In the second part of our summary, we look back at Rally RACC Catalunya - Rally de España and reflect on how the leading drivers dealt with the season’s only mixed surface round.
Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R) Result: 1st
His fourth consecutive world title was never in doubt. Gave best to Dani Sordo in the mud and water of the opening leg, but once the roads switched to asphalt, Ogier was the master. He took a couple of stages to acclimatise to the surface change before reeling in the Spaniard and building a lead. Expect to see him push hard in Britain next week for the only thing missing from his 2016 roll of honour - a gravel rally victory.
Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20) Result: 2nd
Inspired by fervent support from his fellow countrymen, Sordo was a somewhat surprising leader after the first leg in conditions that don’t really suit him. He was brilliant on the inconsistent loose and with two days of asphalt to follow, many were prepared to put money on him for a second career win. He held off Ogier initially, but could wring no more out of his ill-handling i20 and settled for his second runner-up spot in three rallies.
Eric Camilli (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 19th
Friday morning’s dreadful conditions were precisely what Camilli didn’t want to see and trailing Kevin Abbring, in a 2015-spec i20, and WRC 2 leader Jan Kopecký reflected a cautious approach. Consistency and speed improved and he climbed to ninth before his Fiesta RS jammed in fifth gear on Saturday afternoon. He returned on Sunday, but with a gravel-spec gearbox which did little to help his confidence.
Kevin Abbring (Hyundai i20) Result: 7th
A career-best result for the Dutchman. Given that it was achieved in a 2015-spec i20 made it an even better performance. Had not previously encountered such wet and muddy conditions on gravel. He learned quickly and banged in a second fastest time on Friday afternoon. An engine issue failed to derail Abbring, who was sensible and fast in equal measure once the event switched to asphalt.
Craig Breen (DS 3) Result: 10th
Did little wrong on the mud to end the opening leg in eighth, but a broken driveshaft on the first asphalt test left the Irishman with a rear-wheel drive DS 3 for the rest of Saturday morning. The high-speed spin when the shaft snapped focused his mind pretty quickly….. Spun again with the car restored to four-wheel traction, but a quartet of top six times on the final morning was further evidence of the progress made this year.
Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20) Result: 4th
Given that Paddon spent the entire first day with no anti-lag system to keep the turbo spinning, he did remarkably well to finish it just 1.5sec off a podium place. He was probably the only driver happy to see the mud and water! He wasn’t happy on the asphalt initially but a switch to softer settings helped. The Kiwi is always his own hardest critic but can be pleased with his sealed surface progress.
Lorenzo Bertelli (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 11th
Second fastest through the streets of Barcelona was a kind of surprise but not really a surprise performance. The Italian didn’t enjoy aquaplaning his way around the Costa Daurada on Friday morning, but was more at home when the roads dried. Early frustrations on the asphalt gave way to a more serene path after set-up changes ensured the Fiesta RS was more to the Italian’s liking.