Friday | 23 Oct 2015

Ogier fights back to lead in Spain

Sébastien Ogier battled back to lead Spain’s RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada after Friday’s enthralling leg in which the lead changed hands on four occasions.

He headed Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 4.0sec after eight predominantly gravel speed tests in the hills south of Barcelona. Ott Tänak was third, 11.3sec off the lead in a Ford Fiesta RS.

Ogier, who led after Thursday’s curtain-raising street stage in the Catalan capital, won just one of today’s eight tests covering 128.60km. But his performances in the mixed surface Terra Alta, which ended both morning and afternoon loops, earned him top billing.

The 35.68km stage, the longest of the penultimate round of the WRC, contained a rough 6km asphalt stretch to break up the gravel. Tyre management on the abrasive roads was key and Ogier preserved his Michelin rubber to ensure maximum grip in the final gravel part.   

Handicapped by opening the road on slippery gravel, Ogier lost his early lead to Robert Kubica. He regained it in the first run through Terra Alta, only to lose it to Latvala before winning the second pass to move back in front.

Latvala was disappointed with a cautious start which left him seventh. A more aggressive attitude propelled him up the leaderboard, although he could not match Ogier in the long stage where dirt dragged onto the asphalt made conditions slippery.   

Tänak won three stages, more than any other driver, and was less than a second off the lead before the final stage. However, the Estonian overused his tyres on the asphalt and fell back to third.

Spain’s Dani Sordo had a consistent day to hold fourth in a Hyundai i20, 26.9sec off the lead and 2.8sec ahead of Mads Østberg. The Norwegian won two stages in Citroën’s DS 3 and held second until a slow puncture cost nearly 30 seconds.

A subdued Andreas Mikkelsen was sixth, less than a second ahead of Hayden Paddon, whose pace placed him third this morning. Kris Meeke, Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans completed the leaderboard.  

Robert Kubica led for two stages in his Fiesta RS until a double puncture dropped him out of contention. Another puncture this afternoon and a gearbox jammed in first in the final stage ended an ultimately disappointing day.

Lorenzo Bertelli was the only major retirement after rolling in the opening stage.

Teams had an extended 75 minute service tonight in which to transform their cars from gravel to asphalt specification for the final two days. Tomorrow brings eight sealed surface stages, three of which are driven twice, covering 123.05km.

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