Sébastien Ogier more than doubled his lead over Dani Sordo in Sunday morning’s opening speed tests at RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España.
Stage info: SS16/17
SS16: Pratdip 1, 19.30km
Affectionately known as the Brad Pitt stage, this is one of the rally’s classics - a technical test on mainly good, wide asphalt. It starts on fast but twisty roads and passes Santa Marina chapel. After the spectacular hairpin in Pratdip, it becomes narrower on rougher asphalt, with several tricky crests.
SS17: Duesaigües 1, 12.10km
Duesaigües runs uphill virtually the whole way and is best known for the final roundabout at Coll de la Teixeta, shortly before the finish, where drivers must complete a 360˚ doughnut in front of huge crowds. It starts with a short downhill section before skirting Riudecanyes reservoir and climbing to the spectacular finale via wooded sections and passing under the famous rail bridge.
The Frenchman, who is on the brink of clinching his fourth consecutive world title later today, was fastest in Pratdip by 2.0sec in his Volkswagen Polo R. He was then second in Duesaigües to stretch his lead from 5.5sec to 12.7sec.
“There was a bit of humidity in the first stage and some tricky places. I’m happy to be faster than Dani. I was a little but more cautious than normal in the second stage but two more to go and so far everything is looking good,” said Ogier, who crashed out of the lead in Duesaigües last year.
Sordo was third in Pratdip and fifth in Duesaigües in his Hyundai i20, but the Spanish hero was frustrated. “I had a lot of understeer. I tried really hard to catch Ogier, I tried my best, but it was difficult,” he said.
Team-mate Thierry Neuville was fourth in both stages to retain third place. The Belgian also reported understeer in his i20 and conceded time to Hayden Paddon in both tests. The gap between the pair was 13.4sec.
Kris Meeke’s disappointing weekend came to a premature conclusion when the Ulsterman stopped 7.34km after the start of Pratdip. His Citroën DS 3 suffered engine problems and his demise allowed Mads Østberg to climb to fifth in a Ford Fiesta RS.
Østberg was one of only two leading drivers to opt for Michelin’s soft compound tyres and the Norwegian believed that was a mistake as the rubber had overheated by the finish of Duesaigües.
Jari-Matti Latvala made it a Volkswagen double this morning by winning SS17.
Martin Prokop retired after completing Duesaigües with the front right wheel missing from his Ford Fiesta RS after sliding into the scenery.