Sunday | 25 Oct 2015

SS20: Latvala and Mikkelsen neck and neck

Less than a second divided team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen in their fierce fight for second place at Spain’s RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada after Sunday’s opening loop of speed tests.

Stage info: SS18-20

SS18: Els Guiamets 1, 6.80km
Although the opening section uses worn and bumpy asphalt, it is so fast that two chicanes have been installed in the first 2km. After the village of Els Guiamets it becomes slower and twistier, but the surface is smoother. The final 2km return to fast roads on a downhill section that ends with a sharp right bend at the finish. A new stage for all.

SS19: 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, before becoming narrower on rougher asphalt, with several tricky crests. The final 1.3km are new, as it turns towards Mont-roig del Camp instead of the traditional road to Colldejou.

SS20: Duesaigües 1, 12.10km
Drivers know this stage well but in the opposite direction, when it was known as Riudecanyes. It is best known for the final roundabout at Coll de la Teixeta, shortly before the finish, where drivers must complete a 360˚ doughnut. Before that the stage skirts Riudecanyes reservoir before climbing to the spectacular finale.

Fastest time in Els Guiamets and Pratdip enabled Mikkelsen to cut Latvala’s advantage to just 0.4sec. But Latvala stopped the clocks quickest in Duesaigües to widen the gap to 0.9sec with just a repeat of the three stages remaining.

Latvala opted for two spare tyres in his Volkswagen Polo R and the Finn felt the decision unsettled the balance.

“I was fighting with the car in the tight and twisty section. The extra spare makes the car understeer and I can’t get out of the exits of the corners. It probably wasn’t the cleverest choice. Andreas is pushing very hard so I’m struggling a bit,” said Latvala.

Mikkelsen made a couple of small mistake in the last test, and the Norwegian admitted he had his mind on securing third in the drivers’ championship as well as fighting Latvala.

The pair pulled clear of Dani Sordo who ended the loop almost 15sec adrift of Mikkelsen.

None of this mattered to Sébastien Ogier who cruised through to head Latvala by 49.0sec.

Kris Meeke spun and stalled Citroën’s DS 3 in Pratdip to hand fifth back to team-mate Mads Østberg. “The corner just tightened on us. Rather than trying to risk it, I pulled the handbrake and spun us around,” said the Ulsterman.

Thierry Neuville locked a wheel and spun his Hyundai i20 under braking in the same test. It cost the Belgian a place as Hayden Paddon regained seventh, but only 9.4sec covered them.

Robert Kubica’s eventful rally continued when the Pole crumpled the front of his Ford Fiesta RS (below) by hitting a barrier after a pace note mix-up.

More News