fastest through Gandesa but a double puncture in Pesells forced him to retire in the following liaison section. He changed the rear right tyre in the stage, but with only one spare onboard his Citroen DS3, a deflated front right (pictured below) spelled the end.
Team-mate Mads Østberg, second fastest in Gandesa, was held up by Meeke’s problems and dropped several seconds before passing the Briton. “I got all the way up to him and that shouldn’t happen,” said the Norwegian as he hit his steering wheel in frustration.
Østberg dropped to sixth, behind fourth-placed Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala. Overnight leader Mikkelsen pushed his Polo R into service this morning with little fuel left in the tank while team-mate Latvala was flustered after hitting a rock and spinning in Gandesa.
Elfyn Evans dropped time in his Ford Fiesta RS after going off the road briefly in Pesells while Robert Kubica admitted to a close escape in SS2.
Sébastien Ogier was the surprise leader of RallyRACC - Rally de España after Friday morning’s dusty opening loop of gravel special stages.
Ogier, bidding to secure back-to-back world titles, blasted through Terra Alta 8.5sec quicker than Thierry Neuville to displace the Belgian from top spot and return to service in Salou with an 8.4sec advantage in his Volkswagen Polo R.
Hanging dust hindered everyone behind first on the road Ogier, who took advantage of a clear run, despite sweeping slippery gravel from the road.
“I’m a bit surprised to be in the lead,” he told WRC Live. “It was the plan to push as hard as we could and I couldn’t do more. I pushed from first to last and I know I have to continue the same way this afternoon if I want to stay in the same position.”
Neuville was frustrated by the visibility. “I hope one day to have Ogier’s luck! Behind him the dust makes it frustrating. I’ll keep pushing but I couldn’t do any more than this. I had to slow down a couple of times, I didn’t know if I was on the stage or not,” he said.
SS5 Gandesa 2 (gravel) (7.00 km) & SS6 Pesells 2 (gravel) (26.59 km)
Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville shared fastest times through the opening two stages of Friday afternoon’s loop at RallyRACC - Rally de Espana as the fight for the lead intensified.
Ogier was quickest through Gandesa, despite admitting he tried to preserve his tyres in the high temperatures. Neuville fought back to win Pesells, cutting the Frenchman’s advantage by 5.3sec to leave the gap at 4.6sec with one test to go today.
“There was much more grip than this morning,” said Ogier. “The first one was aggressive on the tyres and I did my best to save them. The last stage will be hard for them.”
Neuville admitted to a ‘big push’ in both tests. “I was on the maximum. There’s no dust and it was more enjoyable than this morning. I tried to keep the pedal to the metal,” said the Belgian Hyundai i20 pilot.
Third in both stages kept Mads Østberg third overall in his Citroen DS3, while second fastest in both tests promoted Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen to fourth. He overhauled Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford Fiesta RS to hold a 3.9sec advantage.
Jari-Matti Latvala moved ahead of Robert Kubica into sixth, but the Finn remained unhappy. “Sometimes you don’t have the speed. Today I don’t have the speed,” he said.
Elfyn Evans lost a minute in SS5 after going off the road in his Fiesta RS, and retired after a repeat about 3km from the finish of Pesells. Dani Sordo dropped almost 30sec after a mix-up at the start of SS6 when co-driver Marc Marti miscalculated their start time.
Sebastien Ogier put one hand on the FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ title after building a comfortable lead during a dusty opening day at RallyRACC - Rally de Espana on Friday.
He completed the six gravel speed tests with a 36.6sec advantage in his Volkswagen Polo R as potential challengers dropped time in the morning due to a combination of hanging dust and the low sun.
Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, who must finish ahead of Ogier to keep the title race alive into next month’s final round in Wales, leapt to second in the final special stage to head a quartet of drivers covered by 4.8sec.
Road opener Ogier expected to lose time over the opening loop of stages as he swept loose gravel off the road. However, his disadvantage was offset by the poor visibility which slowed those behind him in the start order.
