Wednesday | 28 Oct 2015

Spain driver  report: part 1

We look back at how the leading WRC drivers performed at the championship's penultimate round. 

Elfyn Evans: Ford Fiesta RS
After the high of Corsica this event was something of a comedown for Elfyn. He opened with a lacklustre day on gravel, unable to find a confidence-inspiring set-up. And while it was an improvement on his previous gravel outing in Australia, he was disappointed to end the day in a lowly 10th place. He wasn't able to find his stage-winning Corsican pace when the action moved to asphalt - at least not on the opening three stages. On the fourth he was out – after bottoming his car in a cut and sliding into a ditch. He completed Sunday's stages without drama, but his stage times reflected a lack of confidence with the balance of the car.

Lorenzo Bertelli: Ford Fiesta RS
Rallies don't get much worse than Bertelli's latest effort. He got to the end of the street stage in Barcelona okay, but that was the only stop control he saw in an appearance that was both brief and incident-filled. Friday began with a half spin just metres into the opening test and ended with a roll at the 2.8km point. Saturday's Rally 2 restart lasted just 4.8km after he crashed into a barrier and put his Fiesta beyond repair.

Khalid Al Qassimi: DS 3
With such a limited programme in the world championship it's unrealistic to expect Citroën team patron Khalid to turn up and trade times with the full-timers. Instead it's all about enjoyment for the Abu Dhabi driver and by this measure Spain was mission accomplished. A trouble-free run except for a repeat of the curious handbrake locking problem that stopped him in Portugal.

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Volkswagen Polo R

As many ups and down as a PortAventura roller coaster. Forced to turn up the aggression after a cautious start on Friday, Latvala's victory bid started to unravel on Saturday when he lost brake feeling with air in the system. It took him three stages to bleed the brakes, by which time he'd broken a wheel and driven 10km on a puncture. Having settled on a new goal of second, he fought hard to pass team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen but then slipped behind again on Sunday with a spin. A subsequent spin from Mikkelsen left Latvala 1.4sec behind going into the Power Stage and while he couldn't quite close that gap, Ogier's exit moved him up to second.

Stéphane Lefebvre: DS 3 WRC
The opening day in Spain was Stéphane's first run on gravel in a DS 3 World Rally Car since he stood in for Mads Østberg in Australia. His inexperience showed - both in terms of technique on gravel and also how to get the best out of an unfamiliar early model DS 3 with manual gear shift. Things should have got easier on Saturday when the surface switched to his favoured asphalt, but a brake problem ruled him out of the whole day. Had a decent run on Sunday's six stages, but was hoping to learn a lot more about this event.

Mads Østberg: DS 3
Mads was one of the star performers on the opening day when he jostled with Robert Kubica for the rally lead and took a stage win on SS7. That victory push took a knock when he picked up a slow puncture on the long Tera Alta repeat, but he kept fighting when the surface changed to asphalt and quickly found a comfortable groove. Despite this not being Mads' preferred surface his air of positivity led to some excellent stage times and kept him in a close fight with team-mate Kris Meeke. He edged Meeke to take fourth and grab some useful championship points for Citroën. He reckons this was his best ever performance on asphalt.

Hayden Paddon:
Hyundai i20 WRC

This was another strong event with plenty of valuable experience for Hyundai's newest signing. He kicked off Friday with his best result of the rally, a joint stage win with Østberg, and kept his nose clean through the gravel stages to end the opening day seventh, less than 40sec off the lead. His podium potential was blighted on Saturday by two punctures, both caused by damaging wheels in the cuts. Fresh from an evening spent watching onboards, he played with different techniques on Sunday and ended up passing his team-mate Neuville - which from a championship point of view definitely wasn't in the plan. He finished the Power Stage in sixth, fully expecting to be asked to take a penalty and drop behind Neuville. When that didn't happen, the place was his.

Dani Sordo: Hyundai i20 WRC
You have to feel admiration for what Dani did in Spain. He desperately wanted to give his home crowd something to cheer about, but battling the Volkswagens meant pushing his Hyundai way beyond what he was comfortable with. In the end he managed to get the balance just about right, taking enough risks to keep him and the car safe, yet to be close enough to pounce should something happen to the guys ahead. And when Ogier crashed out on Sunday, he netted a welcome podium for his efforts.

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