We review the performances of the major players at last weekend’s RallyRACC - Rally de España in the first of a two-part analysis:
Mads Østberg (Citroen DS3)
On the face of it fourth isn’t a bad result. But finishing 2m 13s off the lead tells you this wasn’t a vintage performance. Mads enjoyed his best form on Friday’s morning loop, taking top-three stage times and holding third overall, but the switch to asphalt brought a lack of confidence in long corners and Mads focussed on defending his fourth place from the hard-chasing Sordo.
Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS)
Compared to recent Tarmac performances in France and Germany, this was a disappointing rally for the Welshman. Hampered by dust and poor visibility on Friday morning, his chance of a decent result was scuppered in the afternoon when he went off, damaging his Fiesta’s radiator. Restarted on Saturday to continue his learning but rarely seemed comfortable on the asphalt.
Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20)
The Belgian started strongly, briefly leading after SS3, but he got distracted by dust on SS7, slid wide and had to stop to change a punctured tyre. The 2m 30s lost dropped him from second to ninth. He then set about improving his car's speed on asphalt and his approach was rewarded with sixth place overall, thanks in part to a timing error by rival Andreas Mikkelsen on the last test.
Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS)
Things began well on Friday's gravel stages, with M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson saying the Pole delivered his best loose-surface performance of the year. But things went downhill after that. A broken driveshaft hampered his progress on Saturday morning, and then a broken wheel forced him out altogether in the afternoon. Restarted on Sunday, but couldn't better 17th place.
Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20)
As the only Spaniard in a World Rally Car, Sordo had the crowds behind him. But that wasn’t enough to overcome a miserable opening day when his i20 lacked grip and stability on gravel. He led the Hyundai challenge after Neuville dropped back on SS7, but wasn’t able to get much more out of the car when the surface switched to asphalt. Had to settle for 5th place at the finish.
Jari-Matti Latvala (VW Polo R)
The Finn needed a win to keep his title dream alive. Instead it all went a bit Jekyll and Hyde. Up first was the misery of being unexpectedly off the pace on gravel - something Latvala attributed to his focus on asphalt. Sure enough, he dominated the next two days on tar, but it wasn’t enough to make up the 36s he lost earlier. Had to settle for 2nd behind his team-mate.