Thierry Neuville took the lead of RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España in dreadful conditions in Friday morning’s opening speed test.
Stage info: SS2
Caseres 1, 12.50km
The early part of Caseres, which starts in the village of the same name, is fast and narrow. After a junction in Arenys de Lledó, an undulating, but wider, road heads through a wind farm and on to a tricky hairpin before the finish, where drivers must brake on gravel before turning left on dirty asphalt. Identical to the stage used in 2015.
Heavy rain and standing water made driving treacherous and while Neuville topped the times through the 12.50km Caseres test, Kris Meeke was caught out and rolled his Citroën DS 3 early in the stage.
Neuville was quickest by 1.6sec from Hyundai i20 team-mate Hayden Paddon. The Belgian demoted championship leader Sébastien Ogier, who was fastest in last night’s curtain-raiser in Barcelona, by 0.3sec in the standings.
“I thought I could go faster but the time is good,” said Neuville. “The rear of the car was moving and gave me some oversteer sometimes but it was OK.”
Despite posting second fastest time, Paddon reported an engine problem. “I’ve lost the anti-lag and I’m down on power with no throttle response,” explained the Kiwi, who was 2.0sec behind Ogier in third overall.
Ogier was third fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R, with Dani Sordo next up and Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen completing the top six. Latvala bounced back from a disappointing start last night and was up to sixth overall, despite a couple of near-misses.
Meeke suffered most in the torrential rain, dropping 40sec after his crash. “I rolled in a fourth-gear bend. In the middle of the corner there were some deep ruts and the car dug in and turned us over in the middle of the road. I thought we had got away with it but….” said the Northern Irishman.
Also in trouble was Mads Østberg who reported a ‘proper rattle’ in his Ford Fiesta RS, which he believed may have been related to the handbrake. Ott Tänak’s fears over a malfunctioning differential last night were confirmed this morning but the Estonian said that problem was secondary to the conditions.