Stage data: SS14, Santa Marina 1 (26.51 kilometres - asphalt)
By Prodrive WRC Team co-driver Carlos del Barrio: “This stage is exactly the same as last year expect we did it in the dark before sunrise on the final day. It’s a very nice stage with good grip and very wide for eight kilometres. In the middle part it’s tricky, not so wide with gravel on top. Everybody knows this and it will be demanding for the tyres, especially on the last downhill section.”
How the action unfolded:
Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala shrugged of rain and damp conditions to outgun Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb by 2.6s and narrow the nine-time world champion’s lead on RallyRACC-Rally de Espana to 24.9s as Dani Sordo set the pace once again, going fastest by 5.5s for MINI.
However, in the battle for third place in the final championship standings, a mistake by Ott Tanak could have handed Mads Ostberg a lifeline.
The Norwegian has moved ahead of the Estonian into fourth place overall and two positions behind key rival Jari-Matti Latvala. The current order means Latvala will finish on 151 points and Ostberg on 149. However, Ostberg can move ahead of Latvala if he lands three points for going fastest on this afternoon’s Power Stage providing Latvala is outside the top three places. But with Latvala outpacing Loeb on this stage, it still remains a tall order for Ostberg.
Ostberg, who trails third-placed Mikko Hirvonen by 19.2s, said: “I’m still struggling. When the tyres are hot the balance is not perfect but apart from that it’s working quite okay. I will keep pushing but unless it’s raining in the afternoon and it gets difficult I have no chance to catch Mikko.”
Tanak, now 1.9s behind Ostberg in fifth, said he was “surprised” to have reached the finish following his error: “We went off and hit the barrier. It was quite a big crash and I’m surprised the car is still running. We lost at least 10 seconds, it was quite a big accident.”
Loeb, meanwhile, opted for a slightly cautious approach in the damp conditions as he bids to preserve his overall lead.