Monday | 20 Oct 2014

Spain Countdown: Flashback to 2013

In a reverse of this year’s format, Rally de Espana 2013 started with two days on asphalt before a final one on gravel. It was a controversial itinerary that led to tactical driving on days one and two and a remarkable 11th hour fight back on the third.

Friday 25 October
The rally began with a trio of asphalt stages run in darkness. Newly crowned World Champion Sebastien Ogier was the pace-setter (above), and completed a hat-trick of stage wins to end with a lead of 8.8sec over his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Latvala was gifted second by Citroen’s Dani Sordo, who had been on course to end the day there himself, but instead slowed his DS3 and dropped a place. The decision meant he would follow both VWs through Saturday’s stages and would be able to react to any of their tactics before Sunday’s switch to gravel. Sordo knew this strategy better than most. Before the rally he had warned that drivers would take steps to avoid leading on Saturday night and running first on the final day, sweeping a clean line in the gravel for the benefit of those behind. Thierry Neuville was fourth and unhappy with the handling of his Fiesta RS, with Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen rounding off the top five.

Sordo was fastest through Saturday’s opening two stages

Saturday 26 October
Sordo was fastest through Saturday’s opening two stages to climb from third to second and trim Ogier’s lead to 6.5sec. But the top three battle was blown apart on the next test when Ogier broke his Polo R’s front left wheel and lost 50sec to leave Sordo and Latvala tied at the top. Latvala edged ahead on the opening afternoon stage, before Sordo again lost time deliberately to stay just behind, ensuring the Finn started first on Sunday with a lead of just 1.6sec. “All I can do is try my best,” said Sordo. “The tactics started yesterday and have gone okay. Can I win? I hope so, it’s a big challenge.” Neuville ended the day third, 29.3sec behind Latvala, but happier with the balance of his Ford Fiesta RS after set-up changes in service. Ogier recovered to fourth, 46.5sec off the lead. “I don’t know what’s possible. There’s 140km to go and I’m starting fourth on the road. We’ll push and see what we can do,” promised the Frenchman. Hirvonen again rounded off the top five.

Sunday 27 October
Sordo’s tactical game hit a snag on Sunday morning, when clouds of dust from Latvala’s car hampered his own visibility and his rival felt the roads were not as slippery as he had feared. The big news however was the pace of Ogier. By the midpoint he was up to third and less than 15 seconds off the lead. Meanwhile Neuville’s podium aspirations ended with a puncture and transmission trouble and Hirvonen moved to fourth. Ogier snatched second from Sordo on SS13, and the Spaniard retired two kilometres into the next stage when he went off trying to retake the position. Ogier took the rally lead on the penultimate stage, and sealed his eighth victory of the season with another crushing performance on the next. Latvala completed 32.9sec adrift in second, but was lucky to finish at all after his Polo suffered an engine fire and transmission problem in the closing stages. Hirvonen was third, 40sec behind Latvala, with Neuville fourth and Evgeny Novikov fifth.

This year’s Rally de España starts on Thursday 23 October with a Super Special Stage in Barcelona from 18:00 CEST. This and Sunday’s Power Stage (from 1208hrs) will be streamed LIVE on WRC+.

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