Friday | 07 Oct 2016

Rally Rewind: Spain 2015

With a lead of almost a minute going into the final stage, Sébastien Ogier seemed to have this one in the bag. But then the Spanish asphalt bit back.

Here's our potted-summary of what happened on RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España last year.

Thursday 22 / Friday 23 October

Sébastien blitzed his rivals to win Thursday night’s curtain-raising street stage in Barcelona, but he had a fight on his hands on Friday, eventually battling back into the lead after an enthralling leg in which the lead changed hands on four occasions.

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

Ogier won just one of Friday's eight stages, but his performances in the 36km mixed surface Terra Alta, which ended both morning and afternoon loops, earned him top billing. Tyre management proved 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 before a more aggressive attitude propelled him up the leaderboard.
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.

Saturday 24 October

By the end of Saturday's competition Ogier was comfortably ahead after a mistake from Latvala handed him a lead of almost a minute with just Sunday’s final leg to go.

Ogier extended his overnight advantage to 11.0sec during Saturday’s opening two stages as second-placed Latvala fought brake problems. Having resolved them, the Finn attacked in the next test but an over-ambitious cut soon after the start proved his undoing. He hit a concrete block, smashed a wheel and lost 50sec driving the final 10km with a flat tyre.

It left Ogier clear, and three wins from four morning tests meant he could relax to reach the overnight halt with a 54.0sec advantage.

After Friday's mainly gravel roads, Saturday was all about smooth circuit-like asphalt in the Tarragona hills and Latvala raced back from fourth to second by winning three of the final five stages.

Sordo inherited second after Latvala’s drama but was ill at ease with an understeering Hyundai i20. Andreas Mikkelsen climbed steadily from sixth to demote him in the afternoon and finish 2.9sec behind Latvala, giving Volkswagen a 1-2-3, 4.5 sec ahead of the Spaniard.

A frustrated Kris Meeke spent much of the day trying to perfect his DS 3's set-up but the Ulsterman nevertheless climbed from eighth to fifth.

M-Sport had a disastrous day. Firstly Ott Tänak retired from third after ripping a wheel from his Ford Fiesta RS when he hit a barrier and team-mate Elfyn Evans went out after nosing his car into a ditch.

Sunday 25 October

In a shocking, eleventh-hour turnaround, Mikkelsen claimed his maiden WRC victory when Ogier crashed out of the lead in the final stage.

Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Floene finished the last stage and learned they had edged Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala for what should have been second after a fierce final day fight. Seconds later the Norwegian was informed that Ogier had smashed his car into a metal roadside barrier less than 4km from the finish, ripping off the rear-right wheel.

Mikkelsen was stunned into silence as he realised the significance of his colleague’s error. It was his first WRC win in 64 attempts and kept alive his hopes of pipping Latvala for second in the drivers’ standings at the final round in Britain.

Mikkelsen and Latvala fought tooth and nail through the final leg and were less than a second apart before Latvala punctured three stages from the end. Mikkelsen then spun in the penultimate test and the duo began the final stage showdown 1.4sec apart.

The eventual winning margin was 3.1sec, with Sordo taking the final podium place at his home event in a Hyundai i20, a further 18.1sec back.

Østberg finished fourth after demoting team-mate Meeke who spun his DS 3. The gap between them was 1.9sec, with Paddon completing the top six in another i20.


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