Sunday | 26 Oct 2014

Ogier edges nearer title

Just two special stages separate Sébastien Ogier from his second world drivers’ title after the Frenchman safely negotiated Sunday’s opening two tests at RallyRACC - Rally de España.

Stage info: SS14 / 15

La Mussara 1, 20.48km
Last used in this format in 2012, this is another Rally de España classic. It starts on a single width road, before becoming wider as it crosses the former Castillejos military camp. The final 7km descends steeply through a series of hairpins, which are hard for brakes and tyres.

Riudecanyes 1, 15.55km
Thousands of fans pack the hillsides 3.4km after the start where drivers must ‘donut’ around the roundabout. The stage starts on circuit-like roads, requiring perfect racing lines, before descending on a more technical route, protected by a rock face on one side and barriers on the other.

The Volkswagen Polo R pilot was third through La Mussara and second in Riudecanyes, and although closest rival and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest in both tests, Ogier held a 21.9sec lead as drivers returned to service in Salou.

“There was nothing bad for me and no cuts, so I could drive cleanly,” said Ogier, who simply needs to finish ahead of Latvala to secure the crown. “The rally is never finished before the final stage but it’s perfect for me so far. I just have to stay concentrated.”

Latvala was quickest by 3.9sec in La Mussara and by 0.8sec in the next test, despite clipping the front right of his Polo R after a mistake at the famous roundabout, at which drivers must complete a full ‘donut’.

“Every year I’ve braked too early so this time I decided to brake later, but at the divider I wasn’t sure which way to go around the roundabout. I went the wrong side before realising the roundabout was on the other side and we lost some seconds,” he explained.

Dani Sordo narrowed the gap to Mads Østberg to 12.4sec in their fight for fourth, but all three Hyundai i20 drivers complained of severe understeer. Sordo spun in SS15 and Hayden Paddon said he used his handbrake ‘30 to 40 times’ to turn into second and third gear corners.

Understeer cost Neuville time, too, and Andreas Mikkelsen was third in Riudecanyes to close on the Belgian’s sixth place. The gap between them is 4.4sec.

Martin Prokop hit a barrier, without serious damage to his Ford Fiesta RS and the Czech retained eighth.

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