Thierry Neuville led briefly this morning and was just 4.6sec behind Ogier until he lost 2min 20sec in the final stage. He was distracted by dust inside his Hyundai i20 and hit a bank, puncturing the rear right tyre which he stopped to change.
Latvala hit a rock in the opening test to begin a frustrating day for the Finn. He did not have the speed to match Ogier and languished in seventh for much of the leg until his final stage charge up the order.
Mads Østberg was 0.6sec behind in third in a Citroen DS3, but the Norwegian was frustrated after being held up in Kris Meeke’s dust this morning and by Neuville’s dust this afternoon. Østberg was 0.1sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen’s Polo R.
Mikko Hirvonen enjoyed a troublefree run to fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS, a further 4.1sec behind, with Robert Kubica completing the top six despite a final stage spin.
Dani Sordo dropped 30sec waiting on the startline of the penultimate test when co-driver Marc Marti miscalculated their start time. However, the Spaniard was seventh in his Hyundai i20, with Martin Prokop, Neuville and Nasser Al-Attiyah completing the leaderboard.
Meeke retired after sliding wide in SS3 and dropping two wheels off the road. He damaged two tyres and although he replaced one in the stage, he had only one spare and stopped on the following liaison section.
Hayden Paddon became the first New Zealander to win a stage since 1999 after topping the timesheets in SS3. But he lost six minutes after spinning his i20 into a bank at the first corner of the next stage and changing two punctured tyres. He later spun and damaged his rear suspension in SS7.
Elfyn Evans had a torrid day. He went off the road three times in his Fiesta RS, retiring after the final occasion with a damaged radiator.
Mikko Hirvonen relegated both Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Østberg as he climbed to third overall in RallyRACC - Rally de España’s keynote Escaladei stage on Saturday morning.
The Finn was third through the 50.00km test in his Ford Fiesta RS, outpacing Mikkelsen by more than 12sec and almost 20sec faster than Østberg.
“I’m quite happy with that!” said a delighted Hirvonen. “It was a little damp in some corners but no dramas.”
Mikkelsen fell victim to a narrow section before the finish. “About 7km from the end I spun. It was very slippery and I had a lot of understeer. I can’t do much more than I’m doing at the moment,” said the Norwegian.
Fellow countryman Østberg was equally deflated having slipped from third to fifth this morning. “It was a tricky stage, and quite hard to find a rhythm. I started badly and could never come back,” said the Citroen DS3 pilot.
Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R, the Finn 2.0sec faster than team-mate and leader Sébastien Ogier, despite feeling uncomfortable on the narrow roads.
Ogier echoed his colleague’s feelings. “It was very tricky in the narrow section and we took it a bit easy,” said the Frenchman. “But it was a good stage and I’m happy with my speed. I followed Jari-Matti’s split times all the way.”
Road opener Kris Meeke hit a rock in the first corner and stopped to change a punctured tyre, dropping more than two minutes in his DS3. Robert Kubica lost more than 2min 30sec as he limped through with just front-wheel drive on his Fiesta RS after breaking a rear differential before the previous stage.
Flying Finn Jari-Matti Latvala won all three speed tests in Saturday morning’s opening loop at RallyRACC - Rally de Espana, but his pace didn’t rattle leader and world title-chasing team-mate Sebastien Ogier.
Second-placed Latvala, who must finish ahead of Ogier to keep his own championship dream alive, was 5.3sec faster than the Frenchman through Colldejou and his morning treble reduced his deficit from an overnight 36.6sec to 28.3sec.
“All we can do is to try to push him at the moment. If we can catch him a bit more then he needs to keep pushing. That’s the only thing I can do for the championship so I’ll keep going like this,” said Latvala before returning to service in Salou.
“Why should I respond?” questioned Ogier. “I didn’t use my spare tyre this morning so I can use it this afternoon. The lead is still almost 30sec so why should I be concerned? When it’s down to zero, then I have to push!”
