Ott Tänak splashed to fastest time through the opening speed test of RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España in the streets of central Barcelona on Thursday evening.
Stage info: SS1
A street stage in Barcelona kicks off the action for the third year. It is based in the lower section of the Montjuïc hill on roads that used to host the Spanish Grand Prix. It starts and finishes on the Avenida Reina Maria Cristina and circles the famous Magic Fountain, with a 360 degree doughnut in front of the spectacular Palau Nacional building.
He was quickest by 2.7sec in a Ford Fiesta RS on rain-soaked roads around the city’s colourful Magic Fountain. Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli claimed second in a similar car with Sébastien Ogier starting his bid for a fourth consecutive world title in third.
However, all was not well in Tänak’s car at the finish. “We need to check something because the rear differential feels strange,” said the Estonian. “We can’t do anything tonight but we need to have a look in the morning.”
The asphalt test became increasingly tricky as afternoon rain turned heavier and standing water and aquaplaning were a common complaint from drivers starting later in the order.
Ogier was last of the star drivers to tackle the test and the Frenchman, who needs 16 points to secure the title, acknowledged the disadvantage as he finished 3.5sec behind Tänak.
“A good time but it’s tough to start the rally in these conditions. The grip was a bit lower than I expected but still I enjoyed it. I knew it would be hard to match the times of the guys who ran earlier,” said the Volkswagen Polo R pilot.
WRC 2 driver Jan Kopecky was a shock fourth in a Skoda Fabia R5 with Kris Meeke and Craig Breen tied for fifth in Citroën’s DS 3. Thierry Neuville was the leading Hyundai i20 in seventh and summed up the deteriorating conditions perfectly. “It was hell!” said the Belgian.
Mads Østberg reported the engine of his Fiesta RS bogged down several times in tight corners while a disillusioned Jari-Matti Latvala had no answers for a lacklustre 13th fastest.
The rally continues tomorrow with a full day of mainly gravel tests. Drivers face two identical loops of three special stages covering 115.90km, including the 38.95km Terra Alta, the longest of the weekend.