In the first part of our look back at a thrilling RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España, we identify who was on top of the world and who will want to forget the weekend. We also consider the place of gymnastics in rallying.
Drive of the Rally
A first WRC victory in five years and a breathtaking ninth win in Spain means only one man is in the frame for the rally’s best driver – Sébastien Loeb.
Despite a six-year gap since his last appearance at the rally, it was like the Frenchman had never been away. His knack for finding grip on wet asphalt, and decision to gamble on hard tyres when everyone else chose softs, proved the ‘Old Master’ – in the words of Ott Tänak – is as sharp as ever.
One to forget
Twelve months ago, Teemu Suninen talked about the ‘awesome feeling’ he had after winning WRC 2 in Spain.
This year’s performance left him in a very different state of mind.
The Finn never seemed at ease in his Ford Fiesta. He struggled to find a decent driving rhythm, and admitted to a lack of experience on wet asphalt. That added up to a tough weekend for the M-Sport Ford driver, who failed to break into the top 10 for only the second time this year.
Surprise of the rally
Heading to Spain with 11 wins from his last 11 rallies, and a reputation as an asphalt expert, it would have been brave to bet against Jan Kopecký completing a 100 percent winning run in WRC 2.
But his Skoda Motorsport team-mate Kalle Rovanperä had other ideas. The 18-year-old looked like a WRC veteran as he mastered gravel, asphalt and changeable weather to cement his rising star status.
Five stage wins will be some consolation for Kopecký, and 11 wins and one second isn’t a bad return on the year, but Rovanperä pulled out something special.
You’ll Never Believe it
Over the years, Sébastien Loeb’s co-driver Daniel Elena has watched Seb perform his trademark victory backflip on many occasions. Taking tips from the master, Elena had a go himself.
The nine-time champion co-driver is not known for his physical prowess but his forward roll on the finishing ramp in Spain was jaw dropping, and could perhaps open new avenues for the 46-year-old. Well, maybe with a bit more practice.
Watch it for yourself here.