The battle for third continued between Mikko Hirvonen and Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegian clawed back 2.9sec from Hirvonen and the gap stood at 5.5sec, with Mads Østberg a further 11.5sec behind in his Citroen DS3.
Dani Sordo emerged with the oil warning light flashing on the dashboard of his Hyundai i20, the Spaniard fifth fastest and sixth overall despite feeling his engine lacked power.
Team-mate Thierry Neuville climbed to seventh with Martin Prokop’s Ford Fiesta RS eighth. Robert Kubica was ninth, after tackling the loop with a broken rear differential in his Fiesta RS, while Hayden Paddon relegated Ken Block to move up to 10th.
Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to lead WRC 2, but the Qatari had his lead trimmed from marginally over two minutes to 1min 14.6sec by Julien Maurin. Robert Barrable remains third.
Leader Sebastien Ogier survived a major scare with his lead intact during Saturday afternoon’s second pass through RallyRACC - Rally de Espana’s marathon 50km speed test.
The Frenchman won the stage by 4.6sec from Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, despite driving nearly half of it with a vibration from a front tyre. “For 20km I drove with a delaminated tyre, but we survived,” said Ogier, who stretched his lead to 32.9sec.
Soaring temperatures made conditions tough for tyres and brakes, and the asphalt midway through the test was recorded at 35°C.
Latvala admitted to a degree of caution. “I didn’t want to push the tyres over the limit because we still have another long stage to go,” he said.
Andreas Mikkelsen’s hopes of claiming a podium finish disappeared when he stopped to replace a damaged tyre and lost 2min 30sec. “I had a puncture. I’m not sure where but we had a big vibration. My feeling is that it delaminated, but we have to take a look,” said the Norwegian, who plunged to seventh.
His problem left Mikko Hirvonen, fourth fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS, clear in third overall. The Finn has a 25.9sec advantage over Mads Østberg, who was unhappy with his driving.
“My pace notes are not perfect in the long corners on the wide roads and I’m lifting off the throttle in the flat out sections, even when the road is 15 metres wide,” he said.
Robert Kubica’s unhappy day ended when the Pole stopped 5km from the finish after ripping a front wheel from his Fiesta RS.
Jari-Matti Latvala claimed his fourth win from five stages during Saturday’s leg of Rally RACC - Rally de España but Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier remained in control at the top of the leaderboard.
Latvala was fastest by 0.2sec from Kris Meeke, with Ogier 5.0sec back, to leave the gap between the Polo R duo at 27.9sec with just a short seafront test in Salou remaining today.
Despite the win, Latvala was unhappy with his car’s braking. “I tried as hard as I can, and the car was good, but there’s no bite with the brakes. I had to push, so, so hard. I didn’t have the feeling,” he explained.
Ogier was as cool as a cucumber as he told WRC Live the stage went without problem.
Mikko Hirvonen was fourth to retain third position, but Martin Prokop lost almost three minutes when he stopped to investigate a problem 13km after the start. “I thought it was a puncture but it wasn’t that. I think we have a broken driveshaft,” said the Czech driver, who retained eighth place in Fiona the Ford Fiesta RS.
SS14 La Mussara 1 (asphalt) (20.48 km) & SS15 Riudecanyes 1 (asphalt) (15.55 km)
Just two special stages separate Sbastien Ogier from his second world drivers’ title after the Frenchman safely negotiated Sunday’s opening two tests at RallyRACC - Rally de Espana.
The Volkswagen Polo R pilot was third through La Mussara and second in Riudecanyes, and although closest rival and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest in both tests, Ogier held a 21.9sec lead as drivers returned to service in Salou.
“There was nothing bad for me and no cuts, so I could drive cleanly,” said Ogier, who simply needs to finish ahead of Latvala to secure the crown. “The rally is never finished before the final stage but it’s perfect for me so far. I just have to stay concentrated.”
