Thursday | 23 Oct 2014

Mikkelsen fastest in Barcelona opener

Andreas Mikkelsen’s tyre gamble paid off as he was fastest through the opening street stage of RallyRACC - Rally de España in the heart of Barcelona this evening.

Stage info: SS1

Barcelona, 3.20km
This asphalt test on the lower section of Montjuïc hill is the first stage in Barcelona since the rally entered the WRC. Concrete walls line the roads and drivers complete two laps, including ‘doughnuts’ in front of the Palau Nacional building.

The Norwegian scrubbed the tread from his Volkswagen Polo R’s gravel tyres before the start to improve grip on the asphalt roads.

He was quickest by 1.8sec from team-mate Sébastien Ogier over the 3.20km stage, with Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 a further 1.1sec behind in third.

“We’ve used some of tomorrow’s allocation by scrubbing the tyres but we gained time. Maybe it will pay off or maybe not, but I’m happy with my decision,” he said.

Huge crowds lined the roads on Montjuïc hill, beneath the stadium which hosted the 1992 Olympic Games and close to the city’s former Grand Prix street circuit.

Ken Block - hit barriers

Neuville estimated he lost half a second by initially attempting a ‘donut’ in second gear rather than first, while team-mate and local hero Dani Sordo believed his car lacked power exiting tight hairpin bends.

Nevertheless Sordo was fifth, 0.2sec behind the Jari-Matti Latvala’s Polo R and 0.4sec clear of Kris Meeke in sixth.

Ken Block, starting his first WRC round this season, swiped the barriers at the first corner in his Ford Fiesta RS. “The tyres were colder and slicker than I thought and it went way wider than I expected,” said the American.

Drivers return to the rally base in Salou tonight ahead of tomorrow’s gravel stages in the Tarragona region. They tackle two identical loops of three tests covering 138.54km.

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