PIERRE-LOUIS LOUBET WAS VIRTUALLY GUARANTEED THE WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BEFORE DRAMA ON SUNDAY MORNING THREW A SPANNER IN THE WORKS AT RALLYRACC CATALUNYA - RALLY DE ESPAÑA ON SUNDAY.
After losing the lead during the first stage on Saturday, the Frenchman maintained a comfortable gap to remain in second with just four stages left. As it stood, he would have needed just one point at next month’s final round in Australia to claim the title.
It wasn’t to be so simple. His Skoda Fabia R5 left the road in the La Mussara speed test and became beached on a bank,, losing two minutes and demoting the youngster to fourth.
His run of bad luck continued when a flying Ole Christian Veiby overtook him in the Wolf Power Stage, meaning Loubet ended the rally in fifth.
Heading into next month’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia, Loubet remains top of the points, three points clear of Kajetan Kajetanowicz. But with the Pole absent from Australia, his closest rival is effectively Mexico’s Benito Guerra, 16 points adrift and still with a chance of taking the title.
Eric Camilli took a commanding victory in his Citroën C3. After stealing the lead from Loubet,, he drove a clean rally and arrived at the finish in Salou 1min 40.7sec ahead of the pack.
“That's very good for the first time with the C3. I was able to fight with Mads Østberg all weekend and together we pushed quite a lot," he said.
Emil Lindholm was happy to claim second place in his Volkswagen Polo after an exciting battle with Kajetanowicz, also driving a Polo. At the close of play, just 15.8sec separated the pair.
Behind Veiby and Loubet, Nil Solans showed blistering pace to collect a series of stage wins across the weekend. Had it not been for a double puncture on Friday, the Spaniard would have been very much in contention for the category win.
Guerra had an early bath when he retired his Fabia with mechanical issues on Saturday.
Østberg overcame various challenges to claim the WRC 2 Pro victory. Saturday was a testing day and he struggled to find a comfortable asphalt set-up in his Citroën C3.
Perseverance and some positive tweaks from his mechanics provided the Norwegian with the pace he had been lacking and he won by 54.7sec.
“It's very nice to be at the finish. It was not a troublefree rally, but we have pushed to the maximum on every metre,” said Østberg.
Jan Kopecký was adamant he didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. He stuck to his word, maintaining a consistent pace whilst team-mate Kalle Rovanperä hit trouble to claim second. That was sufficient for the Skoda Motorsport team to wrap-up the manufacturers’ title.
Rovanperä experienced a little bit of everything. The newly-crowned champion could not find a comfortable pace in his Skoda during Friday’s gravel stages.
On Saturday’s asphalt roads, however, the young Finn was a cut above the rest. He came within 9.1sec of Østberg before an uncharacteristic mistake saw him hit the rear of his Fabia in the Salou stage. He ended the rally in third, 1min 50sec ahead of Gus Greensmith’s Ford Fiesta.