Latvala was quickest by 3.9sec in La Mussara and by 0.8sec in the next test, despite clipping the front right of his Polo R after a mistake at the famous roundabout, at which drivers must complete a full ‘donut’.
“Every year I’ve braked too early so this time I decided to brake later, but at the divider I wasn’t sure which way to go around the roundabout. I went the wrong side before realising the roundabout was on the other side and we lost some seconds,” he explained.
Dani Sordo narrowed the gap to Mads Østberg to 12.4sec in their fight for fourth, but all three Hyundai i20 drivers complained of severe understeer. Sordo spun in SS15 and Hayden Paddon said he used his handbrake ‘30 to 40 times’ to turn into second and third gear corners.
Understeer cost Neuville time, too, and Andreas Mikkelsen was third in Riudecanyes to close on the Belgian’s sixth place. The gap between them is 4.4sec.
Martin Prokop hit a barrier, without serious damage to his Ford Fiesta RS and the Czech retained eighth.
SS17 Riudecanyes 2 (asphalt) (Power Stage) (15.55 km)
Ogier wins in Spain to take title
Sebastien Ogier clinched back-to-back world drivers’ titles by winning RallyRACC - Rally de Espana on Sunday.
He took victory by 11.3sec in a Volkswagen Polo R from team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, the only man who could beat him to the crown. The Frenchman becomes the eighth driver to lift the title more than once and did so with one round remaining.
Ogier built a comfortable lead on the first full day of the mixed-surface event. Latvala, who was disappointed with his speed on that gravel leg, attacked hard during the final two days on asphalt but an unflustered Ogier measured his pace perfectly.
His only scare came on Saturday afternoon when he drove 20km with a damaged tyre, fearful it would deflate and require him to stop and replace it.
“It’s a great achievement to win one title but even better to take a second,” said Ogier, after embracing his parents at the finish of the final stage. “It’s a confirmation and proves the first title was not a one-off.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend, but it was tough. I pushed so hard on leg one and it was a long two days on Tarmac where I had to watch Jari-Matti flying. I had to be clever and keep watching him all the time,” he added.
Ogier’s victory was the 23rd of his career and Volkswagen’s 11th of the season, equaling the record set by Citroen in 2005 and 2008.
Mikko Hirvonen’s third place in a Ford Fiesta RS was his second podium of the year, the Finn too strong for Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen on asphalt. He finished 1min 42.2sec behind Ogier and 31.1sec ahead of Østberg, a Saturday afternoon puncture ending Mikkelsen’s hopes.
Dani Sordo closed on Østberg throughout the final leg in his Hyundai i20 but the Spaniard fell 8.9sec short in fifth. A first-leg error when co-driver Marc Marti miscalculated a stage start time and they waited for almost 30sec proved costly.
Mikkelsen passed Thierry Neuville for sixth in the penultimate stage. However, he incurred a 10sec penalty after a timing error at the start of the final test and dropped behind again.
Martin Prokop, Hayden Paddon and Nasser Al-Attiyah completed the leaderboard, Al-Attiyah inheriting 10th when Ken Block punctured a front left tyre in the final stage.
Unseasonably high temperatures ensured tough conditions for tyres and brakes during the 17 stages covering 372.96km in the Tarragona region, south of Barcelona.
The final round, Wales Rally GB, is based at Deeside on 13 - 16 November.
Final Round 13 Wales Rally GB Nov13-16
Founded in 1932, 367 crews entered the inaugural Royal Automobile Club Rally.
Introduction of forest roads in 1960 transformed the rally into what we know today.
Route formerly included loops around England, Scotland and Wales but the rally has been based solely in Wales since 2000.
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium hosted the WRC’s first indoor stage in 2005.
What’s new for 2014
Three days of competition after opening Thursday evening leg is axed.
Thursday night ceremonial start moved from Conwy to Colwyn Bay.
More driving in the dark as late Saturday afternoon tests increases night-time distance from 24km to 36km.