Ogier will claim an eighth FIA World Rally Championship title in nine seasons if he outscores Elfyn Evans by seven points on Spain’s fast and flowing asphalt and he was quickly into the rhythm in the 4.31km Coll de la Teixeta.
He stopped the clocks two-tenths faster than title rival and Toyota Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans. Thierry Neuville, rally winner two years ago when it was last held, was a further two-tenths back in third in a Hyundai i20.
Ogier is a three-time winner in Spain and, after a lacklustre performance at the previous round in Finland earlier this month, the Frenchman made his weekend’s plan clear after completing three shakedown runs.
“I’m here to try to win the rally so I need to attack,” he smiled. “I didn’t come here to finish second. It’s always good to be fastest at shakedown. Even though it doesn’t count for the rally, it means the feeling is good in the car. I think we are ready.”
The top-tier World Rally Car drivers will have the benefit of Pirelli’s new P Zero hard compound tyres for the smooth but abrasive Costa Daurada roads but Ogier had little opportunity to try them in pre-event testing.
“We had not many available for the test so we couldn’t really test them,” he explained. “Now we will find out in the rally how they are.”
Video: RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España 2021
Ogier was fastest in the opening run by a tenth from Dani Sordo’s i20. He lowered the benchmark in each of his next two runs as first Neuville and then Evans slotted into second.
Sordo eventually finished fourth ahead of team-mate Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä’s Yaris. Just 1.2sec blanketed the leading sextet.
The leading times were:
|1.||Sébastien OGIER||Toyota Yaris||2min 33.6sec|
|2.||Elfyn EVANS||Toyota Yaris||+0.2sec|
|3.||Thierry NEUVILLE||Hyundai i20||+0.4sec|
|4.||Dani SORDO||Hyundai i20||+0.6sec|
|5.||Ott TÄNAK||Hyundai i20||+0.8sec|
|6||Kalle ROVANPERÄ||Toyota Yaris||+1.2sec|
|7.||Adrien FOURMAUX||Ford Fiesta||+1.3sec|
|8.||Gus GREENSMITH||Ford Fiesta||+1.4sec|
|9.||Takamoto KATSUTA||Toyota Yaris||+1.5sec|
|10.||Nil SOLANS||Hyundai i20||+2.5sec|
• Full coverage from RallyRACC Rally de España will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.