Martin Semerad (above) occupies the position but with a slender advantage over the chasing pack, the battle for second place remains wide open.
Valeriy Gorban, in third, is 12 points behind Semerad with Michal Kosciuszko and Patrik Flodin three and four points further back respectively. Benito Guerra is also in contention, 18 points adrift of Semerad.
Semerad, from Czech Republic, is an asphalt specialist, although Gorban’s rally career in his native Ukraine began on sealed surface events. Both are set to challenge for victory in Spain.
Kosciuszko’s form has steadily improved throughout the season and the Polish driver will be determined to threaten the podium in his Ralliart Italy-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
Flodin began 2011 as the PWRC title favourite. Instead the Swede has endured a frustrating campaign in his Uspenskiy Rally Tecnica Subaru Impreza. However, he has vowed to hit back on the season-closing rounds in Spain and Great Britain. “We’ve had a difficult season and the goal now is to finish the last rounds with flying colours,” said Flodin.
Paddon also wants to round out the season on a high note and insists he won’t be holding back in Spain, where he will compete for the first time this week.
“We will try and win, but there are plenty of unknowns around what our fellow production category competitors are like on Tarmac,” said the New Zealander. “This is the only Tarmac event on the PWRC calendar this year, and along with the usual quick contenders like Flodin, Semerad and Michal Kosciuszko, there are some fast Spanish drivers. However, our pace was good on Tarmac in France and Germany last year so we will push hard to improve on that.”
Like Paddon, Harry Hunt also arrives in Spain with a title secured after he clinched the Production Car Cup for Drivers of 2WD Cars crown in Australia. While it’s been hard to measure the Briton’s true pace due to the absence of regular competition, Hunt has impressed throughout the season in his Citroen DS3 R3T and scored overall PWRC points in Australia. With two events remaining the 23-year-old has vowed to complete his campaign with a pair of strong finishes.
There will be a new addition to the PWRC ranks in Spain with local driver Carles Llinas taking over Anders Grondal’s registration. Llinas will pilot a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, one of five drivers in the older-generation Lancer bidding for PWRC honours in Spain.
Other PWRC contenders on the mixed surface round include Jukka Ketomaki, Oleksandr Saliuk, Dmitry Tagirov and Nicolas Fuchs, plus the Team Abu Dhabi junior drivers Bader Al Jabri and Majed Al Shamsi.
Majed and I have a few surprises up our sleeves for the year’s final two PWRC fixtures - we need to take advantage on roads and stages we are familiar with,” said Al Jabri, who has previous experience of the final rallies from his stint in the Fiesta SportTrophy International.