Sebastien Loeb hit back from his exit on the previous round in France by claiming victory number seven in Spain although it was Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala who held an early edge. Latvala started the final stage of Friday’s gravel leg 16s in front of Loeb but a spin and puncture in dust clouds on the night test dropped him back and handed Loeb an advantage of more than half a minute starting day two. Latvala impressed again on the second day with a series of stage wins but he would ultimately cede the runner-up spot to then Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to boost the latter’s title chances. Spaniard Dani Sordo’s hopes of a podium for MINI suffered an early setback when he was slowed in the dust clouds on stage one before an intercom problem reduced his pace on stage five. A puncture and steering problems caused more frustration on day three. He eventually finished fourth as team-mate Kris Meeke scored his maiden WRC stage best by outpacing Sordo to win the Power Stage thanks to an inspired tyre choice for the damp conditions.
Did you know?
While the use of gravel stages on day one means Spain’s WRC round is no longer an all-asphalt affair it was in the country in 2004 when Markko Martin registered Ford’s last win on a pure Tarmac event. With Ford pulling its title sponsorship from its WRC squad at the end of this year, it would be fitting for either of the Blue Oval’s current factory pilots, Jari-Matti Latvala or Petter Solberg, to emulate Martin’s achievements of almost one decade ago.
Look no further than Prodrive MINI ace Dani Sordo, one of the most consistent performers in recent WRC history. Having been unable to show his usual sparkle in Germany and France earlier this term, Sordo will do all he can to end his 2012 season on a high by beating long-term nemesis Sebastien Loeb on his home round of the world championship before the Citroen legend goes part time.