Last year's RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada was where the drivers' title duel between Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala reached its climax. And after Ogier blazed ahead on the opening day, Latvala had to pull something special out of the bag to try and stop him.
Friday 24 October
The rally was a mixed-surface format, with the first full day on both asphalt and gravel. Volkswagen's Andreas Mikkelsen had been the pace-setter on Thursday night's street stage in Barcelona, but when the action switched to the stages around Salou it was Ogier who came out on top. As road opener, Ogier expected to lose time as he swept loose gravel off the road. But his disadvantage was offset by the dust clouds and poor visibility that slowed those behind and he ended the day 36sec ahead. Thierry Neuville led briefly and was close behind Ogier until he lost 2min in the final stage when he went off and had to change a wheel. Latvala did not have the speed to match Ogier and languished in seventh for much of the leg, but leapt to second in the final stage to head a quartet of drivers covered by 4sec. Mads Østberg was 0.6sec behind in third in Citroën's DS3, frustrated after being held up in dust all day, with Mikkelsen 0.1sec back in fourth. Ford Fiesta RS driver Mikko Hirvonen rounded off the top five. Local hero Dani Sordo took himself out of contention when co-driver Marc Marti miscalculated a stage start time and they waited for almost 30sec. On the casualty list were Kris Meeke, who retired after sliding wide and puncturing two tyres, and Elfyn Evans who went off the road three times.
Saturday 25 October
Latvala was the man to watch on day two when the action switched to asphalt and scorching sunshine sent road temperatures soaring to 35°C. Revitalised after a lacklustre Friday, the Finn won four of the six stages in his efforts to hunt down his team-mate. A tyre delamination for Ogier on the marathon 50km Escaladei test put his lead in doubt but he remained unflustered and maintained the position - albeit by a slimmer margin of 27sec. Hirvonen was third, 1min 18sec off the lead, after seeing off Mikkelsen and Østberg in their fight for the final podium place. Mikkelsen spun before stopping to replace a damaged tyre while Østberg fell back to fourth. Dani Sordo closed to 22sec behind in fifth in his Hyundai i20 with team-mate Neuville recovering to sixth. Sixth after day one, Robert Kubica broke a differential as he warmed his tyres before the first stage. He later retired after ripping a front wheel from the car.
Sunday 26 October
Latvala continued his push, winning all four of Sunday's stages, but Ogier measured his pace perfectly to take the rally victory by 11sec and secure his second consecutive world drivers’ title. Hirvonen bagged third, 1min 30sec behind Latvala, with Østberg 31sec back in fourth. Sordo closed on Østberg throughout the final leg but the Spaniard fell 8sec short in fifth - his first-leg error proving costly. Mikkelsen passed Neuville for sixth in the penultimate stage. However, he incurred a 10sec penalty after a timing error at the start of the final test and dropped behind again. Martin Prokop, Hayden Paddon and Nasser Al-Attiyah completed the leaderboard.